Set in plague-stricken Florence of 1348, Boccaccio’s Decameron begins with a portrait of social unravelling and civic collapse that is uncannily familiar in our jarring new pandemic reality. What can medieval literature and philosophy tell us about how to live when our knowledge, institutions, and laws falter? Who is at fault when catastrophe strikes? What is the role of art in responding to trauma, in rebuilding society? How does communal suffering compare to private suffering? How are power and privilege revealed, increased, or challenged in a pandemic? How do the narratives we tell about different maladies shape our lives and communities? This course explores Italian responses over the course of seven centuries to these questions, and reflects on how the Italian story continues to shape North American culture.