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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Consolation of Literature: Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron and the Covid-19 Pandemic


Engaging with plague literature such as Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron during the COVID-19 pandemic arguably enhances our understanding of medieval depictions of the plague. At the same time, medieval descriptions of the pestilence reflect on our current situation. Indeed, reading the Decameron with my MA students in a virtual classroom in the spring of 2021 showed that the human experience of fear and loss in the face of a potentially lethal disease has not fundamentally changed in seven hundred centuries. Furthermore, we all brought our individual experiences with the pandemic to the text, which enabled us to identify with the plague situation of Boccaccio’s time in a way that would not have been possible before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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