“The Ascent of Mount Ventoux” by Francis Petrarch
Background: Francesco Petrarca (1304-74) was an “early” Renaissance scholar who challenged the scholasticism of his day by emphasizing practical morality with an emphasis on introspection and experience which was modeled on writers such a Cicero and Seneca as well as the early Augustine. Petrarch approached ethics from a rhetorical perspective, appealing to the imagination and emotion in his effort to move the will to choose the good.
Why did Petrarch climb the mountain? (447) Must the explanation he gives be understood to be functioning on more than one level of meaning? Explain.
What is the significance of his discussion of a choice of a companion (447-8) for the journey? Whom does he finally choose?
How does Petrarch describe the way in which he ascends in contrast to the way in which his companion ascends? (448-9) What does he mean by transferring “winged thoughts from things corporeal to the immaterial”? (449)
What are the kinds of thoughts he has once he rests on a literally level place (449) on the highest peak? What happens when he shifts his view to a consideration of “time” (450) rather than place? How does attaining the mountain peak help him do this? Notice how he observes that he had “forgotten” where he was and why he went there (450). What does that suggest? What do you think of his taking out a copy of Augustine’s Confessions (451) while on the mountain peak?
To what is Petrarch comparing the ascent of this mountain to at the end of his essay? (451-2) What relationship does this have with any other readings we have done this semester? With the theme of this section?