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Reading Old BooksWriting with Traditions$
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Peter Mack

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691194004

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691194004.001.0001

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Petrarch, Scholarship, and Traditions of Love Poetry

Petrarch, Scholarship, and Traditions of Love Poetry

(p.27) Chapter One Petrarch, Scholarship, and Traditions of Love Poetry
Reading Old Books

Peter Mack

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on Petrarch's (1304–1374) own poetry in order to articulate what he achieved and how he used his sources. In returning to the source, the chapter reveals how good Petrarch's poems are and how much their excellence owes to his subtle and restrained exploitation of the tradition of his poetic predecessors. It begins by considering the advice which Petrarch gives scholars and writers about imitation and the ways of using one's reading in order to write. He was aware of the role which his own work might play as a model for other writers, and he advised them on how to use their reading. Drawing on previous scholarship, the chapter makes some connections between his Italian poems and what he says about his life in the collections of letters which he constructed and in his Secretum. Then it looks at some examples of Petrarch's poems, both to substantiate a claim about their excellence and to show how that excellence derives from his creative use of his reading. Finally, the chapter considers his attitude to Dante, his immediate and overwhelming forerunner, and discusses the ways in which later writers used Petrarch's work.

Keywords:   Petrarch, love poetry, poetry, poems, Dante Alighieri, Secretum, creative reading

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