New visions of an old love: The Catullan lyric and Renaissance anti-Petrarchism
Blevins, Jacob Damon
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Much of the criticism dealing with Renaissance love poetry in England has explored the manner in which love poets adopt and then adapt traditional European models, particularly the neoplatonic model of love popularized by Castiglione and the literary conventions of love poetry established by Petrarch. Although most English poets conform to these models to some degree, as the sixteenth-century progresses there is a movement away from the idealistic view of love present in those models. When Renaissance poets begin deviating from the system of values inherent in those continental models, their poetry becomes akin to a lyric voice found much earlier in the Latin poet, Catullus. The purpose of this dissertation is to demonstrate that these poets, typically discussed in terms of their deviation from the continental models, share an affinity with the love poetry of Catullus. In varying degrees, poets such as Sir Thomas Wyatt, William Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney, Eklmund Spenser, and John Donne all write love poetry that set forth values established by their philosophical and literary models, while simultaneously undermining those values in an effort to depict a more realistic—or, at least, a more inclusive—vision of love. This process of undermining the values associated with Renaissance love poetry corresponds to Catullus' own poetry. Catullus associates certain Roman virtues—pietas, foedus, officium, fides—with his speaker's affair with Lesbia, but his poetry demonstrates the failure or inappropriateness of those values in the relationship depicted in his Lesbia sequence. Although the Roman values in Catullus and the Renaissance values are very different at times, their function in the poetry is the same.