Born in Tuscany in 1304, Italian poet Francesco Petrarca is widely considered one of the fathers of the modern Italian language. Though his writings inspired the humanist movement and subsequently the Renaissance, Petrarch remains misunderstood. He was a man of contradictions—a Roman pagan devotee and a devout Christian, a lover of friendship and sociability, yet intensely private.
In this biography, Christopher S. Celenza revisits Petrarch’s life and work for the first time in decades, considering how the scholar’s reputation and identity have changed since his death in 1374. He brings to light Petrarch’s unrequited love for his poetic muse, the anti-institutional attitude he developed as he sought a path to modernity by looking backward to antiquity, and his endless focus on himself. Drawing on both Petrarch’s Italian and Latin writings, this is a revealing portrait of a figure of paradoxes: a man of mystique, historical importance, and endless fascination. It is the only book on Petrarch suitable for students, general readers, and scholars alike.