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Erotic Historiography: Writing the Self and History in Twelfth-century Romance and the Renaissance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2012

Alex Davis
Affiliation:
University of St Andrews
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Summary

THIS VOLUME investigates the presence of the erotic in a certain historical period, the Middle Ages. But eroticism is also a key trope in our attempts to define what is distinctive about historical periods. That is, it is not only an object of study, but also functions in terms of mapping the boundaries of the field of study: it has historiographic value. As an example of the almost gravitational attraction that the erotic can possess for those seeking to draw period distinctions, we might begin with a piece by Hugo Estenssoro that appeared in The Times Literary Supplement on the seven hundredth anniversary of the birth of Francesco Petrarca, under the title ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’:

It is [Petrarch] who is the initiator of a way of being that, within limits, is still ours today … the modern Western lyrical tradition begins with Petrarch … Nothing comparable existed in classical or medieval literature, before Petrarch celebrated the self in each and every one of the poet's fluctuating states of mind and feeling throughout his adult life … all previous literature (including Petrarch's own Latin writings) lacks the elements we find in his work, for the simple reason that he was the one poet to embody in his poems, a new way of being human, a sensibility that was eventually to become what we see as modern man.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2007

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