Academic journal article Medium Aevum

'Magister Amoris': The 'Roman De la Rose' and Vernacular Hermeneutics

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

'Magister Amoris': The 'Roman De la Rose' and Vernacular Hermeneutics

Article excerpt

Alastair Minnis, 'Magister amoris': The 'Roman de la Rose' and Vernacular Hermeneutics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). XV + 352 pp. ISBN 0-19-818754-8. L50.00.

To ask 'What is this book about?' is neither to be flippantly sarcastic nor to admit to dull incomprehension. While the title might suggest a treatment of the Roman de la Rose within a tradition of vernacular commentary on other texts, and while that theme is indeed treated intermittently, the major thrusts of the book divide between the Rose, and very specifically that part of it written by Jean de Meun, as an object of commentary in the later Middle Ages and an assessment of the steadily growing late-medieval corpus of commentary in the vernacular in France, Italy, Iberia, and England. Allowing that the book has no formal concluding chapter to synthesize arguments and that the introduction is largely concerned with the place of Jean de Meun's Rose in the cultural inheritance of Ovid's Ars amatoria and Remedia amoris, one might look to the final chapter 'Pruning the Rose' to provide the otherwise missing conclusion. This chapter looks first at the Eschez amoureux as a rereading of the Rose, and then at commentaries on the Eschez and other vernacular texts, including autoexegeses by Dante, Boccaccio, and Gower, and at vernacular commentaries on Latin works. The last few pages of the book deal with the impact of Lollardry and with the reaction to it as an explanation for the lack of a developed tradition of vernacular commentary in England to match that of continental Europe. Since such considerations have not been a theme of the book hitherto this leaves one with the same unsatisfied feeling of non-closure that one might get from the Rose itself. Three chapters do look closely at the Rose: 'Lifting the veil', which argues strongly for reading Jean de Meun's text as one that eschews integumenta and defies allegorical readings in the proper sense of that term by equating it with Classical Latin satires, 'Parlerproprement', which centres on the discussion between Raison and Amant as to whether courtly ladies should use 'rude' words like couilles, and 'Signe d'estre malles', which discusses at length the relationship of the ending of the Rose in the thinly disguised copulation of the Rose and a pilgrim's staff to medieval Latin comedy and clerical humour reflecting and exorcizing fears that learning leads to impotence. …

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