Research Stream


Danijela Kambaskovic
The University of Western Australia

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The New Life: Love written in the First Person and the European Renaissance

The way love is depicted in literature changes the way we think about ourselves, our emotions and their expression in society. Artistic depictions of love in the Renaissance educated the public about what was possible and  acceptable— not only in terms of the private emotions, but also in terms of social behaviour.

The New Life: Love written in the First Person and the European Renaissance

This project traces the invention of the use of the first person mode to talk of love and the principal genres used to represent the experience of love in the late middle ages and the Renaissance, to show that these writings are key not only to the development of first person narrative and writing in Europe and therefore to the history of the novel as we know it today, but also to the cultural history of love – as an emotion (verbally described), as raw material for art, as a phenomenon of medical history, and as a social force.
Although the history of the novel is often linked solely to third-person genres (Watt, Downie), Kambaskovic proposes a more inclusive consideration of what the novel is, by offering an analysis of the crucial role she believes pre-modern first-person literary genres played in making available nuanced accounts of the personal experience of love (and the complex gamut of related emotions). She argues that the ways writers wrote about love, and the fact that they chose to write in the first person, has had enormous cultural and historical significance, both in terms of development of writing in Europe (literary history) and in terms of social understanding of the emotion and its social manifestations (cultural history).
The two principal formal approaches to writing about the subjective experience of love employed in the English Renaissance, the sonnet sequence and the first person prose romance—perceived today as qualitatively different genres— both have a common source in Dante’s original story of love, La Vita Nuova. The formal techniques used to represent a subjective experience of love in both “genres” are, in actual fact, two streams of cultural influence of a single work, and their correspondence was much more keenly felt in the early modern period than it is today. This project will trace both streams of influence to show how each contributed to literary and cultural history. A forthcoming book will critically examine the established critical view that sonnet sequences must be considered a non-narrative genre and link this genre with clearly narrative genres which stem from the same common source with divergent generic and cultural influences.


Kambasković-Sawers, Danijela. "Fictional Elements in Sixteenth-and Seventeenth-Century Sonnet Sequences and Early Modern Fictions". Parergon, 2012, Vol.29(1), pp.47-69

Kambasković-Sawers, Danijela. "Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords : Ambiguous Speaker and Storytelling in Shakespeare's Sonnets". Criticism, 2008, Vol.49(3), pp.285-305

Kambasković-Sawers, Danijela. "'Bugbears in Apollo's Cell': Metamorphoses of Character in Drayton's Idea and Daniel's Delia". Parergon, 2008, Vol.25(1), pp.123-148

Kambasković‐Sawers, Danijela. "Carved in living laurel: the sonnet sequence and transformations of idolatry". Renaissance Studies, 2007, Vol.21(3), pp.377-394
Kambasković‐Sawers, Danijela. "‘Never was I the golden cloud’: Ovidian myth, ambiguous speaker and the narrative in the sonnet sequences by Petrarch, Sidney and Spenser". Renaissance Studies, 2007, Vol.21(5), pp.637-661