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June 14, 2005

Decameron Web: A Growing Hypermedia Archive of Materials Dedicated to Boccaccio's Masterpiece


A true encyclopedia of early modern life and a summa of late medieval culture, the Decameron is also a universal repertory of perennially human situations and dilemmas: it is the perfect subject for an experiment in a new form of scholarly and pedagogical communication aimed at renewing a living dialogue between a distant past and our present.

Started by graduate and undergraduate students in 1994 at Brown University's Italian Studies program, under the direction of Prof. Massimo Riva, Decameron Web has grown steadily up to the present day, providing a broad range of resources for scholars, students and general readers. Decameron Web suggests what might come to replace the conventional print textbook in the humanities: a dynamic learning environment through which investigators (at varying levels of experience) can trace trajectories.

The site can serve as a primer for newcomers to the Decameron, with useful sections on Boccaccio's period and literary influences, and profiles of major characters and themes. A more advanced scholar can take advantage of complete, searchable texts in Italian and English, period music recordings, an extensive critical bibliography, and analytical tools such as a motif index and a concordance. The "pedagogy" section provides resources that teachers and students can use in their courses - reading guides, sample papers, course modules, and a variety of articles on the meaningful use of technology in the classroom.


Decameron Web is not a static space:

...this collection of materials will continue to grow in years to come, as students and scholars at Brown University and other institutions contribute syllabi, successful teaching strategies, new essays, interpretations, images, and so forth.

It is, however, more closed than open. Authority is maintained by strict editorial oversight, and new modules, syllabi and resources are added through these filters. As it stands now, Decameron Web is an outstanding reference work with an array of useful tools. The site changes slowly over time, but does not at present provide forums for the community to engage with itself. The network of scholars and students that has arisen around Decameron Web would be well served by a more dynamic social software platform, one that could be built into the existing architecture. This could consist of a simple discussion board, or a community weblog for news and developments. It could also include more sophisticated tools like multi-player analytical games, or spaces for collaborative projects. We believe this should be the next stage of Decameron Web's evolution - to truly explore a "new form of scholarly and pedagogical communication."

(page on Pasolini's film of The Decameron)

Posted by ben vershbow at June 14, 2005 11:29 AM