the empty rhetoric of Petrarchism. She insists that “during the Renaissance, parodistic poetry expresses a form of resistance to the formulaic inertia of the vacuous clichés of Petrarchismo,” and that “Berni, as inventor of bernesque genre, is considered the main opponent to Petrarchismo.”8 Such statements represent a very common assertion: Berni’s poems, which do not engage a Petrarchan aesthetic but instead employ base subjects like chamber pots and whores, celebrate the physical homosexual encounter, and revel in the contemporary physical present rather than an idealized memory or impossible-yet-hoped-for future, inherently contradict and undermine the dominant and beautiful Petrarchan standard.
The effect of such a condemnation can be somewhat misleading, and many scholars misinterpret the relationship of Berni’s anti-Petrarchan works to their Petrarchan poetic heritage. David Frantz, for example, in his study of Renaissance erotica puts forward the typical claim that “Berni’s work is clearly anti-Petrarchan” and that the impact of Berni’s poetry comes only from “its deviation from the [Petrarchan] norm.”9 Even more extreme, perhaps, is Bettella’s understanding of the burlesque as a kind of militant uprising against an oppressive aesthetic power. “By using parody and self-parody, [Berni and other authors like him] carried out a discourse of dissent, which criticized the excessive stylization and conventionality of feminine beauty in literature and thereby showed awareness of the need to revise the cannon of physical appearance as produced in literary texts.”10
8 Patrizia Bettella, “Discourse of Resistance: The Parody of Feminine Beauty in Berni, Doni, and Firenzuola,” MLN 113, no. 1 (1998): 192-203, here 193-194.
9 David O. Frantz, Festum Voluptatis: A Study of Renaissance Erotica, (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1989), 25
10 Bettella, 192-193