Nolan, Martin (1990) Love, Women and Conceits in Donne's Songs and Petrarch's Canzoniere. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
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One of the most discussed questions of twentieth century John Donne criticism is the poet's relation to the work of Francis Petrarch and the Petrarchan tradition. One view, epitomised by Herbert Grierson, tends to emphasize Donne's youthful reputation as a cynical and rakish personality. His poetry, reflecting this personality, is viewed as highly original and thoroughly contrary to the idealistic love poetry of Petrarch and his followers. Another critical view, concentrating more on the poetry of Donne and less on his reputation and personality, acknowledges a definite Petrarchan presence in Donne's Songs and Sonnets and believes Donne's originality is in his innovative use of Petrarchan situations, themes and conceits rather than in a rejection of those Petrarchan elements. -- This thesis does not attempt to label Donne a Petrarchist or an anti-Petrarchist, because such labels are unrepresentative of Donne's relation to Petrarch and limit a full appreciation of both poets. However, part of this thesis can be seen as a study of the development of this critical debate and how it affects the perception and understanding of both Donne's and Petrarch's poetry. -- Most discussions of Donne's Petrarchism relate his work to the innumerable Petrarchists who followed and imitated Petrarch. Petrarch's reputation has been damaged by association with the often inferior work of his imitators and critical approaches to Donne's Petrarchism that do not take Petrarch himself into account present a distorted view of Donne's use of Petrarchism. This thesis allows the Canzoniere itself to serve as the standard of comparison for assessing Donne's Petrarchism. -- A comparison between the Canzoniere and Donne's Songs and Sonnets reveals that generalizations usually applied to each poet's work are oversimplified and often unjustified. The identification of Petrarch with unreasonably idealistic love and unfailing adoration ignores the elements of regret, frustration, resentment and anguish that are also expressed in the Canzoniere. Similarly, labelling Donne as a cynical realist who denies any faith in love and women is to overlook tender love poems such as Sweetest Love and The Goodmorrow. Such labelling also ignores the numerous poems, like Twickenham Garden and The Triple Fool, which are Petrarchan in their theme of unrequited love and rely heavily on Petrarchan imagery. Also, the cynicism and distrust of women that are usually seen as elements of Donne's revolt against Petrarchism have precedents in the Canzoniere. A common sense of defeated idealism and unfulfilled love creates elements of misogyny and distrust in the Petrarchan lover and the disgruntled lovers in poems like Go and Catch and Woman's Constancy. As a result of the comparison many of the elements that seemed to separate both poets' work are found to be shared characteristics, thus achieving a greater appreciation and understanding of both poets.
|Item Type:||Thesis (Masters)|
|Additional Information:||Bibliography: leaves -136.|
|Department(s):||Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature|
|Library of Congress Subject Heading:||Donne, John, 1572-1631--Songs and sonets--Criticism, Textual; Petrarca, Francesco, 1304-1374--Rimes--Criticism, Textual|
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