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Cultures courtoises en mouvement

Isabelle Arseneau
Francis Gingras

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The Changing Face of the Lyric Self in Italy: The Sense of the Universal in Petrarch’s Canzoniere

Pamela Williams

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Petrarch’s self-portrait is of perennial interest, not least because of its influence on Renaissance self-fashioning. He is a writer who, like Montaigne, might easily have said that he himself was the subject of all his books.1 “A vast, diffuse and constantly evolving portrait of the self”2 is absolutely central to his writings. Critics have found that he describes in unprecedented detail the formation of his self in relation to his reading and writing.3 His obsession with the multiplicity and changeability of self above all makes him a very modern author.4

The general picture to emerge in studies of the self in a variety of medieval and Renaissance texts is the development from an earlier period, when there is less insistence on individuality per se, and more interest in the representative role of the autobiographical persona, to a later period when even though the self-portrait may be more or less fictitious it is certainly presented as historical and specific. Though lyric composi...


University of Hull

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