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L ’E sprit C ré a t e u r little too late in the game. Stimulating and often brilliant, Bloch’s Scandal is, however, unusually grim. It is a pity. Fabliaux were comic tales after all! E liza M iru na G h il University of New Orleans David F. Hult. Se lf-Fu lfillin g P r o p h e c ie s: R ea d e r sh ip a n d A u th o rity in t h e F irst “ Ro m a n de la R o se .” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968. $39.50 For most, if not all, medieval literary scholars, the fragmentary nature of Guillaume de Lorris’ Roman de la Rose is a given. The standard explanation pointing to its author’s untimely death has been supplemented only by theories focused on Guillaume’s inescapable aesthetic and dialectical quandary rendering it impossible for the Lover to possess the Rose and thus for the poet to finish his poem. Little matter, for, as we all know, along came Jean de Meun half a century later to add those few finishing touches comprising almost fourfifths of the total volume, composed in a spirit virtually antithetical to the original. Because the encyclopedic erudition, vibrant intellectualism and wit of Jean de Meun’s contribution (not to mention the early 15th-century Parisian Querelle) appeal more openly to con­ temporary literature specialists, most recent Rose scholarship has been devoted to his part rather than to Guillaume’s, which suffered from stereotyping as the “courtly” version and remained an icon of delicate, even effete, incompletion. Those studies dealing with the first Rose author often point to his irreverent replenisher as the overweening authorial presence. Consequently, a full-length work exclusively devoted to Guillaume on his own merits has long been needed, precisely because of its fragmentary, yet unique and indispensable, existence. Professor Hult is therefore not shying away from the provocative in transcending such expectations by arguing that Guillaume’s Rose is indeed complete. Furthermore, although the author possesses a firm knowledge of the latest in literary critical developments, he bases his argument on codicological research from the original manuscripts. This is, to borrow Prof. Hult’s words for Philostratus’ aesthetics, “not simply an arcane bit of rhetorical sophistry.” Nor can Hult’s book be numbered among other Rose studies claim­ ing to derive their theses from iconology while diverting the reader’s attention by selectively interpreting lavish reproductions. As for his critical stance, Hult explicitly warns of his non-adherence to reader-response criticism of the Rose, proclaiming instead the primary influence of H. R. Jauss’s hermeneutics. Nor, despite the book’s title and Hult’s admitted inspiration from psychology’s repertoire, are we pushed toward another extreme of finding Guillaume presented as some sort of proto-Maslow. The book is the product of a young scholar in the positive sense: explicative energy abounds throughout. His introductory chapter, entitled “the Spectral Author,” is in itself ambitious as it sets out to survey medieval notions of authorship and “to construct a methodological basis” for examining Guillaume’s poem as a separate entity: “a discrete poem.” This section establishes the first “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Chapter Two, equally vast in scope, works toward merging the authorial currents of “prophecy” and “auto­ biography.” One is not quite certain why these are necessarily “antagonistic” at the outset, but much significant other material develops along the way. The influence of courtly lyric and romance on Guillaume’s poetic voice forms the subject of Ch. 3, which also demon­ strates Guillaume the lover-poet’s parallel failure as another fulfilled prophecy—one of the most interesting insights. Ch. 4 and the Postscript complete the case for Guillaume’s delib­ erately unfinished ending to, in a sense, force a future continuation. Like Narcissus, then, Guillaume wished to have his own self-perpetuating fountain. Vol.XXVII, No. 1 127 Unlike many books propounding daring theses, Hult’s work will prove stimulating not only for recondite Rhodophiles but also for advanced students of literature, who will no doubt appreciate his very accessible background information on classical, medieval and modern literary theory, history, and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 127-128
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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