Petrarch, Interiority, and the Tensions between Earthly and Spiritual

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Instead of lecturing on the introduction–part of my larger goals this term to avoid lecture as much as possible, in favor of stimulating discussion that works outwards from the text–I’d like to focus our class time on Petrarch’s letter in which he describes the mountainous ascent he undertakes with his brother, as well as some of the major thematic patterns that emerge in his Canzoniere. I hope to be able, in each of the pieces we read from the anthology, to foreground different features characteristic of the Renaissance, ideally not to overload students with generalizations that we can’t really locate in particular instances. Tomorrow, I want to focus on the way that Petrarch explores his sense of self, as well as the way he negotiates the tensions between earthly desires and spiritual goods. We’ll also be going over the first short essay assignment, and ideally, the class discussion will model a relevant approach.

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