Writing about European Literature and Culture: The Decameron
Writing in the first century BCE, the Roman poet Horace argued that literature should both delight and instruct readers: “He who mingles profit with pleasure wins every hand, by delighting and instructing the reader at the same time” (“Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci, lectorem delectando pariterque monendo,” Ars poetica, ll. 343-4). Throughout his treatise The Art of Poetry, Horace also advises writers, particularly poets, to read widely, write precisely, and solicit honest criticism. Horace’s recommendations can be extended to all kinds of writers, not least those who write about literary and cultural developments. By offering practice in the craft, rhetoric, and process of writing about European literary and cultural developments, Euro 120 gives students the opportunity to sharpen a variety of writing skills essential for producing informative prose that engages their readers’ attention, in other words writing that is useful and entertaining.
In this iteration of Euro 120, students read a selection of novellas from Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, arguably the first text of the European, vernacular, narrative prose fiction tradition. We will be writing about this fourteenth-century frame storied collection of tales through different voices, for a variety of audiences, and in a range of genres central to the discipline of (European) literature and culture. We will work alone and in pairs/groups to compose and edit both informal/ungraded and formal/graded assignments. Because peer-review and revision are essential components of good writing, we will revise selected assignments multiple times and participate in in-class writing workshops and peer-reviews.
EURO 120 fulfills the College Writing 2 requirement and builds on the work of English 110 (College Writing 1) by teaching the conventions of writing in the discipline of European literature and culture. In each permutation of this variable topics course students read, discuss, and write about French, German, Italian, Modern Greek, and/or Russian literary and cultural materials.