Roman de la Rose  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Roman de la rose is a medieval French poem styled as an allegorical dream vision. It is a notable instance of courtly literature. The work's stated purpose is to both entertain and to teach others about the Art of Love. At various times in the poem, the "Rose" of the title is seen as the name of the lady, and as a symbol of female sexuality in general. Likewise, the other characters' names function both as regular names and as abstractions illustrating the various factors that are involved in a love affair.

Contents

History

The poem was written in two stages. The first 4058 lines, written by Guillaume de Lorris circa 1230, describe the attempts of a courtier to woo his beloved. This part of the story is set in a walled garden or locus amoenus, one of the traditional topoi of epic and chivalric literature. In this walled garden, the interior represents romance, while the exterior stands for everyday life. It is unclear whether Lorris considered his version to be incomplete, but it was generally viewed as such. Around 1275, Jean de Meun composed an additional 17,724 lines. Jean's discussion of love is considered more philosophical and encyclopedic, but also more misogynistic and bawdy. The writer Denis de Rougemont felt that the first part of the poem portrayed Rose as an idealised figure (Venus Celestis), while the second part portrayed her as a more physical and sensual being (Venus Vulgaris). Still, much recent scholarship has argued for the essential unity of the work, which is how it was received by later medieval readers.

Reception

The work was both very popular and very controversial — one of the most widely read works in France for three centuries, it survives in hundreds of illuminated manuscripts. The popularity of the work is especially notable because it predated the Gutenberg printing press by some two hundred years. Still, its emphasis on sensual language and imagery provoked attacks by Jean Gerson, Christine de Pizan and many other writers and moralists of the 14th and 15th centuries.

Translation and influence

Part of the story was translated from its original Old French into Middle English as The Romaunt of the Rose, which had a great influence on English literature. Chaucer was familiar with the original French text, and a portion of the Middle English translation is thought to be his work. C. S. Lewis's 1936 study The Allegory of Love renewed interest in the poem.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Roman de la Rose" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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