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CPLT 324 FRANCIS PETRARCH QUESTIONS
Assigned: "Letter to Dionisio" and "Sonnets" (2476-90).
"Letter to Dionisio" and "Sonnets"
1. Petrarch seems to cast his "Letter to Dionisio" (2480-85) into a brief allegory after its initial composition. Explain the basics of the letter's allegory -- how does Petrarch complicate the simple subject of ascending a mountain? What new themes arise?
2. Again in the "Letter to Dionisio" (2480-85), concentrate on the presence of Saint Augustine and his book The Confessions -- why does Augustine's spiritual autobiography turn up in the letter, and what method of interpretation does it reinforce?
3. In the Sonnets (2485-90), Petrarch's love for Laura is clearly patterned after his older contemporary Dante's love for Beatrice. But there are differences, as the editorial introduction points out. How does Petrarch describe Laura's physical being? How does he describe his longing for her and the spiritual aspirations connected to that longing?
4. Again with regard to the Sonnets (2485-90), consult the guide included beneath these questions, and, choosing a lyric or two, explain what is "Petrarchan" about it -- i.e. how the lyric/s you've chosen illustrate Petrarch's habits of expression and description.
Petrarchan Conceits and Conventions (adapted from Brian Loftus, UC Irvine)
1. Love as a battle, the Beloved or Love as an enemy 2. Love as a deadly disease or wound, a torment, 3. Love as bondage 5. Love as a hunt 6. Love and/or the Beloved as ruler, master 7. The Beloved as unattainable, distant 8. The power of the Beloved's gaze (as a ray, beam, stars etc.) 9. The beauty of the Beloved's person (like flowers, jewels, etc.) 10. The name of the Beloved/Poet (puns, wordplay, etc.) 11. Apostrophe (address to inanimate object, dead person, etc.) 12. The Beloved as a star or sun 13. The virtue and perfection of the Beloved 14. Emphasis on extremes of feeling, often contradictory ("I burn and yet I freeze," etc.)
Edition: Lawall, Sarah, ed. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 2nd edition. Volumes 1ABC. New York: Norton, 2002. ISBN A = 0-393-97755-2, B = 0-393-97756-0, C = 0-393-97757-9.