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Lecture 6

HIS109Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Petrarch, Il Canzoniere, Shared Belief

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Kenneth Bartlett

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Italian Humanism
Francesco Petrarch b.1304 went to Avignon and got a job as a letter writer for
the Papal court
He created his own sense of self
Petrarch’s father sent him to law school in france and then to one in Italy
He then became interested in the reading of the speeches that Cissaro gave as a
lawyer when he was prosecuting someone in court
Petrarch was inspired
He took the secular world and turned into something that could be created to the
benefit of himself and the community
He did this through words, which he was obsessed with
Petrarch believed that words had a role to play that goes beyond describing
They are an index to you. You are what you say and you are what you want
Petrarch began to quote ancients and medieval writers by saying things like “the
soul has no dignity if words has no dignity” AKA listen to what they say, that’s
who they are
Words became incredibly important In his belief that human beings could
understand the world around them and share that with others
This was revolutionary: the idea that you could create a new world through words
Petrarch started writing letters to people… he wrote a letter to posterity which
was odd because why would posterity care about who he was?
The more he wrote about himself, the more he became a narcissist
He began editing his register (copies of letters that have been sent out) he was
re-writing his own letters
He started to wonder who he was
He wrote a dialogue about himself, an autobiography called the Secretum
(Secret Book)
This was controversial because people believed that he had no right to take
credit for his life because he was alive because of God
He wrote about the fame he wanted to attain in his life, he wrote about his
emotional life
He re-introduced the psychological autobiography the writing of coming to
terms of who you are
He also made it clear that he was in charge of his own life the idea of human
autonomas agency
He created “I am what I am”
On a holy Friday, in Avignon he saw a woman who was married (Laura)
Did laura exist? Doesn’t matter. Did she see him? No but it doesn’t matter
So he wrote 366 poems dedicated to laura (This book was called Canzoniere)
He used the poems to investigate his feelings
When he saw Laura, it was an excuse for him to investigate his emotional life
All of these poems investigated an emotional connection related to love
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