Modern and Classical Languages
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Kristina Marie Olson

Kristina Marie Olson

Kristina Marie Olson

Assistant Professor

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

Kristina M. Olson received her Ph.D. in Italian from Columbia University (2006) and her B.A. from Bard College (1998). She has served as the coordinator of the Italian Program at George Mason University since 2007, where she developed a Minor in Italian Studies with courses in language, culture, cinema and literature in translation.
Her research investigates the intersection of history and literature in the works of medieval and early modern Italian authors. Her first monograph, Courtesy Lost: Dante, Boccaccio and the Literature of History (University of Toronto Press, 2014), considers the impact of the social, political, and economic transformations of the fourteenth century through an exploration of Dante’s literary and political influence on Boccaccio. The book reveals how Boccaccio rewrote the past through the lens of the Commedia, torn between nostalgia for elite families in decline and the need to promote morality and magnanimity within the Florentine Republic, which he articulates in terms of the concept of cortesia.
She is currently working on a book project, Sumptuous Literature: Clothing and Governance in Fourteenth Century Italy, which explores how sumptuary legislation and efforts at democratization inform the poetic visions of ethics and gender in the works of the tre corone and the chronicles.
Olson serves as the Treasurer of the American Boccaccio Association ( (2014-17), as a Councilor for the Dante Society of America (2015-18), and as a co-organizer of the Italians and Italianists at the International Congress on Medieval Studies (from May 2007 to present).

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: Angelo Longo Editore (forthcoming, 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

“Florentines Gone Wild: Sumptuary Legislation in the 14th and 15th Centuries.” Medieval and Renaissance Studies Fall Seminar, Department of English, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA. October 4, 2014.

“Dante’s Urban American Vernacular: Sandow Birk’s Comedy.” Conference: “Dante in Contemporary Perspectives.” Hosted by the Department of Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center, CUNY, New York, NY. October 24, 2014.

“’Sòstati tu ch'a l'abito ne sembri / essere alcun di nostra terra prava’: Textiles and Political Truth in the Comedy.” Conference: “Dante’s Poets: Thirty Years Later.” Held at the Italian Academy at Columbia University, November 13, 2014.

“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.

“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.