Triangulating Rome: Du Bellay, Spenser, and the Fantasy of Perspective

Timothy Duffy


Rebecca Zorach in her recent book The Passionate Triangle has argued for the philosophical and artistic centrality of the triangle in Renaissance thought and praxis. Building on Zorach’s intervention to offer a Renaissance literary theory of the triangle, this essay offers a reading of European Petrarchism that is centered around the linked and mutually informing phenomena of Roman speculative engagement and triangulation. Triangulation, usually though of as primarily involved in artistic representation, navigation, Platonic philosophy, and geometric thought, became, in the Renaissance, a tool to explore the theological and historical questions of both Renaissance Humanism and the Reformation. It became a method by which Renaissance thinkers and poets, Protestant and Catholic, could envision and represent the Roman past and related issues of time, space, and eternity. This essay argues that Du Bellay and Spenser, working across religious, linguistic, and national boundaries, create virtual lyric spaces in their poems, that, like the virtual spaces of two dimensional Renaissance art, create spiritual and spatial depth through a triangulated compositional practice.


Spenser, Petrarch, Du Bellay, Perspective, Geometry, Spatial Studies

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