numerous possibilities with which each Petrarchan image tempts its readers.
Clearly, the effect of such work is not a militant challenge to Petrarchan supremacy, but rather a criticism to the vacuous poetic project that the linguistic reproduction of Petrarchism had imposed on reading, understanding, and engaging Petrarch’s poetry. In refusing to participate in an inherited reading and instead returning to the original texts themselves in order to appreciate their interpretive possibilities, Francesco Berni participates in what William Kennedy has defined as “Petrarch’s humanist hermeneutic: the desire to read a text in the original moment of its creation.”26 Berni’s success is twofold. First of all, he cuts through the thick layers of Petrarchism and enjoys the Petrarchan texts themselves, reveling in their slippery word play and complex imagery. By returning to the original texts themselves, Berni is able to expose and to criticize the inept and limiting tradition of Petrarchism. Secondly, Berni writes parodies that force the reader to do the same thing: to return to the Petrarchan originals and appreciate their original, unencumbered interpretive possibilities. Berni treats Petrarch’s Canzoniere not as an accumulation of empty word play and formulaic repetition, but rather as a collection of intricate and entangled meanings, and encourages his readers to do the same. Interestingly, then, for as anti-Petrarchan as Berni is accused of being, his work presents an excellent opportunity for returning to and appreciating Petrarch’s complex masterpiece. Perhaps it would be more accurate, then, to see him as “anti-Petrarchism” than to refer to him as entirely “anti-Petrarchan.”
26 Prof. Kennedy presented this concept during his Spring 2004 seminar “ROMS 650: Renaissance Poetry.”