Kristina Marie Olson

Kristina Marie Olson

Kristina Marie Olson

Associate Professor

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

My research investigates the intersection of history and literature in the works of medieval and early modern Italian authors, paying particular attention to matters of language, gender and reception. My first monograph, Courtesy Lost: Dante, Boccaccio and the Literature of History (University of Toronto Press, 2014), reads Dante’s literary and political influence on Boccaccio in the contexts of social, political, and economic transformations in the fourteenth century.

Sumptuous Literature: Clothing, Gender and Governance in Fourteenth-Century Italy, my current book project, explores the idea of a "sumptuary ethic" (such as the laws that regulated clothing and displays of wealth) in the thematic treatments of luxurious dress and extravagant spending that can be found in the works of Italy’s “three crowns” of literature: Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch, as well as other poets and chroniclers of the period. In order to maintain social order, sumptuary legislation and ecclesiastical admonitions targeted various displays of luxury: excessive spending on clothing, jewelry, and rituals, such as funereal practices and exorbitant wedding dowries. Sumptuous clothing, a visual language of its own that signified status, became an essential part of a poetic language that addressed politics, gender and civic identity.

Together with Christopher Kleinhenz (Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison), I prepared a new volume of Approaches to Teaching Dante's Divine Comedy, which is forthcoming with the Modern Language Association's Approaches to Teaching World Literature series.
I currently serve as Vice President of the American Boccaccio Association. I served as Vice President of the Dante Society of America from 2016-18.

Selected Publications

(See attached CV for complete list.)


Reviewed in: Choice (May 2015) 52: 9; Renaissance Quarterly 69:1 (Spring 2016): 360-362; Modern Language Review 111:2 (April 2016): 558-559; Heliotropia 12-13 (2015-16): 373-77; Nuova informazione bibliografica 2 (April-June 2016): 379-390; Annali d’italianistica 34 (2016): 552-53; Studi sul Boccaccio XLIV (2016): 432-35; Speculum 92:3 (July 2017): 873-75.

Edited Volumes

  • Approaches to Teaching Dante’s Divine Comedy. Second Edition. Edited with Christopher Kleinhenz. Modern Language Association. Series: Approaches to Teaching World Literature. (forthcoming)
  • Boccaccio 1313-2013. Edited with Francesco Ciabattoni and Elsa Filosa. Ravenna: Longo Editore, 2015.

Reviewed in: Studi sul Boccaccio XLIV (2016): 429-32; Renaissance Quarterly 70:1 (Spring 2017):372-73; Italian Culture 35:1 (2017): 53-4; The Medieval Review (2/12/16); Studi sul Boccaccio 44 (2016); Annali d’Italianistica 35 (2017): 541-43.

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

Selected Articles

  • "Shoes, Gowns, and Turncoats: Reconsidering Cacciaguida’s History of Florentine Fashion and Politics." Dante Studies: The Annual Publication of the Dante Society of America 134 (2016): 26-47.
  • "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.


Courses Taught

At George Mason University:

  • ITAL 110: Elementary Italian
  • ITAL 210: Intermediate Italian
  • ITAL 250: Gateway to Advanced Italian
  • ITAL 320: Italian Cinema / Neorealism and Global Cinema
  • 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 360: The Italian South
  • ITAL 420: Global and Local Italy
  • FRLN 330: Topics in World Literature
  • FRLN 550: Boccaccio's Decameron
  • HNRS 230: Cross-Cultural Perspectives ("The Language of Empire: Rome, Italy and Africa")

Thesis Advisor and Reader (at Mason)

  • URSP Mentor for Giovanna Uberti, August-December 2017. Project Title: “Urban Policing in Contemporary Italy.” George Mason University.
  • URSP Mentor and English Honors Thesis Advisor for Georgia Wood, June 2014-May 2015. Project Title: “The ‘Divine’ Revisited: Reflections of Dante’s Divine Comedy in Toni Morrison’s Trilogy.” George Mason University.

Extramural Teaching

  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), Fairfax, Virginia. Course title: Dante’s Inferno. Spring 2017.
  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), Fairfax, Virginia. Course title: Dante’s Purgatorio. Spring 2018.
  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), Fairfax, Virginia. Course title: Dante’s Paradiso. Spring 2019.


  • Ph.D., Department of Italian, Columbia University (2006)
  • M.A., Department of Italian, Columbia University (2001)
  • B.A., Division of Languages and Literatures, Bard College (1998)

Recent Presentations

  • Respondent (with Chris Kleinhenz). Symposium: "'Come il baccialier': Questioning and Professing Dante." Spring Meeting of the Dante Society of America. Boston College, MA. May 2018.
  • Roundtable: "Reconsidering Petrarchan Poetics." Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America. New Orleans, LA. March 2018.
  • "Sumptuous Literature: Clothing, Gender and Governance in Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch." Symposium: "Inside Out: Dress and Identity in the Middle Ages," Fordham University, NY. March 2018.
  • "Teaching the Decameron." Teaching Seminar for Literature and Humanities Program in the Core Curriculum, Columbia University, NY. February 5, 2018.
  • "'Maintaining Neutrality in a Time of Moral Crisis': The Appropriation of Inferno 3 from JFK to Martha Nussbaum." Panel: "Dante on Crisis." Annual Meeting of the Modern Language Association, New York, NY. January 2018.
  • "Sartorial Poetics: Clothing and Politics in Dante and Boccaccio." Department of Italian Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. October 19, 2017.


In the Media

Professor Olson was featured as one of the "Faces of Mason" in GMU's Fourth Estate.

Interview with News at Mason for her Fenwick Fellowship project.