"Favola fui": Petrarch Writes His Readers

Bernardo Lecture Series, No. 17

By Albert Russell Ascoli
Edited by Dana E. Stewart

Subjects: Classics, Italian Studies
Series: The Bernardo Lecture Series
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Paperback : 9781438438061, 47 pages, November 2010

Alternative formats available from:

Examines the interplay between reading and writing in the works of Petrarch and Dante.


Building upon his 2008 book Dante and the Making of a Modern Author, Albert Russell Ascoli here reflects on the extent to which Petrarch's addresses to and figurations of his relationship to his readers intersect with the oft-asserted "modernity" of his authorial stances. In particular, Ascoli argues that following in the wake of Dante's double staging of himself as reader of his own works (especially in the Vita Nuova), Petrarch shows a keen and probing awareness of how the process of poetic signification involves a continual interchange between author and reader, as well as a strong desire to control the nature of that interchange as much as he can. Ascoli asserts that between Dante and Petrarch two primary—and contradictory—features of literary modernity can be identified: the affirmation of the preeminence of authorial intention and the foregrounding of readerly freedom of interpretation.

The Aldo S. Bernardo Lecture Series in the Humanities honors Professor Emeritus Aldo S. Bernardo, his scholarship in medieval Italian literature, and his service to Binghamton University as Professor of Romance Languages and University Distinguished Service Professor. The Bernardo Lecture Series is endowed by the Bernardo Fund and administered by Binghamton University's Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CEMERS), which Professor Bernardo cofounded and codirected with Professor Bernard Huppé from 1966 to 1973. The series offers annual lectures by distinguished scholars on topics related to Professor Bernardo's primary fields of interest—medieval and Renaissance Italian literature, with a particular focus on Dante Studies, and intellectual history.

Albert Russell Ascoli is the Gladyce Arata Terrill Distinguished Professor of Italian Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. He received his BA in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and his MA and PhD in Romance Studies from Cornell, and was a professor of French and Italian and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University before joining the faculty at Berkeley. The winner of numerous awards and fellowships at institutions such as the American Academy in Rome and the Newberry Library, he has edited several volumes and has authored three books and dozens of articles on medieval and Renaissance Italian literature.