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Durham University

School of Modern Languages and Cultures: Italian Studies

From the Middle Ages to Modernity: The World of Petrarch

Academic Year 2020-21 [Term 1 Only]

The transition from the Middle Ages to modernity saw Italy become one of the prominent cultural centres of the Western world. Most of the signfiicance of this process can be said to be encapsulated in one of the key-figures of world culture, Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch, 1304-1374). By approaching world-renowned works such as his Canzoniere, which constituted for centuries the blueprint for love discourse through the Italian and European phenomenon of Petrarchism, students will acquire a sense of what an extraordinarily influential work can achieve on the minds and hearts of readers of different nations and across the centuries. Petrarch once claimed that he felt he was living ‘on the watershed between two different epochs, looking both forward and backward’ – thereby posing with unprecedented clarity and urgency the problem of the relationship between past and future. Conventions and habits of thought and expression, cultural prejudices and their overcoming or perpetuation, ethical and artistic problems and their solutions will be examined in their progressive change as reflected in Petrarch’s works. The transition from medieval to modern culture will also be explored through the reading of a variety of other texts, both by Petrarch and others (among them Petrarch’s best friend, Boccaccio), which will encourage students to develop personal lines of enquiry.

Texts to be studied are likely to include:

  • Francesco Petrarca, Canzoniere, ed. by P. Vecchi Galli, Milano: BUR, 2012

Recommended readings:

  • Francesco Petrarca, Canzoniere, ed. by Marco Santagata, Milano : A. Mondadori, 2008
  • Nicholas Mann, Petrarch, Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1984.
  • Ernest Hatch Wilkins, The making of the "Canzoniere" and other Petrarchan studies, Roma : Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1951

Co-ordinator:

Dr Annalisa Cipollone, Room A52, Elvet Riverside I

Further details of pre-requisites, co-requisites, aims, contact hours and assessment.