Rewriting Desire in the Roman De La Rose

  • Robert R. Edwards
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The Roman de la Rose is a poem in which love and desire are repeatedly contained within the desire of writing. At the beginning of the poem, Guillaume de Lorris gives a title and description of his work in one couplet: “c’est li Romans de la Rose / Ou l’art d’Amors est toute enclose” (“it is the Romance of the Rose, in which the whole art of love is contained” [37–38]).1 By evoking the Ars amatoria, Guillaume signals his ambition to appropriate Ovid’s erotodidaxis and summarize it inside the closed text of a courtly dream vision. The craft of love-making will reside in his dreamer’s quest to possess the rose, while his text itself operates as a poetic analogue to the closed garden of Deduit, the locus of action in the poem. Guillaume’s double ambition founders, of course, in his unfinished poem and likewise in the promised but unwritten glosses that will explain the dream’s significance (1600–1602, 2067–72).2 It returns later, however, significantly changed in Amors’s pseudo-prophecy that Jean de Meun will succeed Guillaume and fashion a book renamed “Le Miroër as amoreus” (10651). Jean’s mirror tropes “li mirëors perilleus” (“the perilous mirror” [1571]) in which the dreamer Amant first sees the rose in Guillaume’s portion of the poem. Jean rewrites Guillaume’s closed, aristocratic text to reveal its contents to audiences throughout France. He does so in an encyclopedic form that serves now as a satiric reflection of the erotic practice imagined by Guillaume.3


Physical Pleasure Natural Love Courtly Love Closed Text Medieval Writer 
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© Robert R. Edwards 2006

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  • Robert R. Edwards

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