Language Coordinator, Italian
Medieval studies, Dante, world literature, historiography, gender studies, modern literature and film studies
Kristina Olson received her Ph.D. in Italian from Columbia University and her B.A. from Bard College. She has served as the coordinator of the Italian Program at George Mason University since 2007, where she has 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 writers. Her first monograph, Courtesy Lost: Dante, Boccaccio and the Literature of History (forthcoming with University of Toronto Press, 2014), considers the literary 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 two book projects. The first, Sumptuous Literature: Clothing, Governance and Nostalgia in Dante and Boccaccio, explores how sumptuary legislation and efforts at democratization in thirteenth and fourteenth-century Florence inform the poetic visions of ethics and gender in the works of the tre corone. The second project, Mother Tongues and Literary Languages, delineates a gendered history of the Italian vernacular from medieval to early modern authors.
Olson is the co-editor (with William Weaver) of the anthology, Open City: Seven Writers in Postwar Rome, by Steerforth Press (1997). She has published and forthcoming articles on modern and medieval Italian literature in Dante Studies, Heliotropia, Modern Language Notes, Annali d'italianistica, Symposium and others. She is currently the Treasurer of the American Boccaccio Association (http://www.abaonline.us/) (2014-17) and the co-organizer of the Italians and Italianists at the International Congress on Medieval Studies (from May 2007 to present).