Visualizing the Feminine in the Roman de Perceforest: The Episode of the “Conte de la Rose”

  • Sylvia Huot
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


This chapter focuses on an episode from the Roman de Perceforest known as the “conte de la rose.”1 The Perceforest, an anonymous prose romance set in a mythical British antiquity, was written for Guillaume I, count of Hainault and father-in-law of King Edward III of England; it is thought to have been completed ca. 1340. The “conte de la rose” episode, one of numerous set pieces incorporated into this vast romance, was doubtless adapted from oral or written sources; Gaston Paris has identified several analogous tales in various languages.2 If the basic narrative was not original with the author, however, he nonetheless manipulated his material to fit it into the overall narrative program and ideological framework of the Perceforest. A central theme of this vast romance is the conflict in pre-Arthurian Britain between a Greek monarchy installed by Alexander the Great and an indigenous clan, known as le lignaige Darnant, descended from the Trojan Brutus. The rival cultures struggling for dominance are distinguished in large part through their respective identification of women as autonomous subjects governed by their own desire or as passive objects of a predatory male sexuality. These competing models of gender and sexuality, and in particular the very different readings of the feminine inherent to each, are brought into sharp focus in the “conte de la rose” episode.


Ideological Framework Autonomous Subject Mutual Love Clan Leader Autonomous Woman 
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  1. 2.
    See Gaston Paris, “Le Conte de la Rose dans le Roman de Perceforest,” Romania 23 (1894): 78–140.Google Scholar
  2. Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Roman de la rose, ed. Félix Lecoy, CFMA, 3 vols. (Paris: Champion, 1973–75).Google Scholar

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© Emma Campbell and Robert Mills 2004

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  • Sylvia Huot

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