Season 4, Episode 2

Joy and Plague

In this episode, we hear from a specialist in medieval literature about the bubonic plague that devastated Europe in the 14th century, and how artists like Boccaccio and Chaucer documented the horror of the Black Death but also the joy found in art and creation.

The Intricate Riddle of Life

Joy and Plague • Season 4, Episode 2

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In 1346, bubonic plague began to spread through northern Africa and Eurasia. In seven years, it had become the most fatal pandemic recorded in human history, killing between 75 and 200 million people. Artists like Boccaccio and Chaucer reflected the horror and devastation in their work, but also told stories about travel, human vices and virtues, and the role of fortune versus human will. Their work revolutionized writing and language, and testified both to the suffering of the plague, and the joy found in art, nature, and storytelling.


David Wallace, Judith Rodin Professor of English


Alex Schein


Susan Ahlborn


Alex Schein and Brooke Sietinsons


Susan Ahlborn


Marina Muun


Theme by Nicholas Escobar, C’18

Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions and Francesco Landino’s “Ecco la primavera” performed by Hortus Musicus

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