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Abstract

I ncreasingly, clitical practice has turned its focus to the reading of gender
within the works of Giovanni Boccaccio - not just as the study of
the representation of women within the novelle of the Decameron, but
understood broadly as the convergence of language and gender in Boccaccio's
oeuvre.' Recent scholarship in this vein comes to terms with the author's
rhetorical and ideological engagement with women, ranging from
studies of female discourse within his narratives to his challenging objectifications
of women which resist totalizing claims. Some scholars argue
that we cannot ask whether or not Boccaccio was a misogynist or a feminist,
claiming that his hermeneutics challenge these categorizations (most
recently, Marilyn Migiel). Others, such as Millicent Marcus, have asserted
that detecting misogyny in Boccaccio's novelle, such as Decameron VIII.7,
is a "misreading" because the novella itself critiques misogyny. Still others
view the foregrounding of women producers of discourse within society as
the origins of a feminist literary tradition (Teodolinda Barolini). To judge
from the critical literature, Boccaccio's apparently contradictory stance,
from the dedication to lovelorn women in the Decameron's Proem to the
anti-feminist diatribes of the Corbaccio, shifts problematically from one of philogyny to one of misogyny. This dualistic interpretation hinders a
reading of his corpus - let alone of singular works - in one direction or
the other. Gender studies in Boccaccio have yet to examine the ways in
which his views on the vernacular as the "volgare delle femine," vis-a.-vis
Dante (Esposizioni Accessus, 19) impact upon our reading of the
Decamerorl's authorial voice and its dedication to "vaghe donne"
(Decameron Proem, 9).
In this article, I explore the subject of gender in Boccaccio through an
analysis of his gendered histOlY of the vernacular as the language of
women. I posit that by means of an interpretation of Boccaccio's gendered
history of the vernacular one can achieve a different reading of the canonical
negotiations of the Proem, the Introduction to Day Four, and the Conclusion
of the Author in the Decameron. ffitimately, I argue that Boccaccio
can be related to misogynist and non-misogynist ideologies by means of
his own rhetoric of philogyny when seen as the result of linguistic debates
within textual communities that can be discerned inside and outside of the
Decmneron.

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