ITAL20200 Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio: the Three Crowns

Academic Year 2020/2021

Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarch and Giovanni Boccaccio are known as the ‘Tre corone’ (the ‘Three Crowns’) of Italian literature. What is the meaning of this expression? And what are the reasons for its use? This module aims to enable students to answer these questions and develop an informed understanding of the life, works and reception of the three major Italian authors in the Middle Ages. The module combines an historical introduction to Italian Medieval history and culture with the analysis of a selection of the most influential cultural products of this period: that is, Dante’s Inferno (Hell), the first cantica of his Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy); the poems written by Petrarch and collected in his Canzoniere (also known as Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta); and the stories from Boccaccio’s Decameron. Through the study of a selection of these texts, students will be introduced to some fundamental topics and themes in the study of Italian literature: the relationship between literature, politics, and religion; the beginnings of lyric poetry and short stories; the literary use of the Italian vernacular.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
- analyse Medieval texts in terms of both form and content through providing a detailed critical reading of them;
- relate each text to its historical and cultural context;
- demonstrate familiarity with the metrical forms analysed;
- engage effectively in class and tutorial discussions, presenting personal ideas or critical readings orally;
- complete written assignments, focusing on content, structure, style of the authors' texts.

Indicative Module Content:

Reading of the following texts:

Dante Alighieri, Inferno, cantos 1, 5, 26, 33

Francesco Petrarca, Canzoniere, poems 1, 3, 16, 90, 136, 272, 310, 365

Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron, Proemio; Introduction to day 1; day 1, story 1; day 2, story 5; introduction to day 4; day 10, story 10

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
All classes will take place online, and are scheduled according to the university timetable.
Active participation in these classes is required.
In addition to that, full engagement with material and tasks made accessible in Brightspace is expected every week.

Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Additional Information:
Knowledge of Italian language is required.

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: Timed essays/commentaries on Petrarch's and Boccaccio's texts Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Class Test: Timed test on Dante's Inferno.
Week 7 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

After the mid-term assessment (that is, an in class test on Dante's Inferno, in week 6), students will receive an individual feedback on the structure and contents of their work. The feedback will normally be given after two teaching weeks.

On Dante:
Robey, D., and Hainsworth, P., Dante: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)
L.Pertile, Introduction to Inferno, in The Cambridge Companion to Dante, ed. by R. Jacoff, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
J. Scott, Dante's Other World, in Scott., Understanding Dante (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 2004)
J. Scott, Canto 1, in Scott., Understanding Dante (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 2004)
B. Reynolds, Canto 5, in Reynolds, Dante, The Poet, The Political Thinker, The Man (Emeryville: Shoemaker, 2006)
P. Boyde, Canto 10, in Boyde, Human Vices and Human Worth in Dante's Comedy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)
B. Reynolds, Canto 33, in Reynolds, Dante, The Poet, The Political Thinker, The Man (Emeryville: Shoemaker, 2006)
On Petrarch:
Hainsworth, P., Petrarch the Poet: An Introduction to the Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta, 2nd ed. (New-York, Routledge, 2014)
T.E. Peterson, The Unity of the Canzoniere, in Peterson, Petrarch’s Fragmenta: The Narrative and Theological Unitiy of Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2016)
T.E. Peterson, Analysis of poems 1-10, in Peterson, Petrarch’s Fragmenta: The Narrative and Theological Unitiy of Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2016)
T.E. Peterson, Petrarch's style, in Peterson, Petrarch’s Fragmenta: The Narrative and Theological Unitiy of Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2016)
J. Petrie, Petrarch and Nature, in Petrie, Petrarch: The Augustan Poets, The Italian Tradition and the Canzoniere (Dublin: UCD, 1983)
L. Forster, The Petrarchan Manner: An Introduction, in Forster, The Icy Fire: Five Studies in European Petrarchism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969)
C.S. Celenza, The Discovery of the Ancient World, in Celenza, Petrarch, Everywhere a Wanderer (London: Reaktion Books, 2017)
On Boccaccio:
Wallace, D., Decameron (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)
D. Lummus, Boccaccio’s Poetics, in The Cambridge Companion to Boccaccio, ed. by G. Armstrong, R. Daniels, S. J. Milner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015)
M. Migiel, The Ethical Dimension of the Decameron (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015)
V. Kirkham, Symmetries in the Decameron, in Kirkham, The Sign of Reason in Boccaccio's Fiction (Florence: Olschki, 1993)
V. Kirkham, Proemio, in Kirkham, The Sign of Reason in Boccaccio's Fiction (Florence: Olschki, 1993)
G. Mazzotta, Day 1, Story 1, in Mazzotta, The World at Play in Boccaccio's Decameron (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986)
V. Kirkham, Day 10, Story 10, in Kirkham, The Sign of Reason in Boccaccio's Fiction (Florence: Olschki, 1993)
Name Role
Assoc Professor Paolo Acquaviva Lecturer / Co-Lecturer