chapter
14 Pages

Introduction

The novella, a short prose form that grew out of medieval exempla and didactic literature, developed through the centuries to both embrace and influence other narrative genres. A major stock in trade of Italian narrators from the late thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, its roots can also be traced to the moralizing anecdotes and folk wisdom included in popular sermons,fabliaux. and parables. From its humble beginnings in the terse medieval assemblage called 11 Libro di novelle e di bel parlar gentile (anachronistically better known as Il Novel/ino), this flexible genre would later furnish the raw material for the highly structured Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio, thereby endowing Italian art prose with its stylistic model par excellence, according to the pronouncements of Pietro Bembo in his Prose della volgar lingua. Always associated with the borghesia of Florence and Tuscany, the form is well known for its verbal wit and practical jokes as well as for its acute sense of observation with regard to human activities and contemporary social reality. Characters include people from all walks of life-artisans and aristocrats, Saracens and the clergy, men and women, young and old-portrayed within an equally wide variety of situations. The pleasures of narration are united with the traditional component of moral edification to produce a literary entertainment that is not immune from intense examinations of psychological motivation or biting critiques of human behavior.