Petrarch's Poetics and Literary History

Petrarch's Poetics and Literary History

Petrarch's Poetics and Literary History

Petrarch's Poetics and Literary History

Excerpt

The use of the term "literary history" as it appears in my title, and is frequently appealed to in my readings of Petrarch's Canzoniere and Trionfi , requires some explanation. I will neither be discussing Petrarch's reception -- "Petrarchism" in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European lyric poetry, for example -- nor attempting to fit Petrarch into a scheme of historical periodiza- tion for which I have found him to be in some part responsible. Instead, the literary historical aspect of my subject involves the literary inter-relationship inscribed in the Petrarchan texts them- selves between a notion of the self and its history or story, and an understanding of language which raises problems concerning any and all narrative representations. What I come to address as a "Narcissistic structure" obtaining between subjects and predi- cates, selves and narratives, highlights the peculiarly non-narra- tive element which is always operative as well whenever Petrarch enacts the attempt to narrate a story or present a historical view. Petrarch's concept of history vis-à-vis a traditional medie- val historical understanding, which I describe as mutually in- verse images, suggests the priority that structural issues might take in our coming to terms with what appears to be a signifi- cant relative shift in the modes of reading and writing experi- ence, both historical and poetic.

The Petrarchan texts which I discuss locate themselves neither within nor outside of traditional medieval modes of self and narrative understanding, but rather insist upon the priority . . .

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