This dissertation examines the Teseida delle nozze d’Emilia through the lens of its representation of games. The Teseida is a relatively understudied work in the field of Italian studies, although it has received more attention from English scholars, as it served as a model for Chaucer. Likewise, the relationship between sports, games, and literature has received scarce attention in the study of medieval literature. This dissertation asserts that the Teseida’s games are privileged spaces within the work for the negotiation and formation of individual and collective identities and poetic authority as well as for the exploration philosophical concepts, such as the roles of agency, chance, and Fate. This dissertation therefore contributes to literary scholarship on the Teseida as well as to scholarship on medieval sports and games by exploring how games are employed to produce meaning within the literary text. Because the issues that game play brings to the fore are also those which inform the Teseida’s position within the generic traditions of epic and romance, the analysis of games undertaken in this dissertation sheds light on the generic alignment of the text and how Boccaccio combines the epic and romance traditions in the Teseida. The first chapter analyses the concept of the prize in the Teseida, and argues that, rather than a romance prize, Emilia functions as a gift whose exchange forms the basis of the male collective. The second chapter approaches the question of ludic violence by analyzing the treatment of inter and intra textual references to martial combat, both in classical epic and in the first two books of the Teseida, in the representation of the “giuoco a marte”. The third chapter confronts the contingency of the “giuoco a marte” and the extent to which it allows for human agency to be determinate. I argue that the prayers to Mars and Venus reflect epic determinacy and romance indeterminacy and that the divine interventions dramatize the intersection of contingency and necessity in agonistic sports. The final chapter approaches the funeral games as the locus of poetic negotiation, in which Boccaccio establishes the superior position of poetry and poetic representation relative to visual representation through his use of ekphrasis, asserts the primacy of epic in the Teseida through the prize awarded to Theseus, and assimilates poetic and natural creativity in the figure of Pan. While scholars have treated isolated aspects of the Teseida’s games, there is no study devoted completely to the games in the work that accounts for the historical and philosophical complexity of the representation of games and sports. By focusing on how games mediate sociological, philosophical, and literary questions, this study demonstrates not only the importance of games to the text, but also demonstrates the complexity of games and the seriousness with which they should be approached in literary studies.




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