Desiring Voices: Women Sonneteers and Petrarchism

By Mary B. Moore | Go to book overview

2 The Complication of Subjectivity Petrarch and the Guise of Blindness

I had reached this point in my letter, and I was wondering what I should say further or what I should not say, and meanwhile, as is my custom, I was tapping the blank paper with my pen top. My action brought me a subject, for I reflected how in that brief interval time was flowing on, and I was flowing with it, slipping down, departing, or to use the right word, dying. We are continually dying; I while I am writing these words, you while you are reading them, others when they hear them or fail to hear them, we are all dying. I shall be dying when you read this, you die while I write. --Petrarca, Letters

When a narrator recounts what has happened to him, the I who recounts is no longer the same I as the one that is recounted. In other words--and it seems to me that this is seen more and more clearly--the I of the discourse can no longer be a place where a previously stored-up person is innocently restored. --Barthes, "To Write"

Often described as the first modern man, Petrarch fathered an international literary movement that, it has been argued, helped form ideas of eroticism and conventions of female beauty still current today. 1 Petrarch's apparent modernity derives from his continual awareness of self-creation through language illustrated above in the epigraph taken from his letters. His poems model a self that tries to know itself as mirrored in a text, in a woman, in some Other. This paradigm foreshadows Lacan's mirror stage, while the

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