In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Petrarch

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Biographies
  • Conference Proceedings
  • Collections of Essays
  • Concordances
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Manuscripts
  • Philology and Paleography
  • Lyric Tradition
  • Petrarch, Cola Di Rienzo, and Politics
  • Petrarch and Boccaccio
  • Petrarch and St. Augustine
  • Petrarch and Prehumanism

Medieval Studies Petrarch
Chris Kleinhenz
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 May 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 May 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0024


Through his Canzoniere, Francesco Petrarca (b. 1304–d. 1374) shaped in indelible ways the development of the love lyric both in Italy and in the rest of Europe in subsequent centuries. His influence is both stylistic and thematic: the refined language and metrical excellence of his verse provided the model for lyric poetry, and his elaboration and minute examination of the phenomenology of love served as a touchstone for poets concerned with these matters. It is no accident that his future imitators were known as petrarchisti and that the complex of ideas and topics relating to his particular understanding of love became known generally as “Petrarchism.” He is also considered to be an important precursor of Italian humanism because of his many erudite Latin writings and philological interests. Together with Dante and Boccaccio, Petrarch is one of the “Three Crowns” of Florence, because these authors essentially began the Italian literary tradition and set the standards of style in poetry and prose for centuries to come. Petrarch was also a great traveler and connoisseur of antiquities, and in these areas he was regarded as a pioneer. His other major Italian work in poetry is the series of six allegorical narratives in terza rima, the Trionfi, and his Latin works in verse include the epic Africa and pastoral poems, the Bucolicum carmen. Petrarch is generally viewed as the major link between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

General Overviews

In addition to the account of Petrarch’s life and works in Tatham 1925, Kirkham and Maggi 2009 provides an introduction to each of Petrarch’s works, with historical and biographical contextualization. Amaturo 1971 also furnishes an overview of Petrarch’s life and works, with representative selections from the latter. Bishop 1963 and Mazzotta 1993 situate Petrarch and his works in the midst of their historical, literary, and cultural world. In addition to their focus on his life and works, Ariani 1999, Bergin 1970, Mann 1984, and Stierle 2003 focus on the interaction of Petrarch and his cultural milieu.

  • Amaturo, Raffaele. Petrarca. Bari, Italy: Laterza, 1971.

    Presents biographical information and an anthology of his works, with commentary.

  • Ariani, Marco. Petrarca. Rome: Salerno Editrice, 1999.

    Provides an insightful account of Petrarch’s life and works as well as their background and their critical fortune, with extensive notes and bibliography.

  • Bergin, Thomas G. Petrarch. New York: Twayne, 1970.

    A good account of Petrarch’s life and works seen against the backdrop of the 14th century in Italy and France, with select bibliography, notes, and index.

  • Bishop, Morris. Petrarch and His World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963.

    A very readable narrative of Petrarch’s life and works, from which numerous passages are cited.

  • Kirkham, Victoria, and Armando Maggi, eds. Petrarch: A Critical Guide to the Complete Works. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

    Each of the twenty-three chapters presents and contextualizes one work and provides extensive notes and bibliography. The volume has its origin in a conference, “Petrarch at 700,” held at the University of Pennsylvania in 2004.

  • Mann, Nicholas. Petrarch. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.

    Fine, succinct presentation of Petrarch’s life and works, which focuses on different aspects of his personality (e.g., Petrarch the traveler, the poet laureate, the contemplative soul, the creator of his own identity).

  • Mazzotta, Giuseppe. The Worlds of Petrarch. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993.

    Insightful study of Petrarch and the several “worlds” (e.g., art, music, history, philosophy, religion) in which he lived, fashioned, and integrated his life and literary works.

  • Stierle, Karlheinz. Francesco Petrarca: Ein Intellektueller im Europa des 14. Jahrhunderts. Munich: Hanser, 2003.

    Engaging study of Petrarch as a “modern” European individual who travels, studies, and is in communication with the political and cultural leaders of his day. Analyzes the world of Petrarch, primarily Avignon, and investigates the character of the poet in the Canzoniere and Trionfi.

  • Tatham, Edward H. R. Francesco Petrarca, the First Modern Man of Letters, His Life and Correspondence: A Study of the Early Fourteenth Century (1304–1347). 2 vols. London: Sheldon, 1925.

    Classic study of Petrarch’s life and works.Vol. 1, Early Years and Lyric Poems; Vol. 2, Secluded Study and Public Fame.

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