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A Local Habitation and a NameImagining Histories in the Italian Renaissance$
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Albert Russell Ascoli

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780823234288

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823234288.001.0001

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Boccaccio's Auerbach: Holding the Mirror up to Mimesis

Boccaccio's Auerbach: Holding the Mirror up to Mimesis

(p.59) Chapter 2 Boccaccio's Auerbach: Holding the Mirror up to Mimesis
A Local Habitation and a Name

Albert Russell Ascoli

Fordham University Press

This chapter, like the previous one, interrogates the use of a single text or author to define a major break in Western cultural and especially literary history, in this case Auerbach's reading in Mimesis of a single story of the Decameron (IV.2, the story of “Frate Alberto”) to define a break between the allegorical figuralism of Dante's Commedia and the supposed “realism” and “naturalism” of Boccaccio's style. The chapter argues that Auerbach, while he may have been correct to assert that Boccaccio contributes to the development of a mimetic style in the western literary tradition, misses fundamental aspects of the story he analyses, and the day in which it is situated, particularly its intricate reflections on the problem of representing “the real” in literature and on the presumptuousness of Dante's claims to bear witness to the truth of human life after death.

Keywords:   Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron, Erich Auerbach, Mimesis, realism and naturalism, Frate Alberto, Boccaccio and Dante, middle ages, Renaissance, literary historiography

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