Food, the body, and experience in Boccaccio's Decameron

Placeholder Show Content


This dissertation explores the connection between food and the body in Boccaccio's Decameron. I show how representations of food relate to the larger problem of embodiment and how Boccaccio uses food as a privileged material and vehicle through which to discuss such issues. While Boccaccio inherited a tradition that generally sought to abstract the body, he engages with a poetics that is human and embodied as he recognizes embodiment as a condition of human existence. I read food's representation in the Decameron in terms of Boccaccio's notions of corporeality, epistemology, and socio-ethical concerns. Boccaccio presents and links literal and metaphorical meanings of the body and its nourishment in the opening pages of his work, establishing food as one of the vehicles through which he will explore questions of corporeality and human experience. Through his effective application of language, presenting both the body and food items in both literal and metaphorical ways throughout the work, Boccaccio challenges already established notions surrounding class, nobility, gender, and knowledge to create new meanings and establish new paradigms out of the ambiguity that is inherent in his language. The first chapter examines two specific food items, bread and wine, which are, not coincidentally, Eucharistic items, to illustrate how both Cisti the baker (in novella VI.2) and Ghino di Tacco (in X.2) both strategically control and continually offer these Eucharistic elements in order to not only rehabilitate the higher-class individual with whom they are interacting, but more importantly to enact their own elevation and social transformation. The second chapter juxtaposes novella IV.1, the story of Tancredi and Ghismonda, with V.9, Federigo degli Alberighi, to show how Boccaccio uses items traditionally associated with nobility, the heart and the falcon, and turns them into food in order to construct a new way of conceiving of nobility. In the final core chapter, I explore Boccaccio's representation of food in terms of the pursuit of knowledge as well as how it relates to gender issues. I examine Calandrino's character in all four novelle of his saga (VIII.3, the story of the heliotrope; VIII.6, the story of the stolen pig; IX.3, Calandrino thinks that he is pregnant; and IX.5, Calandrino falls in love with Niccolosa) to investigate how Boccaccio uses food to champion a form of knowledge that is no longer abstracted from the body and the senses and how he employs the language of food to undermine ideas regarding disembodied knowledge in order to argue for and defend the body, and to champion the female's virtue, her practical knowledge, and her dominance in the domestic space.


Type of resource text
Form electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
Extent 1 online resource.
Place California
Place [Stanford, California]
Publisher [Stanford University]
Copyright date 2019; ©2019
Publication date 2019; 2019
Issuance monographic
Language English


Author DeBenedictis, Nicole
Degree supervisor Harrison, Robert Pogue
Thesis advisor Harrison, Robert Pogue
Thesis advisor Greene, Roland, 1957-
Thesis advisor Lummus, David
Degree committee member Greene, Roland, 1957-
Degree committee member Lummus, David
Associated with Stanford University, Department of French & Italian.


Genre Theses
Genre Text

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Nicole DeBenedictis.
Note Submitted to the Department of French & Italian.
Thesis Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2019.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2019 by Nicole DeBenedictis
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

Also listed in

Loading usage metrics...