Current Institutional Affiliation
Freelance Writer

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Literature, University of Minnesota / Twin Cities
Negotiating Space and Self in the Medieval Mediterranean: The Construction of Mercantile Identity in Franco-Italian Literature

The representation of medieval Mediterranean cross-cultural relations and trade in Franco-Italian, French and Italian literature provides the focus of my dissertation. I study these representations as transformers of class, nationality and identity, questioning how the locus of social and political value changed significantly as mercantile spaces emerged to supplant battlefields and tournaments as shapers of identity in the northern Mediterranean. My dissertation highlights thirteenth and fourteenth-century works, like the French fabliaux, Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron, and the Franco-Italian Entrée d'Espagne, for example, which reflect this shift in cultural values towards the celebration of the merchant's practical ingenuity and social dexterity, and which pivot around questions of value and identity in spaces of exchange. My hypothesis is that, as merchants sought to negotiate increasing societal authority, literature becomes a place from which to create new identities and social hegemonies, appropriating spaces for interaction, and defining new cultural values based on ingenuity, wit and shrewdness. This project examines the circulation of goods and the representation of mercantile spaces as male gendered in the Medieval Mediterranean world, and the regular transgression (and mastery) of these spaces of exchange by female characters. This approach adds a critical dimension for thinking about gender in production, exchange and social spaces, and the making of Franco-Italian Mediterranean mercantile culture, particularly in Venice. To approach these moments where Venetian mercantile identity is constructed and negotiated, my project proposes to utilize archived, thirteenth and fourteenth-century mercantile documents and Franco-Italian literary manuscripts, currently located in Venice's Marciana Library, to provide a critical analysis of the intellectual trade between medieval French and Italian mercantile cultures.