Petrarchan Love and the Continental Renaissance


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Gordon Braden

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The 366 lyrics of Petrarch’s Canzoniere exert a unique influence in literary history. From the mid-fifteenth century to the early seventeenth, the poems are imitated in every major language of western Europe, and for a time they provide Renaissance Europe with an almost exclusive sense of what love poetry should be. In this stimulating look at the international phenomenon of Petrarch’s poetry, Gordon Braden focuses on materials in languages other than English—Italian, French, and Spanish, with brief citations from Croatian and Cypriot Greek, among others. Braden closely examines Petrarch’s theme of love for an impossible object of desire, a theme that captivated and inspired across centuries, societies, and languages.

The book opens with a fresh interpretation of Petrarch’s sequence, in which Braden defines the poet’s innovations in the context of his predecessors, Dante and the troubadours. The author then examines how Petrarchan predispositions affect various strains of Renaissance literature: prose narrative, verse narrative, and, primarily, lyric poetry. In the final chapter, Braden turns to the poetry of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz to demonstrate a sophisticated case of Petrarchism taken to one of its extremes within the walls of a convent in seventeenth-century Mexico.

Gordon Braden is John C. Coleman Professor of English at the University of Virginia.

"This will be the book to which all graduate and undergraduate teachers of Ronsard and Shakespeare, not to mention Petrarch himself, will send their students for information on what Petrarchism really means."—Annabel Patterson, Yale University

"This crisp volume offers a cogent introduction to the work of one of the supreme lyric poets of European literature and to his vast influence across borders and over centuries. . . . The book will serve upper-division undergraduates and advanced students as well. Its rich notes, deft in their evaluations of prior scholarship in several languages, will be of particular interest to researchers. Definitely recommended for academic collections."—Choice

"Braden . . . has written a book that engages the reader to debate his contentions and explore his sources; and this is what every good book should do. For a reader wanting a brief and provocative introduction to the influence of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, this is an excellent place to begin."—Kenneth R. Bartlett, Sixteenth Century Journal

"An intelligent and eloquent retelling of the story of Petrarchism. . . . It is an enjoyable read and a welcome addition to the ever-growing bibliography on Petrarch and Petrarchism."—María Cristina Quintero, Bryn Mawr Review of Comparative Literature

ISBN: 9780300207521
Publication Date: January 21, 2014
224 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4