In On Famous Women, On the Fall of Famous Men, and Genealogy of the Pagan Gods, Boccaccio categorizes ancient pagan divinities like Athena, Ceres, and Isis as euhemerized culture heroes who transformed villages of aboriginal, acorn-eating rustici into civilized communities that cultivated grain for bread and crushed olives to produce oil. In these passages Boccaccio identifies the earliest developmental stages of human civilization in terms of food production, tacitly praising while characterizing its primitive simplicity. In contrast, he populates his characterizations of more advanced civilizations with the sumptuous feasts and banquets associated with historical autocrats like Cleopatra, Zenobia, and Vitellius, echoing trecento moral accusations of the gluttonous Ciacco (Dante, Inferno, 6.52-54; Boccaccio, Decameron, 9.8).
When compared with their older Latin and German hypotexts, three 14th-century literary texts in Czech – the Chronicle of Dalimil, the Verse Legend of St. Procopius, and the Arthurian verse romance Tristram a Izalda – offer novel images of human interaction with the natural environment. Focusing on specific rewritings of the ways in which the protagonists behave within the forest, the paper seeks to demonstrate the emergence of a new paradigm in which woodlands represented previously across different genres, for a variety of ideological or literary purposes, as wilderness are transformed by 14th-century authors into lands of economical potential inviting or even requiring cultivation.
Identity formation is a core concern of medieval romances. Quests require characters to overcome challenges, and the manner of their success or failure determines reputation and enables self-knowledge. This paper will consider food as an important symbolic marker of identity in flux in the Middle English romance Sir Cleges. Too generous feasting contributed to the titular knight’s downfall; miraculous, unseasonable cherries serve as a sign of divine favor and provide leverage for Cleges to restore his social status. Sir Cleges demonstrates deliberate, strategic use of food to bargain for restored status and property. In this romance, food impels the disruption and reclamation of identity.