The Representation of Petrarch in the Eighteenth-century Encyclopédie

Ana-Maria M'Enesti


The colossal project of the Encyclopédie (1751-1772), directed by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert, aimed to create, as Voltaire contends, “a repository of all sciences and arts,” therefore establishing itself as the point of reference for literature, sciences, arts and crafts. This pretentious ambition contrasts in direct proportion with the peripheral depiction of Francis Petrarch. Although they acknowledge Petrarch’s poetic talent and innovation, the authors of the Encyclopédie confine the Tuscan poet within the French poetical tradition. This gesture of appropriating what is exterior to the French image can be partly justified by the objective of the encyclopédistes to design a venue where a homogenous French identity can emerge. This paper attempts to track—by exploring various articles in the Encyclopédie along with their ramifications in other published works of the period—the ambivalent reception and portrayal of the Italian poet and humanist.


Petrarch; Encyclopédie; Louis de Jaucourt

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