'Volto di Medusa': Monumentalizing the self in Petrarch's Rerum vulgarium fragmenta

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Abstract

Scholarship on Petrarch has generally intepreted the figure of Laura-as-Medusa as a projection of the poet's internal conflict between sacred and profane love. Such a reading takes Medusa as a threat to Petrarch's agency. Yet Petrarch's Laura-Medusa is suggestively figured as only her disembodied head, a weapon ultimately manipulated by Perseus. This reversal of agency has an impact on Petrarch's complicated theory of poetic inspiration, and reaches beyond the relationship between poet and beloved to encompass another fraught paradigm of power: the relationship between poet and patron. By recalling the disembodied head of Medusa in the figure of Laura, and recovering the political symbolism of the appropriation of her petrifying gaze, Petrarch creates a model of poetic agency that he uses to stage his relationship to patronage in the Latin Africa and a poem addressed to his Colonna patrons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-521
Number of pages25
JournalForum Italicum
Volume47
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013

Keywords

  • Medusa
  • Patronage
  • Petrarch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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