Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Ronsard, Petrarch, and the 'Amours'

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Ronsard, Petrarch, and the 'Amours'

Article excerpt

Sara Sturm-Maddox, Ronsard, Petrarch, and the 'Amours' (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1999). x + 209 pp. ISBN 0-8130-0721-1. $49.95.

This well-written book constitutes a thoughtful and authoritative contribution to the considerable corpus of critical work on the origins, nature, and significance of Ronsard's Petrarchism. By sensitive and detailed comparative analysis, Sara Sturm-Maddox demonstrates that Ronsard owes a debt less to a loosely defined and generalized Petrarchan tradition than to Petrarch himself, and that in the Amours of 1552-3 as well as in the Sonets pour Helene and the poems 'Sur la mort de Marie' of 1578, the French poet constantly, and in varying measure, returns to the 'story' and the narrative elements of the Rime sparse for his own definitions as lover and poet. Moreover, this narrative impulse can be traced not only in the editio princeps of successive collections, but in subsequent editions of Ronsard's work, for new poems and variants of the Premier Livre of the Amours, for example, are seen to heighten its Petrarchan colouring and intensify its affinities with Petrarch's 'story'.

However, this act of poetic impersonation and self-fashioning means that Ronsard not only writes as Petrarch but also challenges him in a competitive gesture of poetic emulation. The French poet thus asserts his uniqueness and originality whilst proclaiming a close kinship with the Rime sparse. Nowhere is this complex and ambiguous relationship more in evidence than in the poems 'Sur la mort de Marie' where the appropriation of Petrarch (with borrowings from poems in vita and in morte) gives thematic and formal coherence to a recueil which is marked both by a subtle 'rewriting of the figure of Marie, bringing her image close to that of the Laura in vita of the Rime sparse, and by a secular recasting of Marie's death and the poet's loss that marks its distance from the Italian collection' (p. …

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