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  • Petrarch and the Textual Origins of Interpretation
  • William J. Kennedy
Teodolinda Barolini and H. Wayne Storey, eds. Petrarch and the Textual Origins of Interpretation. Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition 31. Leiden: Brill, 2007. xii + 268 pp. index. illus. bibl. $139. ISBN: 978-90-04-16322-5.

Of the many essay collections on Petrarch that originated in his seventh centenary in 2004, this volume offers the most unified vision and approach. It also fills a pressing need in Petrarchan scholarship by showing how philological and codicological research underpins interpretive criticism. Its thesis, according to the introduction by Teodolinda Barolini, is that "Petrarch's poetics constrains his interpreters to come to grips with the fundamentals of Petrarchan philology" (2). Its focus, according to an introductory note by H. Wayne Storey, is on issues of redaction, rearrangement, and transmission that demonstrate that "philological and editorial inquiry are not free of cultural and interpretive influence" (16). The principal texts under analysis are the Italian Rime sparse (here given its Latin label, Rerum vulgarium fragmenta, or Rvf, as inscribed in the Vatican Library codex Latino 3195, which is partly in Petrarch's hand and which occupies the attention of six essays in the volume) and the Latin letters called Familiares. The resulting dialectic between microscopic evidence of revision and macroscopic considerations of significance aptly mirrors another dialectic between fragment and whole that dominates Petrarch's work.

The first two essays address Ernest Hatch Wilkins's seminal study of Latino 3195 and other early Petrarchan codexes towards clarifying the constructedness of the Rvf and its various stages of composition. In "Petrarch at the Crossroads of Hermeneutic and Philology," Barolini carefully considers how Wilkins's photostat evidence obscured the transition poems between the collection's two parts, in vita and in morte di Laura, as well as its anniversary poems. In the first case she finds that a closer look at the actual codex reveals "the transition that the poet himself says he cannot make" (27), while in the second its physical ruptures serve to "announce a set of poems devoted to repetition" (36). In "Infaticabile Maestro," Germaine Warkentin astutely surveys Wilkins's limitations as a product of his "cultural and technical assumptions" and concludes that, pace Wilkins, Petrarch pursued "a more than ordinarily experimental approach" to his collection (62). [End Page 1224]

The next two essays offer hardcore codicological analysis. Storey's "Doubting Petrarca's Last Words" uses up-to-date high magnification and ultraviolet technology to study erasures, revisions, corrections, and addenda in Latino 3195 and concludes that "all that is on the parchment and in the text does not necessarily belong to the hand of Petrarca or [his copyist] Malpaghini" (75). Reviewing the history of assumptions, conjectures, and blind assent to them over the past century, Storey speculates trenchantly about the force of "national traditions" versus material philology in canonizing major texts (85). Dario Del Pupo's "Scribal Practices and Book Formats in Three 'Descripti' Manuscripts" follows with a clear demonstration of how even discordant transcriptions "can preserve authentic readings" (98) despite their promotion of different interpretations of meaning.

Two further essays on Petrarch's Italian poetry mine philological resources to offer nuanced explanations of composition and effect that eluded earlier scholarship. Martin Eisner's "Petrarch Reading Boccaccio" adroitly challenges various claims about the influence of Boccaccio's Amorosa visione upon Petrarch's Trionfi to suggest instead the impact of the latter's Canzone 23 upon the former's Caccia di Diana and the subsequent impact of the Caccia upon echoes of the Amorosa visione in the Trionfi. Furio Brugnolo's "Grammatica ed eufonia nei Rvf" closely examines how variant grammatical and morphological forms in Petrarch's manuscripts create harmonic and musical effects undetected in previous form criticism.

The final four essays in the volume turn to the Familiares. In "Petrarca fra le arti," Marcello Ciccuto pointedly assembles from these letters the author's references to the visual arts to argue that his views on them are textually based, insofar as those on the ancient arts derive from classical accounts more than from direct observation while those on contemporaneous arts reveal the pervasive influence of manuscript illuminations. In "Good-bye Bologna...


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