Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Boccaccio's Fabliaux: Medieval Short Stories and the Functions of Reversal

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Boccaccio's Fabliaux: Medieval Short Stories and the Functions of Reversal

Article excerpt

Katherine A. Brown, Boccaccio's Fabliaux: Medieval Short Stories and the Functions of Reversal (Gainesville, Fla: University Press of Florida, 2014). vii + 226 pp. ISBN 978-0-8130-4917-5. ?73.50.

This is a valuable and original contribution to questions concerning both the composition and interpretation of the Decameron, which argues that the fabliaux tradition influenced Boccaccio's combinatorial practices more than any other genre, helping to shape not only the contents of the Decameron, but also the very structure of the work. Brown shows how it is the use of reversal, a key trope both within the fabliaux narrative and within the structure of fabliaux manuscripts, which offers a model for Boccaccio's practice of shifting responsibility for interpretation onto the reader in the Decameron. The fabliaux challenge the relationship between text and audience, actively promoting openness of interpretation and shifting attention away from moral purpose towards the hermeneutic.

The study is divided into four main chapters, which lead from the fabliaux tradition, through individual tales and manuscript collections, to the broader context of medieval story collections, finishing with the Decameron. Chapter 1 identifies three different types of reversal which are at play within the fabliaux (chiasmus, narrative reversal, and structural reversal or inversion) and shows how Le Fablel de la grue brings together all three types of reversal and prefigures techniques which will be used by Boccaccio. At this stage, references to the Decameron are only brief, although for those who are already familiar with Boccaccio's text it is easy to see how the features being discussed are pertinent. …

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