Petrarch's Middle Age: Memory, Imagination, History, and the “Ascent of Mount Ventoux”

Albert Russell Ascoli

in A Local Habitation and a Name

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234288
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241231 | DOI:
Petrarch's Middle Age: Memory, Imagination, History, and the “Ascent of Mount Ventoux”

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This chapter explores the way in which Petrarch understands and stages the relationship between the medieval faculties of memory and imagination in the “Letter from Mt. Ventoux” (Familiar Letters IV.1), in the context of a literal alpine ascent which may or may not figure an allegorical and inward spiritual journey, and in allusive relation to key precursors such as St. Augustine and Dante. It argues that the Petrarch's treatment of these categories significantly complicates any attempt to use either this author or this text (as they so frequently have been) as a synecdoche of the supposed shift from “medieval” to “Renaissance” culture and consciousness. More particularly it suggests that Petrarch's self-representation as trapped in a “middle age” between sin and conversion can be said to figure the macro-problem of inserting a historiographical break between one era and another.

Keywords: Francis Petrarch; Rerum Familiarum Libri IV.1; Mount Ventoux; memory and imagination; Petrarch and St. Augustine; crisis of allegory; narrative and trope; middle ages; Renaissance; literary historiography; epistolary writing

Chapter.  16996 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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