Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Rhetoric of the Decameron

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Rhetoric of the Decameron

Article excerpt

Marilyn Migiel, A Rhetoric of the Decameron (Toronto etc.: University of Toronto Press, 2003). xi + 219 pp. ISBN 08-020-8819-8, $50.00/£32.00 (hard covers); ISBN 08-020-8594-6, $24.9 5/£ ι 5.00 (p/b).

In this study, Marilyn Migiel investigates the construction of women both as character and as reader in Boccaccio's Decameron. In focusing on perceptions of women from the perspectives of male and female narrators, author, ideal reader, and modern readers, she explores the interaction between these various perspectives, and argues for the text both as a consolidation of male power, and as an illustration of difference between the sexes.

Beginning with a discussion of the plague, which 'serves to identify conflicts in gender relations that will be worked through', Migiel suggests in the first chapter that the Decameron presents women as witnesses to social order. She also raises the issues of perspective, of viewing and being viewed, arguing that 'voyeurism is a principal means of affirming power'. The second chapter explores the roles of two of the narrators - Fiammetta and Dioneo - in the development of a discourse on gender difference. Fiammetta is seen as a response to Dioneo, who, holding a clear position on carnal love (in contrast to Fiammetta), performs a function similar to that of the Author (by which Migiel means 'not... Giovanni Boccaccio, the historical author of the Decameron, but ... the implied Author of the Decameron, who is a fictional construct'). Expanding on this theme, Migiel's third chapter suggests more generally that the male and female narrators of the Decameron express fundamentally different views of human experience; that these perspectives are shown to be at odds; and that the terms of the system within which women work remain defined by men. …

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