The Worlds of Petrarch

The Worlds of Petrarch

Duke Monographs in Medieval and Renaissance Studies

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Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: Published: October 1993

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Pre-Modern Studies > Medieval and Early Modern Studies

At the center of Petrarch's vision, announcing a new way of seeing the world, was the individual, a sense of the self that would one day become the center of modernity as well. This self, however, seemed to be fragmented in Petrarch's work, divided among the worlds of philosophy, faith, and love of the classics, politics, art, and religion, of Italy, France, Greece, and Rome. In recent decades scholars have explored each of these worlds in depth. In this work, Giuseppe Mazzotta shows for the first time how all these fragmentary explorations relate to each other, how these separate worlds are part of a common vision.
Written in a clear and passionate style, The Worlds of Petrarch takes us into the politics of culture, the poetic imagination, into history and ethics, art and music, rhetoric and theology. With this encyclopedic strategy, Mazzotta is able to demonstrate that the self for Petrarch is not a unified whole but a unity of parts, and, at the same time, that culture emerges not from a consensus but from a conflict of ideas produced by opposition and dark passion. These conflicts, intrinsic to Petrarch's style of thought, lead Mazzotta to a powerful rethinking of the concepts of "fragments" and "unity" and, finally, to a new understanding of the relationship between them.


The Worlds of Petrarch . . . treats all the major concerns of this pivotal figure: poetry, history, politics, religion, rhetoric, music, philosophy, his modernity and medievalism, his love for Italy and ancient Rome, and his fascination with classical antiquities . . . [and] is of value not just to the Petrarchan specialist, but to the scholar of medieval and Renaissance culture in general.” — Angelo Mazzoco , Renaissance Quarterly

"A very important study. Mazzotta not only gives us a dense and rich new portrait of a much-studied and absolutely major figure, but he also brings to the fore the abiding force and value of Petrarch's 'worlds' of discourse and thought to many of today's debates regarding, for example, the relation of aesthetics and rhetoric to the politico-historical realm, or the epistemological validity of poetry, or the constructedness of the self." — Rebecca West, University of Chicago

"A richly textured, deeply learned, and broadly inclusive study of Petrarch's writing, his historical situation, and his contribution to our own cultural formation." — William Kennedy, Cornell University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Giuseppe Mazzotta is Professor and Chair, Italian Language and Literature Department, Yale University. His is the author of Dante, Poet of the Desert, The World at Play, and Dante's Vision and the Circle of Knowledge.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Note on Petrarch's Texts xiii

Introduction 1

I. Antiquity and the New Arts 14

II. The Thought of Love 33

III. The Canzoniere and the Language of the Self 58

IV. Ethics of Self 80

V. The World of History 102

VI. Orpheus: Rhetoric and Music 129

VII. Humanism and Monastic Spirituality 147

Appendix 1: Petrarch's Song 126 167

Appendix 2: Ambivalence of Power 181

Notes 193

Index 223
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1396-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1363-2