Volume 42, 2021
Fiammetta and Héloïse
Boccaccio’s Female Auctor and Women Intellectuals
Boccaccio’s Elegy of Lady Fiammetta stages the autobiographical narrative of a woman. Many critics have explored the style chosen for Fiammetta by Boccaccio, as well as the wide-ranging sources he used to characterize her as a sophisticated writer. Because Boccaccio also bases her portrayal on actual women, however, her persona poses fundamental questions about women’s agency. This essay explores Fiammetta as the declared author of the text, and the ways in which she personifies a fourteenth-century woman writer. It emphasizes the significance of Fiammetta’s being literarily self-aware, learned, and steeped in ancient and contemporary writing. By investigating how Fiammetta is represented as a vernacular poet, while also remaining a supposedly real woman, this study sheds light on the significance of a probable model for her portrayal: Héloïse. This parallel points to the theory of intentions as developed in Abelard’s Ethics and Héloïse’s letters, which Boccaccio re-elaborates through Fiammetta, in a path that leads to the ethics of the Decameron.