Modern and Classical Languages
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Kristina Marie Olson

Kristina Marie Olson

Kristina Marie Olson

Associate Professor

Italian: Medieval studies, Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, medieval chronicles, historiography, gender studies

I received my Ph.D. in Italian from Columbia University and my B.A. from Bard College. I have served as the coordinator of the Italian program at George Mason University since 2007, where I developed a Minor in Italian Studies with courses in language, culture, cinema and literature in translation.
My research investigates the intersection of history and literature in the works of medieval and early modern Italian authors. My first monograph, Courtesy Lost: Dante, Boccaccio and the Literature of History (University of Toronto Press, 2014), explores Dante’s literary and political influence on Boccaccio in the contexts of social, political, and economic transformations in the fourteenth century.
Sumptuous Literature: Clothing and Governance in Fourteenth-Century Italy, my current book project, considers how literary characterizations of fashion and restrictions on consumption can shed new light upon our understanding of the contemporaneous birth of capitalism and fashion.
Together with Christopher Kleinhenz (Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison), I am also currently preparing a new edition of Approaches to Teaching Dante's Divine Comedy for the Modern Language Association's Approaches to Teaching World Literature series.
I serve as Vice President of the Dante Society of America and Treasurer of the American Boccaccio Association. (Links to these organizations are available under "Web Sites.")

Selected Publications


Courtesy Lost: Dante, Boccaccio and the Literature of History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014.

Edited Volumes

Boccaccio 1313-2013. Edited with Francesco Ciabattoni and Elsa Filosa. Ravenna: Longo Editore, 2015.

Open City: Seven Writers in Post-War Rome. Edited with William Weaver. South Royalton, VT:  Steerforth Press, 1999.

Selected Articles
"Uncovering the Historical Body of Florence: Dante, Forese Donati, and Sumptuary Legislation." Italian Culture 33:1 (March 2015): 1-15.

“Dante’s Urban American Vernacular: Sandow Birk’s Divine Comedy.” Special Edition: “New Voices in Dante Criticism,” of Dante Studies: The Annual Publication of the Dante Society of America 131 (2013): 143-169.

“The Language of Women as Written by Men:  Dante, Boccaccio, and Gendered Histories of the Vernacular,” Heliotropia 8-9 (2011-12). Reprinted in Heliotropia 700/10: A Boccaccio Anniversary Volume (LED, 2013), pp. 217-236.

“Resurrecting Dante’s Florence:  Figural Realism in the Decameron and the Esposizioni,” Modern Language Notes 124:1 (January 2009): 45-65.

Grants and Fellowships

Olson is the Fenwick Fellow for 2015-16.

Courses Taught

  • ITAL 110: Elementary Italian
  • ITAL 210: Intermediate Italian
  • ITAL 250: Gateway to Advanced Italian
  • ITAL 320: Neorealism and Global Cinema (co-taught with Carla Marcantonio, Department of English)
  • ITAL 325: Major Italian Writers ("Dante's Divine Comedy"; "Dante's Inferno"; "Literature and the Black Death: Boccaccio's Decameron")
  • ITAL 330/331: Advanced Italian: Language and Culture
  • ITAL 340: Italian through the Arts (Film / Opera)
  • ITAL 420: Global and Local Italy
  • FRLN 330: Topics in World Literature
  • HNRS 230: Cross-Cultural Perspectives ("The Language of Empire: Rome, Italy and Africa")

Recent Presentations

“Skirting the Issue: Reconsidering Cacciaguida’s History of Florentine Fashion.” Panel sponsored by the Dante Society of America. The International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan. May 2016.

"Dante in a Global World: Sandow Birk's Divine Comedy." Panel discussion: "Dante Alighieri at the Library of Congress." The Library of Congress, Washington, DC. December 3, 2015.

“Dante’s Inferno: Influence, Adaptation and Reception.” Participant instructor in NEH Seminar on teaching Dante in high schools hosted by University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. July 2, 2015.

“Histories of the Southern Kingdoms from Dante to Boccaccio (and Petrarch).” Panel: “Dante and Boccaccio.” Annual Conference of the American Association of Italian Studies. Held at the University of Colorado, Boulder. March 26-28, 2015.

In the Media

"New Fenwick Fellow’s Research Explores 14th Century Fashion"

in George Mason News (September 22, 2015)