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Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Maria Tymoczko

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Petroff

Third Advisor

Michael Papio

Subject Categories

Classical Literature and Philology | Comparative Literature | Medieval Studies


This dissertation explores the construction and transmission of the concept of authorship in the Italian novella in late-medieval and early modern Italy and England. The notion of authorship during this period undergoes an important shift from medieval conceptions of auctoritas to modern ideas about the role of the author. Tracing the figure of the author through a single genre allows an investigation of the translational mechanisms that affect cross-cultural ideas such as authorship as they move between cultures. This research contributes to knowledge about the formation and translation of cross-cultural concepts as well as to understandings of the role of the author in early modern literature.

The literature used to pursue this investigation consists of some of the major and minor works in the genre of the Italian novella in Italy and England. The first chapter establishes the generic and theoretical foundations of both the genre of the Italian novella and medieval ideas about authorship. The first text addressed is the late thirteenth-century anonymous Italian Novellino, which is included in the first chapter as an example of an early novella collection that has some but not all of the characteristics of the developing genre. The subject of the second chapter is the authorial construction of Giovanni Boccaccio in the Decameron, which forms the basis for subsequent research. The third chapter explores how later Italian writers including Francesco Petrarca, Masuccio Salernitano, Matteo Bandello, and Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinzio modify and expand the Boccaccian models of authorship in their own contributions to the genre. In chapter four, translation comes to the forefront in an examination of how English writers and translators worked with the Italian genre, adapting it for their own purposes. This exploration moves from the work of Geoffrey Chaucer through the major novella collections of the late sixteenth-century and ultimately to the beginnings of "original" English novella production with George Gascoigne and the continuation of the translation tradition with the first complete English translation of Boccaccio's Decameron in 1620. Finally, the fifth chapter unifies a discussion of narrative structure that has proved key in the preceding chapters, exploring how the repetition and recursivity of the texts at hand influences authorial and interpretive constructions.