The Marketplace of Mercury
This introductory chapter grounds the book’s overall discussion at the intersection of aesthetics and economics in European Renaissance poetry, whose principal actors are Francesco Petrarch, Gaspara Stampa, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Pierre de Ronsard, and William Shakespeare. It describes a tension between two views of poetry animating Petrarch’s fourteenth-century Rime sparse, each of which relates differently to economic issues figured in the text. In literary and rhetorical theory two centuries later, these views would come to represent the dominant principles of a Platonic aesthetics (focused on visionary furor) and an Aristotelian poetics (focused on the art or craft of writing poetry). Economic consequences follow from these principles, the first based on the value or worth of a divinely endowed talent, rewarded by the autocratic largesse of high-ranking patrons; the second based on craftsmanship and skill acquired through instruction and hard work, rewarded by definable criteria of merit.
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