Dispassionate Petrarchism: Juan Boscán brings the Canzoniere to Spain

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English - Kline

The formal introduction of Petrarchism into Spanish letters was inextricably linked to the rise of the figure of the subject in Peninsular political, philosophical and poetic discourse. Although the Marquis of Santillana had composed sonnets on Petrarchan themes in the century before, it was Juan Boscán, the sixteenth century humanist, who found in the writings of Castiglione, Bembo and Petrarch a potential solution to the identity crisis that was being undergone by Spain's traditional elite ranks with the imposition of new norms and policies of courtiership under Charles V of Hapsburg and his Italian and Burgundian ministers. In this essay I demonstrate that an important aspect of Boscán's Petrarchism was his investment in the idea of Petrarchan poetics as a neo-Stoic discourse of containment and moderation, one through which modern Spanish courtiers could reclaim a measure of agency despite royal policies that were subjecting them ever more forcefully to crown control. While Boscán's idealism regarding Stoic Petrarchism does not appear to have been shared by many of his peers, his association of the new poetry with modern courtiership took hold in the Spanish imagination. At the end of the essay I take up a powerful reflection by an important Spanish writer working later in the century, Francisco de Aldana, on the subjecting forces of Petrarchan discourse.

University of Oregon

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