College of Humanities and Social Sciences
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Kristina Marie Olson

Kristina Marie Olson

Kristina Marie Olson

Associate Professor

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 and Governance in Fourteenth-Century Italy, my current book project, explores the relationship between sumptuary statutes (laws which regulated clothing and displays of wealth) and 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 am also 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 as 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

"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.

Grants and Fellowships

Olson was 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
  • FRLN 550: Boccaccio's Decameron
  • HNRS 230: Cross-Cultural Perspectives ("The Language of Empire: Rome, Italy and Africa")


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

“Cowardice, Silence, and Activism: Spivak, Nussbaum and Dante’s Fraught Role in Feminist Thought.” Fordham University, New York, NY. April 27, 2017.

“Skirting the Issue: Clothing and Politics in Fourteenth-Century Italy.” Fenwick Fellow Lecture, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. April 13, 2017.

“Finding the Celestial Rose in Mecca: Sandow Birk's Divine Comedy.” University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA. April 10, 2017.

“Im/material Girls: Paradiso 15, Commentaries, and Giovanni Villani.” Villanova University, November 2, 2016.

"Dante, Boccaccio and Sumptuary Legislation in Italy during the 13th and 14th Centuries." University of New Hampshire, October 14, 2016.

Panni corti and Minos’s Tail: Boccaccio’s History of Fashion and Governance in Esposizioni 5.” The Triennial Conference of the American Boccaccio Association. Duke University, September 30-October 2, 2016.



In the Media

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

in George Mason News (September 22, 2015)