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Recycling Pietro Aretino: the posthumous reputation of Europe's first professional writer

De Rycker, Katharine (2014) Recycling Pietro Aretino: the posthumous reputation of Europe's first professional writer. Doctor of Letters (DLitt) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:50559)

Language: English
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Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) was an Italian writer who was one of the first to make a living from the printing press. As the 'scourge of princes' he was notorious across Europe for his acerbic wit. However after his death his fame sank when his entire works were placed on the Papal Index of Prohibited Books in 1559. In the century that followed Aretino was a controversial figure, associated with pornography and atheism in the popular imagination and, like Machiavelli, became synonymous with Italian vice in the minds of foreign readers. Despite the complex history of his posthumous reputation abroad, surprisingly little research has been done on the topic. Instead we are left with a few disconnected articles which tend to focus on specific instances of Aretino's works being used as sources for later writers. This thesis therefore provides the first unified approach to examining Aretino's posthumous reputation in the early modern period. It does so by treating his afterlife not as a finished product to be referred to by later readers, but uncovers the processes by which Aretino's reputation mutated through the mediation of editors, translators, writers, readers, engravers and purveyors of erotic art.

This thesis is divided into three main phases of Aretino's afterlife, which were previously compressed into a simple 'cause and effect' narrative of Aretino's work being censored in 1559 and his reputation immediately suffering because of it. In the first phase, Aretino's writing is still positively received by editors in England and the Low Countries attempting to restore his work back to their pre-censored state, and by English writers who see Aretino as an extemporal wit and a model for their growing professional aspirations. In the second phase, Aretino's reputation for bawdry and atheism is beginning to impact the way in which he is presented to later readers in Spain, the Low Countries, England, Germany and France, as translators and commentators begin to reframe his writing along newly enforced moral lines. In the third phase, two pornographic works with which Aretino initially had only a tangential relationship are misattributed to him and multiple images and texts from Italy, the Low Countries, England, and France are reproduced as 'Aretine' products.

While the majority of the literary references to Aretino in this thesis are to English writers, as this overview makes clear this is not a traditional bilateral comparative study of cultural exchange between Italy and England. Instead it places the English reception of Aretino within an European context, with the Low Countries proving to be unexpectedly prominent in the circulation of his work, even though up till now this connection has never been studied by critics outside of the Netherlands.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Letters (DLitt))
Thesis advisor: Richardson, Catherine
Thesis advisor: Homem, Rui Carvalho
Thesis advisor: Kesson, Andy
Uncontrolled keywords: Pietro Aretino reception studies translation print history comparative literature
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D901 Europe (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2015 17:00 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2022 00:29 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

De Rycker, Katharine.

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