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Petrarch and Dante

Petrarch and Dante

Anti-Dantism, Metaphysics, Tradition

Edited by Zygmunt G. Baranski and Theodore J. Cachey, Jr.

Since the beginnings of Italian vernacular literature, the nature of the relationship between Francesco Petrarch (1304–1374) and his predecessor Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) has remained an open and endlessly fascinating question of both literary and cultural history. In this volume nine leading scholars of Italian medieval literature and culture address this question involving the two foundational figures of Italian literature.

Through their collective reexamination of the question of who and what came between Petrarch and Dante in ideological, historiographical, and rhetorical terms, the authors explore the emergence of an anti-Dantean polemic in Petrarch’s work. That stance has largely escaped scrutiny, thanks to a critical tradition that tends to minimize any suggestion of rivalry or incompatibility between them.

The authors examine Petrarch’s contentious and dismissive attitude toward the literary authority of his illustrious predecessor; the dramatic shift in theological and philosophical context that occurs from Dante to Petrarch; and their respective contributions as initiators of modern literary traditions in the vernacular. Petrarch’s substantive ideological dissent from Dante clearly emerges, a dissent that casts in high relief the poets’ radically divergent views of the relation between the human and the divine and of humans’ capacity to bridge that gap.

Contributors: Albert Russell Ascoli, Zygmunt G. Baranski, Teodolinda Barolini, Theodore J. Cachey, Jr., Ronald L. Martinez, Giuseppe Mazzotta, Christian Moevs, Justin Steinberg, and Sara Sturm-Maddox.

“An absolute A-list of contributors here considers all that falls, all forms of regard and disregard, between two of the great poets and cultural legislators of the western world. Timely, original, and highly recommended.” — David Wallace, Judith Rodin Professor, University of Pennsylvania

“A collection of sparkling essays exploring Petrarch’s efforts to conceal his enormous debt to Dante while seeking to replace Dante’s authority with his own. I found it hard to stop reading.” — Ronald Witt, Duke University

Petrarch and Dante is a magnificent volume of uniformly superb essays. Instead of surveying Petrarch’s variety or his influence upon later culture, the authors have ingeniously focused on shifting relationships with the poet’s most formidable Italian predecessor, Dante; in so doing, they have produced scholarship that teases out the issues with great subtlety and nuance.” — William J. Kennedy, Cornell University

ISBN: 978-0-268-04877-8
426 pages
Publication Year: 2009

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*Zygmunt G. Baranski *is Serena Professor of Italian, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of New Hall.

Theodore J. Cachey, Jr., is professor of Italian at the University of Notre Dame.

“The volume as a whole grounds the reader in critical history even as it moves in ‘counterpoint’ with the respect both to prior critical consensus and to each other. . . . In sum, this is a superb volume, offering truly new work on veritable old masters.” — Renaissance Quarterly

“This outstanding collection of nine essays by leading Anglo-American scholars provides a rigorous re-examination of the relationship between these two towering cultural figures, focusing on three components (‘Anti-Dantism,’ ‘Metaphysics,’ and ‘Tradition’) of what is viewed as their substantive ideological opposition. . . . It is rare for a multi-authored volume of this kind to display not only such sustained excellence, but also such unflinching critical focus. It constitutes, without question, the most important existing contribution to our understanding of the two poets’ relationship, and its authoritative and meticulously researched essays will deservedly remain fundamental points of reference for a long time to come.” — Modern Language Review

“This magisterial volume . . . brings together significant new contributions to the debate by a number of major North American scholars of early Italian literature. It is the product of ‘lungo studio’ and ‘grande amore’—both the love (and hate) that made Petrarch probe Dante’s volume, despite his protestations to the contrary, and that drove the authors of the present tome. It is a big, ambitious book with nine essays that average over forty pages and are consistently strong and surprisingly varied . . . The volume . . . will doubtlessly be canonized by manifold articles and exam lists as the place to begin any discussion of the relations between Florence’s first two crowns.” — Italica

“Bringing together leading scholars of medieval studies, this highly readable and engaging volume presents original contributions. . . . Through a variety of methodological tools that bridge the study authorship, textuality, and linguistic and cultural politics, the essays each examine a particular strategy by which Petrarch sought to limit Dante’s authority, especially in vernacular terms and with respect to the metaphysical and religious claims of the Commedia. The question of exactly where the dialogue between Dante and Petrarch begins and ends remains open, but it is that open-endedness which the volume promotes as its greatest critical strength.” — Medium Aevum

“This well-organized and beautifully written book is a rich treasure-trove of carefully traced evidence ranging across Petrarch’s opus, offering intriguing new perspectives on the close yet fraught relationship between two intellectual giants.” — Parergon

“This volume focuses on the nature of the relationship between two foundational figures of Italian literature, focusing on ideological, historiographical, and rhetorical terms. The contributors . . . are distinguished Dante and Petrarch scholars and make this a volume of immense value.” — Comitatus

“This most valuable volume contains nine essays penned by some of the most eminent scholars of Dante and Petrarch, as well as of Boccaccio. With this volume, the authors have enhanced the level of scholarship in the field.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

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Dante, France, Tuscany


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Piers Plowman and the Poetics of Enigma

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Petrarch and Dante

Anti-Dantism, Metaphysics, Tradition


Edited by Zygmunt G. Baranski and Theodore J. Cachey, Jr.

 Petrarch and Dante: Anti-Dantism, Metaphysics, Tradition
Cloth Edition
Paper Edition

Since the beginnings of Italian vernacular literature, the nature of the relationship between Francesco Petrarch (1304–1374) and his predecessor Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) has remained an open and endlessly fascinating question of both literary and cultural history. In this volume nine leading scholars of Italian medieval literature and culture address this question involving the two foundational figures of Italian literature.

Through their collective reexamination of the question of who and what came between Petrarch and Dante in ideological, historiographical, and rhetorical terms, the authors explore the emergence of an anti-Dantean polemic in Petrarch’s work. That stance has largely escaped scrutiny, thanks to a critical tradition that tends to minimize any suggestion of rivalry or incompatibility between them.

The authors examine Petrarch’s contentious and dismissive attitude toward the literary authority of his illustrious predecessor; the dramatic shift in theological and philosophical context that occurs from Dante to Petrarch; and their respective contributions as initiators of modern literary traditions in the vernacular. Petrarch’s substantive ideological dissent from Dante clearly emerges, a dissent that casts in high relief the poets’ radically divergent views of the relation between the human and the divine and of humans’ capacity to bridge that gap.

Contributors: Albert Russell Ascoli, Zygmunt G. Baranski, Teodolinda Barolini, Theodore J. Cachey, Jr., Ronald L. Martinez, Giuseppe Mazzotta, Christian Moevs, Justin Steinberg, and Sara Sturm-Maddox.

“An absolute A-list of contributors here considers all that falls, all forms of regard and disregard, between two of the great poets and cultural legislators of the western world. Timely, original, and highly recommended.” — David Wallace, Judith Rodin Professor, University of Pennsylvania

“A collection of sparkling essays exploring Petrarch’s efforts to conceal his enormous debt to Dante while seeking to replace Dante’s authority with his own. I found it hard to stop reading.” — Ronald Witt, Duke University

Petrarch and Dante is a magnificent volume of uniformly superb essays. Instead of surveying Petrarch’s variety or his influence upon later culture, the authors have ingeniously focused on shifting relationships with the poet’s most formidable Italian predecessor, Dante; in so doing, they have produced scholarship that teases out the issues with great subtlety and nuance.” — William J. Kennedy, Cornell University

ISBN: 978-0-268-04877-8

426 pages

“The volume as a whole grounds the reader in critical history even as it moves in ‘counterpoint’ with the respect both to prior critical consensus and to each other. . . . In sum, this is a superb volume, offering truly new work on veritable old masters.” — Renaissance Quarterly

“This outstanding collection of nine essays by leading Anglo-American scholars provides a rigorous re-examination of the relationship between these two towering cultural figures, focusing on three components (‘Anti-Dantism,’ ‘Metaphysics,’ and ‘Tradition’) of what is viewed as their substantive ideological opposition. . . . It is rare for a multi-authored volume of this kind to display not only such sustained excellence, but also such unflinching critical focus. It constitutes, without question, the most important existing contribution to our understanding of the two poets’ relationship, and its authoritative and meticulously researched essays will deservedly remain fundamental points of reference for a long time to come.” — Modern Language Review

“This magisterial volume . . . brings together significant new contributions to the debate by a number of major North American scholars of early Italian literature. It is the product of ‘lungo studio’ and ‘grande amore’—both the love (and hate) that made Petrarch probe Dante’s volume, despite his protestations to the contrary, and that drove the authors of the present tome. It is a big, ambitious book with nine essays that average over forty pages and are consistently strong and surprisingly varied . . . The volume . . . will doubtlessly be canonized by manifold articles and exam lists as the place to begin any discussion of the relations between Florence’s first two crowns.” — Italica

“Bringing together leading scholars of medieval studies, this highly readable and engaging volume presents original contributions. . . . Through a variety of methodological tools that bridge the study authorship, textuality, and linguistic and cultural politics, the essays each examine a particular strategy by which Petrarch sought to limit Dante’s authority, especially in vernacular terms and with respect to the metaphysical and religious claims of the Commedia. The question of exactly where the dialogue between Dante and Petrarch begins and ends remains open, but it is that open-endedness which the volume promotes as its greatest critical strength.” — Medium Aevum

“This well-organized and beautifully written book is a rich treasure-trove of carefully traced evidence ranging across Petrarch’s opus, offering intriguing new perspectives on the close yet fraught relationship between two intellectual giants.” — Parergon

“This volume focuses on the nature of the relationship between two foundational figures of Italian literature, focusing on ideological, historiographical, and rhetorical terms. The contributors . . . are distinguished Dante and Petrarch scholars and make this a volume of immense value.” — Comitatus

“This most valuable volume contains nine essays penned by some of the most eminent scholars of Dante and Petrarch, as well as of Boccaccio. With this volume, the authors have enhanced the level of scholarship in the field.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

The William and Katherine Devers Series in Dante and Medieval Italian Literature