歐美研究季刊第46卷第1期 - page 15

Petrarch and Chaucer on Fame
15
This act of self-aggrandizement might sound somewhat brash, but
it again points up Petrarch’s fervent desire for literary fame.
Petrarch’s “A Draft of a Letter to Posterity” also attests to his
longing for posthumous fame and to his angst about what impact
he will make on later generations. In this short letter Petrarch
expresses his uncertainty about whether he will be remembered by
posterity and, if so, whether his memory will be favorable:
“Although I much doubt whether my obscure little name can have
reached you at such a distance of time and space . . . Opinions will
indeed differ about me” (2002b: 95).
From previous analysis, it is clear that Petrarch had soberly
cogitated on the hurdles to immortality and on the remote chances
of achieving it. Yet it seems that these obstacles did not dampen his
craving for posthumous fame. When Petrarch was crowned poet
laureate and declared a Roman citizen in 1341, the oration he
delivered during the acceptance ceremony, as John M. Fyler argues,
is the loftiest manifesto for literature in the fourteenth century
(1979: 62). By the same token, Ernest H. Wilkins glowingly
maintains that no other extant medieval treatise better catches the
spirit of transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance than
this oration (1953: 1241).
At the outset of this oration, Petrarch sanctifies literature
above other arts by shrouding it in mystery: while in other arts
excellence can be attained by assiduity, the attainment of literary
achievements entails “a certain inner and divinely given energy”
(1953: 1242). Here Petrarch adduces three classical authorities
Cicero, Juvenal, and Lucan
to underpin his insistence that
literature enjoy a privileged position when compared with other
arts, and that poetic creation is essentially difficult. Cicero argues
Giovanni del Virgilio (2007: 64). Metempsychosis applies to the belief that the
soul of one writer can be transmitted to a future writer (Gillespie, 2010: 210),
and the idea of metempsychosis has traditionally been attributed to the Greek
philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras. For further understanding of
metempsychosis, see Barnes
(
1982: 106-114); Burkert (1972, 120-165
)
.
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