Honors Colloquium 2019: Boccaccio’s Decameron

Course materials:

Honors Colloquium Spring 2019

HNRS 195J – Special Topics in Humanities

TOPIC: Boccaccio’s Decameron, ca. 1350: A Mirror of Human Life
INSTRUCTOR: Prof. Albrecht Classen, Dept. of German Studies, LSB 318, tel.: 621-1395; email: aclassen@email.arizona.edu; aclassen.faculty.arizona.edu
Office: 318 Learning Service Building
1512 E 1st St., between Vine and Cherry
CLASS MEETING TIME: Fri 9:00-9:50 a.m.
OFFICE HOURS: Mo and We 12:15 – 1:15 p.m., and most other times during the week; just come by, or give me a call to make an appointment.

This is a colloquium geared toward Honors students only. You are the most inquisitive, curious, intellectually motivated students on campus, I assume. For you I have selected a truly medieval or early Renaissance ‘classic,’ The kaleidoscope of human life is perhaps best reflected in a late medieval or early modern text, Boccaccio’s Decameron. This is a collection of 100 stories written ca. 1350. It is a true classic of Italian literature, and every educated person ought to know it. But this is not only a very learned collection of Renaissance tales. Instead, here we encounter countless examples of love affairs, human conflicts, violence, political machinations, miscommunication, tragedy, and happiness. There are ten narrators who each tells one story a day during those ten days when they are all together, having fled from the Black Death in Florence. Boccaccio’s absolute brilliance rests in his ability to entertain us with funny stories about people and, at the same time, to develop philosophical, ethical, religious, social, and political perspectives of universal relevance

You will become familiar with one of the greatest medieval or Renaissance anthology and learn to address critical issues formulated here that continue to have major meaning and urgency for us today. The Decameron consists of 10 chapters, so this is just right for a one-hour colloquium per week. We will go over one story from each chapter as a group per week (sometimes two stories), and discuss the major aspects and topics. At the end, you will have a solid understanding of this masterpiece and will have gained deep insight into the universal topics addressed in this text.
Although it is assumed that you will attend all class meetings, you are informed hereby that excessive absences will have consequences.
Please treat each other with respect and tolerance. People do have different views and opinions, but all these can only contribute to the rich learning experience I hope you all will have in this class. You are strongly encouraged to participate in class as much as possible. The one meeting per week will only be of profit for you if you respond to my questions and those of your classmates, come forward with your own questions, opinions, etc.
The University of Arizona is committed to fostering a learning, working, and living environment free from all forms of discrimination, including harassment. The University’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-harassment Policy prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The policy also prohibits retaliation for opposing discriminatory conduct, filing a discrimination-related complaint, or participating in the investigation of a discrimination-related complaint.
For definitions of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, please see the University’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-harassment Policy here or visit the Office of Institutional Equity website.
For information on the University of Arizona Policy on Threatening Behavior by Students, click on this link.

Diversity: “We seek to create the comprehensively engaged university with the expectation that everyone will make a contribution to inclusive excellence. Diversity and inclusiveness are core values for the University of Arizona and offer a competitive advantage in attracting faculty, staff, students and their partners. Moreover, diversity allows the institution to prepare students to be leaders in global contexts.” It is my personal goal to provide an all-inclusive classroom where everyone is treated equally and has the same opportunity. (http://diversity.arizona.edu/vision-our-campus). Fairness,justice, and transparency are the foundations of the best education.

SPECIAL NEEDS: Students with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations to participate fully in course activities or meet course requirements must register with the Disability Resource Center. (http://drc.arizona.edu/). Students need to submit appropriate documentation to the instructor if they are requesting reasonable accommodations.

If you use secondary material for your journal, make sure that you indicate clearly where you took it from. Plagiarism and cheating violate the Code of Academic Integrity. For further information, see:
Do not ever copy from the work produced by your classmates or by other students who might have taken this course in previous semesters. If you receive help in writing your papers, make sure that the final outcome still represents your own work. You can discuss your papers with your fellow students, but at the end, they need to consist of your own ideas and words! Be advised that the Web is a great search tool, but never, never copy from there without identifying very clearly what you used.  At this point, the scholarly value of web-based material still is not totally reliable, and the chances that you might stumble upon a most dubious webpage with untrustworthy information are very high.  When you quote from a secondary source, clearly identify the quote and tell the reader in a footnote where you quoted from.  Every year more than 100 students at the UA are caught having committed the crime of plagiarism, resulting in penalties that could be as severe as expulsion from the University!  You are smart enough not to copy from other people.
If there is any doubt in your mind whether you might commit plagiarism, see:
Plagiarism and the Web
If you commit plagiarism, you could either receive a 0 on your specific assignment, or an F for the entire course.  Depending on the gravity of the case, you might even be expelled from the University. Every plagiarism case must be reported to the Head of my depart., to the head of your dept., and to the Dean of Students.
Help with writing: The Writing Skills Improvement Program offers a number of valuable workshops at 1201 E. Helen Street.  Please consult with them if you have a need to improve your writing skills (no walk-ins).  For perhaps more immediate help, see the Writing Center (walk-ins allowed). Tel.: 621-5849
Writing Center: The Writing Center is a free resource for UA undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty and staff.  At the Writing Center, a trained peer consultant will work individually with you on anything you’re writing (in or out of class), at any point in the writing process from brainstorming to editing. Appointments are recommended, but not required.  For more information or to make an appointment, visit their website at http://thinktank.arizona.edu/programs/thinktank/services/writing, stop by at Nugent Building, main level, or call (520) 626-0530.?
3 journals: 30% each
attendance and participation: 10%
I’ll collect your journals 3 times per semester. Your attendance in the colloquia is assumed; if you have to miss, please let me know in writing. Excessive, unexcused absences will result in the drop of your overall grade. More than 2 of such absences will lead to an automatic F in this course.
In specific, keep a journal and write ca. 500-600 words or more per week, dealing each time with the respective chapter that we are discussing every Friday.
A: good journal, full critical discussion, plus questions and creative responses to the text
B: not always full amount of words, few questions, little critical thinking
C: mostly paraphrasing, too short entries, no comments of your own
D: spotty entries, misunderstandings, faulty grammar, spelling
F: few entries, short texts, no personal responses, or worse, no understanding of the text or the task
Jan. 11: Introduction, the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Boccaccio’s Decameron
Jan. 18: Decameron, late medieval literature; we read Boccaccio’s Prologue
Jan. 25: Boccaccio’s Introduction, Day 1: 2
Feb. 01: Day 1: 3
Feb. 08: Day 2: 5 and 9
Feb. 15: 1st journal is due; Day 3: 9 and 10
Feb. 22: Day 4: 1
March 01: Day 3: 5
March 02-10: Spring break
March 15: Day 4: 2 and 5
March 22: Day 5: 4 and 6
April 05: Day 6: 1 and 9
April 12: Day 7: 2 and 4
April 19: Day 8: 3 and 8
April 26: Last day of class; Day 10: 9 and 10; 3rd journal is due