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Reviewed by:
  • Petrarch and His Readers in the Renaissance
  • Brenda Deen Schildgen
Karl A. E. Enenkel and Jan Papy, eds. Petrarch and His Readers in the Renaissance. Intersections: Yearbook for Early Modern Studies 6. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2006. xiv + 334 pp. index. illus. tbls. bibl. $125. ISBN: 90-04-14766-7.

This volume collects twelve essays from the conference, "Friends and Foes of the Poet Laureate: Petrarch and His Readers in the Renaissance," held at the University of Leiden in 2004 to celebrate the seven-hundredth birthday of Francesco Petrarca (1304-74). With an introduction by the editors, Karl Enenkel and Jan Papy, the volume explores how Petrarch's writings were received in the Renaissance. Emphasizing Petrarch's status as the first modern trans-European writer-intellectual, the essays lay aside the reader-response theories of Wolfgang Iser and Hans Robert Jauss, and adopt instead the notion of the "independent reader" (9), ready to interpret Petrarch according to his or her own terms. This "independent reader," the essays suggest, received Petrarch's works in the early modern period independently from "Petrarch's author's intention and from specific qualities of his texts" (5). On the other hand, the essays show that these early modern readers were not independent from the intellectual and artistic discourses of their own times and their own specific environments. Reading, which really becomes a hermeneutical strategy (which brackets the role of the author) in this reception context, includes visual and literary responses to Petrarch's works from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries in a pan-European setting.

The first section, "Petrarch and His 14th-Century Readers," includes four essays (by Jan Papy, Marc Laureys, Ursula Kocher, and Ugo Dotti) that connect Petrarch to France, Belgium, Italy, and Germany during his life, and emphasize his trans-European reception from the beginning of his public career. The first, Jan Papy's "Creating an 'Italian' Friendship: from Petrarch's Ideal Literary Critic 'Socrates' to the Historical Reader Ludovicus Sanctus of Beringen," argues that Petrarch transformed his special Northern friend, his "Socrates," the Limburg musician Ludovicus Sanctus, who had met Petrarch in Avignon, into his "Atticus." From this "Ciceronian friendship," Petrarch had his first "invaluable reader" (28).

The second section includes two essays (Karl Enenkel and Reindert Falkenburg) that examine Petrarch in sixteenth-century Germany, focusing on the illustrations of the De Remediis by the German "Petrarch Master." Karl Enenkel's very long essay, fully supported with visual prints, "Der Petrarca des 'Petrarca-Meisters': Zum Text-Bild-Verhältnis in Illustrierten De Remediis-Ausgaben," presents a persuasive argument for how visual reception (interpretation [End Page 1169] via illustration, or illumination, for example) can transform a text's "intended" meaning, as Petrarch's Christian humanism becomes Lutheran polemic against Roman Catholicism. Another provocative essay on the visual imagery in the German edition of Petrarch's De Remediis argues that the visual support offers the reader a "speculum for self-reflection and contemplation" (174).

A third section treats Petrarch's reception in sixteenth-century Italy. Bart Van den Bossche argues that Castiglione's Bembo presents Petrarchism as an aesthetic, psychological, spiritual, and refreshingly social viewpoint that translates into praxis. The final two sections take up Petrarch's reception in France and in the Low Countries, respectively. The two excellent essays examining Du Bellay's Petrarchism, Reinier Leushuis's analysis of Du Bellay's Songe and Petrarch's Canzone delle Visioni, and Dina De Rentiis's examination of Du Bellay's Contre les Pétrarquistes, show Du Bellay's reception of the Italian poet in the context of a troubled friendship, in which the French poet emerges as both maker and unmaker of Petrarch in France. Jean Balsamo's reevaluation of Petrarch's Rime in sixteenth-century France emphasizes the point that reception means reinterpretation and adaptation to contemporary political, social, and cultural developments. In the final essay, Paul J. Smith discusses Petrarch's reception in Jan Van Der Noot's Theatre (1568), "a milestone" in the Low Countries. It appeared as the Petrarchan sonnet made its debut in German literature.

Together the essays make a convincing argument about the multiple ways in which Petrarch and Petrarchism were received and...


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pp. 1169-1170
Launched on MUSE
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Archive Status
Archived 2009
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