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The Site of Petrarchism

Early Modern National Sentiment in Italy, France, and England

William J. Kennedy

Publication Year: 2003

Drawing upon poststructuralist theories of nationalism and national identity developed by such writers as Etienne Balibar, Emmanuel Levinas, Julia Kristeva, Antonio Negri, and Slavoj Zizek, noted Renaissance scholar William J. Kennedy argues that the Petrarchan sonnet serves as a site for early modern expressions of national sentiment in Italy, France, England, Spain, and Germany. Kennedy pursues this argument through historical research into Renaissance commentaries on Petrarch's poetry and critical studies of such poets as Lorenzo de' Medici, Joachim du Bellay and the Pléiade brigade, Philip and Mary Sidney, and Mary Wroth. Kennedy begins with a survey of Petrarch's poetry and its citation in Italy, explaining how major commentators tried to present Petrarch as a spokesperson for competing versions of national identity. He then shows how Petrarch's model helped define social class, political power, and national identity in mid-sixteenth-century France, particularly in the nationalistic sonnet cycles of Joachim Du Bellay. Finally, Kennedy discusses how Philip Sidney and his sister Mary and niece Mary Wroth reworked Petrarch's model to secure their family's involvement in forging a national policy under Elizabeth I and James I . Treating the subject of early modern national expression from a broad comparative perspective, The Site of Petrarchism will be of interest to scholars of late medieval and early modern literature in Europe, historians of culture, and critical theorists.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

These pages have profited greatly from the help and advice of friends who have read or listened to many drafts in progress. I especially thank Rebecca Bushnell, JoAnn Della Neva, Roland Greene, Timothy Hampton, Lyn Kelsey, Ignacio Navarrete, Deborah Parker, Richard Peterson, Anne Lake Prescott, and Alan K. Smith. ...

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Notes on Sources

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pp. xi-xii

Quotations from primary sources used more than once refer to editions named in the works cited section. All other primary sources and all references to scholarly and critical studies appear in the endnotes. As my copy text for Petrarch’s Rime sparse, I use Marco Santagata’s superb new edition, but I have profited greatly from the older annotated editions ...

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Introduction: Fore Sites

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pp. 1-20

This book proceeds from two premises. The first is that the Petrarchan sonnet, the most widespread vernacular literary mode in elite circles of sixteenth-century Europe, provides a site for early modern expressions of national sentiment. The second is that Petrarchism unfolds amid critical commentary appended to early modern printed editions of the Rime sparse ...

One: Petrarch and the Site of Petrarchism in Italy

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1. Petrarch as Commentator: The Search for Italy

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pp. 23-36

In his Familiares and Seniles Petrarch provides his own best commentary on his literary work and on his sentiment as an Italian writer.1 Carefully collected, revised, edited, and arranged, these letters project the site of his work as one of continual displacement. The introductory letter of the Familiares addressed early in 1350 to Ludwig van Kempen, ...

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2. Petrarchan Totems and Political Taboos

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pp. 37-53

Petrarch’s ambivalent attitude toward Rome as both a mental construction and a geographical site finds a forceful expression in Familiares 15.3, written at Vaucluse in February 1353, a few months before his final departure for Italy. An irresistible urge to leave southern France had seized him, despite reports that it would not be safe or wise to do so.1 ...

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3. Amor and : Citing Petrarch in Florence and Naples

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pp. 54-74

Fifteenth- and sixteenth-century commentators were not the first readers to detect links between amor and patria in Petrarch’s poetry. His premier contemporary disciple, Giovanni Boccaccio (1313‒74), wrote a collection of sonnets whose amatory focus, like Petrarch’s, incorporates social, cultural, political, and historical criticism.1 ...

Two: Du Bellay and the Site of Petrarchism in France

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4. Du Bellay and the Language of Empire: The Deffence et illustration

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pp. 77-93

The life of Joachim Du Bellay (ca. 1522?‒60) was nearly coterminous with that of Charles V’s phantom Holy Roman Empire (1519‒56), so it is not surprising to find overt and covert figurations of nation and empire in his poetry.1 Les Regrets, Les Antiquitez de Rome and Songe and the Neo-Latin Poemata, all published in 1558, ...

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5. Totems for Defense: Du Bellay and Marot

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pp. 94-114

The author of the ironically named Quintil Horatien was right to think Du Bellay’s revisionary ars poetica a challenge to Cicero’s republican ideology and cultural style. Adopting the imperial ideology and neoteric style of Horace, Du Bellay’s vernacular program called for the importation into France of a manifestly Italianate Petrarchism ...

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6. Illustrations of Taboo: Du Bellay, Héroët, Saint-Gelais, Scève

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pp. 115-137

Marot’s varied achievements earned Du Bellay’s respect, but so too did those of Antoine Héroët, Mellin de Saint-Gelais, and Maurice Scève. Deffence 2.2 designates them as models for a new national poetry yet not without ambivalence. This judgment is repeated in sonnet 62 of Olive, echoing Petrarch’s sonnet 248 at the sequence’s numeric midpoint.1 ...

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7. Mon semblable, mon frère: Du Bellay and Ronsard

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pp. 138-160

Sonnet 60 of Olive, the first in a suite of fifty-six new poems added in 1550, addresses Ronsard directly: “Divin Ronsard, qui de l’arc à sept cordes, /Tiras premier au but de la memoire” ‘Divine Ronsard, who on your bow with seven strings aim as the first one at the target of memory.’ At that time Ronsard had just made his debut with a Hymne de France ...

Three: The Sidneys and Wroth: The Site of Petrarchism in England

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8. Courtly and Anti-Courtly Sidneian Identities

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pp. 163-180

The last major Petrarchan sonnet sequence in English, Mary Wroth’s Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, appeared in print with the author’s prose romance, The Countesse of Montgomeries Urania. The date of its publication was 1621 (Stationers’ Register, 13 July), a year of political catastrophe for James I and of crisis in the formation of English ideas about nation, ...

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9. Family Narratives: The Transitional Space of Petrarchism

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pp. 181-197

Astrophil and Stella likely dates from a period just after the eighteen-year-old Penelope Devereux’s marriage to Lord Rich on 1 November 1581.1 Mindful of the peerage to which he aspired, the author imagines an adulterous affair with this young woman, a daughter of the first earl of Essex, considered for marriage with him in 1576 to end their fathers’ rivalry.2 ...

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10. An Apology for Uncles: Philip Sidney’s Defence of Poetry

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pp. 198-214

As Mary Wroth understood, Philip Sidney’s imitation of Petrarch’s amatory woes allowed her uncle wide scope to represent Astrophil’s self-defeating behavior and his own prospects to mend his ways. As a self-reflexive text, Astrophil and Stella consequently inscribes not just an instance of the Petrarchan mode but also a critical attitude toward it. ...

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11. Prosthetic Gods: The Liberties of Astrophil and Pamphilia

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pp. 215-232

Henry Sidney’s advancement toward title in the reign of Henry VIII reached a double climax with his daughter Mary’s marriage to the earl of Pembroke in Elizabeth’s reign and his son Robert’s accession to the nobility in James’ reign. Its success might seem the fulfillment of a fairy-tale dream, except that frustrations mark the way. ...

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12. Byblis and the Bible: Incest, Endogamy, and Mary Wroth

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pp. 233-250

Mary Wroth’s continued identification with the Sidney lineage is conspicuous in her sexual involvement with William Herbert. The birth of their illegitimate children (probably around 1623, alluded to fictively in the Second Part of Urania) speaks to their mutual disdain for courtly society’s gossip and to their secure sense of privileged autonomy.1 ...

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Conclusion: Far Sites, Father Sites, Farther Sites

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pp. 251-262

The diversity of interests among early modern commentators on the Rime sparse had reaped a rich harvest. The loyalty of Antonio da Tempo, Francesco Filelfo, and Girolamo Squarzafico to the sovereign courts of northern Italy focused their attention on Petrarch’s attitudes toward Ghibelline ideals. ...


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pp. 263-366

Primary Sources Cited

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pp. 367-372


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pp. 373-383

E-ISBN-13: 9780801881268
E-ISBN-10: 0801881269
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801871443
Print-ISBN-10: 0801871441

Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society
Series Editor Byline: Stephen G. Nichols, Gerald Prince, and Wendy Steiner, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 70754831
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Site of Petrarchism

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Petrarca, Francesco, -- 1304-1374 -- Influence.
  • Italian literature -- History and criticism.
  • French literature -- History and criticism.
  • English literature -- History and criticism.
  • Sonnet.
  • Nationalism in literature.
  • Politics and literature -- Italy.
  • Politics and literature -- France.
  • Politics and literature -- Great Britain.
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