In the late Middle Ages, pawnbroking was a widespread activity across the Mediterranean basin. Secured loans facilitated people’s access to money but generated troubling questions about the morality of pawnbroking, especially for its proximity to usury. By retracing connections between literary texts in France and Italy, this paper analyses scenes of pawnbroking in literary texts. Medieval fiction frequently alludes to secured loans, providing authors and readers with an opportunity to reflect upon human agreements, reciprocity, and the meaning of justice. More importantly, literary texts reveal that debts were not just pressing obligations, but also possibilities for shaping human interactions and complicating the notion of literary verisimilitude.
Filippo Petricca is Assistant Professor of Medieval Italian Literature at Indiana University Bloomington. His research explores the relation between medieval literature, ethics, and economics. He is currently working on a monograph on Dante and Economics.
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