Write 5-7 pages on one of the topics below (12pt, double-space, MLA)
**Be sure that your paper has an argument to make (a thesis). The thesis should reflect an
interpretation, an analysis. A good thesis often emerges in the process of writing the paper,
because the writing is a thinking process. A good way to proceed is by beginning with notetaking or conceptual mapping and experimenting with possible points you think you will want to
develop. Begin writing a draft. Then continue reading, including critical secondary sources, to
see whether your idea is reinforced or changed by your reading. Finally, after your paper is
drafted, see whether a thesis has indeed emerged. What is it? Revise your paper to place the
thesis near the beginning of the paper. If you started with a thesis in mind, check to make sure
that the paper indeed speaks to it and attends to persuading your reader with evidence from
**Be sure to:
• Supply evidence from the Decameron itself to illustrate your points.
• If you are using a different edition from the Penguin one for the class, supply a citation to
• Include meaningful reference to at least two outside sources (probably critical articles).
• Do NOT write extended parenthetical references. If you are citing an article, the
parenthetical reference should simply be, for example: (Lucente, 325), or (Psaki 2013,
• Include a bibliography at the end of your paper. The bibliography is not counted toward the
• Underline your paper’s thesis (the statement of what you are arguing).
Topics (chose one only)
1. Present a portrait of Emilia (the brigata member). What does this character bring to
the Decameron’s social dynamics within the group? What consistencies do you see in the
stories they tell and the songs they sing? Do this character’s story choices have anything
in common? Discuss two or three contributions (tales and/or songs) by this character and
say how they are consistent in painting a coherent portrait.
2. Women are the explicit intended audience for the Decameron. Seven of his ten brigata
members are women, and many of the tales in Boccaccio’s book depict women: their
sexuality, their intelligence, their anger, their desires, their wit. Given this variety, it is
difficult to come to general conclusions about Boccaccio’s “message” to women in love.
Choose two tales from the Decameron that speak to you about this book’s sexual politics
and discuss why they have made an impression on you. Be sure to offer your own
interpretation of each tale, to say where it occurs and who tells it, and to offer thoughts
about how it relates to the Decameron as a whole.
3. Vittore Branca has described the Decameron as a medieval, mercantile epic, in which a
merchant mentality and merchant heroes are frequently on view. Choose two or three
tales from different days, exploring how they profile the merchant as a figure and
illustrate Boccaccio’s awareness of merchant attitudes. In your view, are Boccaccio’s
merchants “heroes”? Why or why not?
What makes a good paper?
1) The quality of the argument. Does the paper have a thesis, or alternatively does it lay out a
problem and explore it in an insightful way, offering a conclusion?
2) Demonstration of knowledge. Does the paper show that the material has been attentively read?
Is the information included from lectures or secondary material accurately rendered?
3) Support for the argument. Does the paper support its claims with evidence from the text? Does
it clearly show what the bases of its claims are?
4) Clarity and effectiveness of prose. Is the writing competent, careful, precise? Is the argument
5) Technical polish. Is the paper free of errors in spelling, grammar, usage?
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