When Jean de Meun takes over the Roman de la Rose from Guillaume de Lorris, his first authorial gesture is to return the allegorical figure Raison to the poem with a description of love. Raison’s description is a catalogue of possible definitions drawn from classical and medieval sources. The range of her definitions—from natural appetite to friendship to charity—reminds us that love is more often a literary and cultural discourse than a cohesive theory in medieval texts. Her subsequent proposal that she become the narrator-lover’s “amie” (“beloved”) shows us that desire is located somewhere unexpectedly, even paradoxically in the discourse of love. My contention in this book has been that desire functions dialectically within this multiform discourse in ways that remain resistant and unaccommodated to the definitions that might be proposed for love. By elevating love as a topic for serious literary treatment, medieval writers provided the necessary condition—a structure of estabished conventions, generic codes, and readerly expectations—for expressing desire, even if such expression is oblique or only partially acknowledged or even disavowed. The demands that desire thus registers address fundamental issues in medieval literature such as selfhood, subjectivity, knowledge, virtue, social identity, and spiritual values. Desire is also, as we have seen, a condition of writing and especially of inventing and rewriting earlier texts.
KeywordsCohesive Theory Doomed City Medieval Literature Medieval Text Conversion Narrative
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