Petrarch A Critical Guide to the Complete Works
edited by Victoria Kirkham and Armando Maggi
University of Chicago Press, 2009
Cloth: 978-0-226-43741-5 | Paper: 978-0-226-43742-2 | Electronic: 978-0-226-43743-9


Although Francesco Petrarca (1304–74) is best known today for cementing the sonnet’s place in literary history, he was also a philosopher, historian, orator, and one of the foremost classical scholars of his age. Petrarch: A Critical Guide to the Complete Works is the only comprehensive, single-volume source to which anyone—scholar, student, or general reader—can turn for information on each of Petrarch’s works, its place in the poet’s oeuvre, and a critical exposition of its defining features.
            A sophisticated but accessible handbook that illuminates Petrarch’s love of  classical culture, his devout Christianity, his public celebrity, and his struggle for inner peace, this encyclopedic volume covers both Petrarch’s Italian and Latin writings and the various genres in which he excelled: poem, tract, dialogue, oration, and letter. A biographical introduction and chronology anchor the book, making Petrarch an invaluable resource for specialists in Italian, comparative literature, history, classics, religious studies, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance.


Victoria Kirkham is professor emerita of Romance languages at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of three books, most recently of Fabulous Vernacular: Boccaccio’s Filocolo and the Art of Medieval Fiction. Armando Maggi is professor of Romance languages and a member of the Committee on the History of Culture at the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books, including Satan’s Rhetoric and In the Company of Demons, both published by the University of Chicago Press.


“A book that every medievalist and early modernist will feel obliged to own.  Much like the way Durling's translation created a market for itself thirty years ago, Petrarch: A Critical Guide will deliver to us a new Petrarch, with many of the less familiar works reweighed in significance and even the principal ones freshly understood. Knowing the poet well, I was continually surprised at how much I learned from the essays."

— Roland Greene, Stanford University

“Victoria Kirkham and Armando Maggi have given the English-speaking world a richly-textured intellectual and artistic portrait of Petrarch that will engross both the novice and the seasoned petrarchista. This veritable treasure of a book will stand the test of time.”

— P. M. Forni, Johns Hopkins University

“A provocative reference work for anyone working on the totality of Petrarch’s output. The essays combine fresh scholarship and revisionist arguments in clear, richly documented, and lucid expositions. Without great fanfare and with a keen eye for literary and historical detail, Victoria Kirkham and Armando Maggi have managed to offer original, intelligent, detailed, and inspiring interpretations of Petrarchan lyrical, historiographical and autobiographical narratives.”

— Valeria Finucci, Duke University

“This book’s depth of detail, breadth of coverage, and consistently high level of critical analysis make it unparalleled in Anglophone Petrarch scholarship and indispensable to anyone seriously interested in this perennially fascinating poet and thinker. A must for collections in Italian studies, medieval and Renaissance culture, and comparative literature.”
— S. Botterill, Choice

“This single (and singular) volume—the product of an international conference held to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Petrarch’s birth—bears eloquent testimony to the diversity and complexity (as well as the unity) of his oeuvre. Its contributors, a veritable Who’s Who of Petrarch scholars, together treat virtually every work ever penned by the Trecento poet and humanist. Their twenty-three sensitive, concise, and often fascinating studies are not presented in the chronological order of Petrarch’s works; rather (and more intriguingly), they are divided among seven sections, each of which is devoted to a separate aspect of the Italian’s literary corpus. . . . Petrarch constitutes a well-conceived and well-executed guide to the complete works that will be of use to scholars and students of all levels who work on Medieval and Renaissance literature in Italian, comparative literature, and related fields.”
— JoAnn DellaNeva, Renaissance Quarterly

“A highly meritorious work, a massive scholarly enterprise that covers Petrarch’s entire oeuvre, published . . . in an elegant volume, with illustrations and a memorable frontispiece.”
— Maria Esposito Frank, University of Hartford, Sixteenth Century Journal


List of Illustrations


Note on Bibliographical Forms and Abbreviations

Chronology of Petrarch’s Life and Works - Victoria Kirkham

A Life’s Work - Victoria Kirkham

Part I. An Enduring Vernacular Legacy

1. The Self in the Labyrinth of Time (Rerum vulgarium fragmenta) - Teodolinda Barolini

2. The Poem of Memory (Triumphi) - Fabio Finotti

3. Petrarch’s Damned Poetry and the Poetics of Exclusion (Rime disperse) - Justin Steinberg

Part II. Literary Debut, Latin Humanism, and Orations

4. The Rebirth of the Romans as Models of Character (De virisillustribus) - Ronald G. Witt

5. Petrarch’s Philological Epic (Africa) - Simone Marchesi

6. The Beginnings of Humanistic Oratory: Petrarch’s CoronationOration (Collatio laureationis) - Dennis Looney

7. Petrarch the Courtier: Five Public Speeches (Arenga facta Venecijs,Arringa facta Mediolani, Arenga facta in civitate Novarie, Collatio breviscoram Iohanne Francorum rege, Orazione per la seconda ambasceriaveneziana) - Victoria Kirkham

8. The Unforgettable Books of Things to Be Remembered(Rerum memorandarum libri) - Paolo Cherchi

Part III. Contemplative Serenity

9. Pastoral as Personal Mythology in History (Bucolicum carmen) - Stefano Carrai

10. “You Will Be My Solitude”: Solitude as Prophecy (De vita solitaria) - Armando Maggi

11. A Humanistic Approach to Religious Solitude (De otio religioso) - Susanna Barsella

Part IV. Journeys into the Soul

12. The Burning Question: Crisis and Cosmologyin the Secret (Secretum) - David Marsh

13. Petrarch’s Personal Psalms (Psalmi penitentiales) - E. Ann Matter

14. The Place of the Itinerarium (Itinerarium ad sepulchrum domini nostri Yhesu Christi) - Theodore J. Cachey Jr.

Part V. Life's Turbulence

15. On the Two Faces of Fortune (De remediis utriusque fortune) - Timothy Kircher

16. The Art of Invective (Invective contra medicum) - Stefano Cracolici

17. The Economy of Invective and a Man in the Middle (De sui ipsius etmultorum ignorantia) - William J. Kennedy

Part VI. Petrarch the Epistler

18. A Poetic Journal (Epystole) - Giuseppe Velli

19. The Book without a Name: Petrarch’s Open Secret (Liber sine nomine) - Ronald L. Martinez

20. The Uncollected Poet (Lettere disperse) - Lynn Lara Westwater

21. Petrarch’s Epistolary Epic: Letters on Familiar Matters (Rerumfamiliarum libri) - Giuseppe F. Mazzotta

22. Letters of Old Age: Love between Men, Griselda, and Farewell toLetters (Rerum senilium libri) - David Wallace

Part VII. Epilogue

23. To Write As Another: The Testamentum (Testamentum) Armando Maggi



List of Contributors