Critique and complicity: Metapoetical reflections on the gendered figures of body and text in the Roman de la Rose

Mary Frances Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recently scholars have taken increasing account of medieval literary theory and criticism (particularly as it is expressed in the Latin commentary tradition) in their readings of medieval French poetry. Nevertheless, the degree to which those critical texts are themselves complicit in the rhetorical strategies and ideological function of the kinds of texts that they purport to explicate has largely escaped comment. This essay investigates the rhetorical figures exploited in medieval Latin critical discourse: specifically the metaphors for allegory (integument), satire (nakedness), and poetic material (the not-yet-dressed body). These figures reappear in Jean de Meun's continuation of the Roman de la Rose, in the speeches of Reason and the Jealous Husband, and in the exempla of Mars and Venus and Pygmalion. Through a reading that juxtaposes these passages to commentaries and artes poetriae, I argue that, while the critical discourse's largely implicit figuration of text as female body provides an interpretive key to the romance, the latter in turn reveals the limits and contradictions of the former. Thus the article raises larger questions about the relation that literary criticism establishes with literary texts and about the modern critic's complicity with specific kinds of medieval reading or classes of medieval readership.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-159
Number of pages31
JournalExemplaria
Volume21
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2009

Keywords

  • Allegory
  • Ars poetica
  • Criticism
  • Jean de Meun
  • Rhetoric
  • Roman de la Rose
  • Satire

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