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  • Codex as CriticOne Manuscript's Dialogue with the Romance of the Rose

Few manuscripts explore Jean de Meun's philosophical anthropology—particularly its engagement with women and sexuality—as directly as does a mid-fourteenth-century miscellany preserved in the Bibliothèque municipale of Dijon, MS 525. Compiled by a scribe named Mathias du Rivau between 1355 and 1362, the miscellany includes a series of texts that either influenced Jean's Rose, or were influenced by it. Satiric and moral in nature, these texts form a counterpoint to the Rose that riffs on Jean's concept of dialectical opposites—contraires choses—particularly in the closing sections (as suggested by Mathias's marginal annotations). Key to the critical dynamic of the miscellany is a group of four texts—identified as prosa mulierum—immediately following the end of the Rose. Scholars who have studied this manuscript have dismissed these texts as misogynistic or even (anachronistically) "anti-feminist." Such readings ignore the dialectical context of Dijon 525. Above all, they ignore the nuanced way that the prosa mulierum engage the disparate panoply of Jean de Meun's perspectives on the subject.

Ainsi va des contraires chosesles unes sont les autres gloses;et qui l'une en veult definir,de l'autre li doit souvenir…

Roman de la Rose, BM Dijon, MS 525, f. 111v

"In the ironic moment, my practical

knowledge is disrupted… I am

brought to a halt."

Jonathan Lear, A Case for Irony [End Page 90]

I. The Parchment Heritage Redivivus

"The digitization of the parchment heritage" has had a profound impact on the way we read the literature of our period.1 Thanks to this technology, we now have two means of accessing medieval French texts. On the one hand, we have critical print editions in their various permutations, ranging from the imposing volumes of the Société des Anciens Textes Français, to the somber grey Classiques Français du Moyen Âge from Champion, or the elegant soft leather bindings of the Pléiade, to the more colorful bilingual Lettres Gothiques editions. When we think of medieval French literature, it's most likely these editions that spring to mind.

But, progressively, over the last two decades, we've had a very different kind of access to medieval texts. This mode offers high-resolution digital images of medieval manuscript versions of works available to anyone with a computer. These versions exist on websites that offer full functionality for searching, panning, zooming, and, now, the ability to compare manuscripts from different sites in the same browser window, at least in the case of repositories that have interoperable functionality.

Without fear of exaggeration, one can say that the difference between these two modes of access—the critical edition and the digital manuscript version—is epistemic: they represent not only different reading experiences, but different ways of viewing and thinking about medieval literary works. Whereas it is the purpose of the critical edition to reduce data variables by stripping away "non-textual components" in order to capture a fixed text, digital manuscript repositories do just the opposite. They increase the data variables that reading protocols have to take into account.

As Figures 1 and 2 demonstrate, the literary text on the page of a critical edition looks very different from the "same" passage in a manuscript version. Whereas the page of the critical edition presents only the literary text—showing textual variants from a few other manuscripts—the manuscript folio embeds the text in a multimedia context that is both varied and unique. The context may or may not have miniature paintings (illuminations), but it will have rubrics—akin to modern "call outs" and captions, always in red ink—decorated or historiated initials, and marginal decorations. And the one thing that all medieval manuscripts have in common is that each is a unique product of skilled artisans.

Unlike the printed edition, a manuscript version is not text-centered, but an environment where literary text, visual images, rubrics and decorated [End Page 91] initials dance on the manuscript page in an intricate choreography. It is a mise-en-page where looking and reading are twin modes of discernment. But does it do more than render the task of reading a bit more complex as one interprets the text/image dynamic? In short, does it differ qualitatively from reading the same work in a critical edition?

Fig. 1. Description of "Uncourtly" Personifications: Haine, Felonie, Vilanie, Covoitise in lines 137–71 of Ernest Langlois's edition of the Roman de la Rose.
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Fig. 1.

Description of "Uncourtly" Personifications: Haine, Felonie, Vilanie, Covoitise in lines 137–71 of Ernest Langlois's edition of the Roman de la Rose.

The short answer is yes, very much so. To name but a few key differences: first, each manuscript version inserts the literary text in a unique historical and cultural context different from other versions of the "same" text. Whereas the "original" work reflects the milieu and moment of its poet, a manuscript version—produced decades or centuries later—refracts the work through the time and culture of the scribe(s) and artist(s) who plan and execute it. And that time and culture may be very different from the historical moment in which the original poet(s) lived. In addition, in the case of a popular vernacular literary work where demand drove the production of manuscript versions, reader reception and reaction could affect the versioning process. From this perspective, the Roman de la Rose, with its three hundred-odd manuscripts [End Page 92]

Fig. 2. Le Roman de la Rose, Textual Descriptions and Images of "Uncourtly Personifications: Haine, Felonie et Vilainie, Couvoitise. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Cod. Gall. 80, f. 2r. BPK, Berlin / Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin /Art Resource, NY.
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Fig. 2.

Le Roman de la Rose, Textual Descriptions and Images of "Uncourtly Personifications: Haine, Felonie et Vilainie, Couvoitise. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Cod. Gall. 80, f. 2r. BPK, Berlin / Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin /Art Resource, NY.

[End Page 93] produced over a period of more than two hundred years, offers a particularly interesting and complex case study.

Originally the work of two poets writing some fifty years apart, c. 1230 and c. 1280—a half-century that witnessed enormous intellectual and historical changes in Paris—its over 21,000 lines come to us in variously configured parchment books, some containing just the Rose, while others include additional works as well. Of course, the versioning process by itself is only a proximate, rather than a necessary, condition for the differences found in Rose manuscripts. Complexity, ambiguity, and heterodox views (particularly in Jean de Meun's continuation) assured the work a mixed and often controversial reception from the moment Jean completed it.

Writing in the still largely pastoral frame of the early thirteenth century, Guillaume de Lorris, the first poet, conceived an original allegorical reinterpretation of the love quest as elaborated in courtly lyric and romance of the late twelfth century. The psychic narrative conceived for his fictive lover by Guillaume takes place in an idealized sylvan setting: an hortus conclusus whose high walls keep the real world at bay. Perhaps because of his premature death, Guillaume's poem breaks off after some 4,000 lines.

Jean de Meun, a Parisian intellectual and fierce partisan in the internecine disputes of the Sorbonne, as well as a proponent of new scientific and philosophical movements of the thirteenth century, transforms Guillaume's modest allegorical pastoral in astonishing ways. To begin with, he overlays Guillaume's original account of the Lover's quest for the ideal woman, personified as a rose bud espied in the Garden of Love (Jardin de Déduit), with over 17,000 lines not of narrative quest, but of intellectual debate that does not shy from sexual innuendo, explicit terms for genitalia, or espousing scandalous (for the times) ideas—free love, for example. The debates pit the Lover against a series of personified caricatures ranging from philosophical concepts (e.g., Raison / Reason, Amor / the God of Love, Faux Semblant / False Seeming), to topoi (e.g. La vieille / the Old Woman, Le Jaloux / the Jealous Husband, Male Bouche / Evil Tongue, Bel Acueil / Fair Welcome), to the allegorical figures, Nature and Génius, who proclaim heterodox doctrines on life, love, and death.

The Lover is the ostensible interlocutor for a series of metaphysical excurses that combine classical myth, history, and contemporary philosophical debates notable for their scandalous propositions, bordering in places on heresy (or so some of Jean's contemporaries averred). While ostensibly maintaining the narrative conceit initiated by Guillaume, Jean [End Page 94] de Meun offers as brilliant (and extended) an illustration of scholastic dialectic as one may find in medieval vernacular literature. In so doing, however, he unleashes the cold blast of skeptical polemic on the Garden of Love, as portrayed however ironically by Guillaume de Lorris and his idealized concept of woman, whom Jean perceives, on the contrary, as an object of male desire necessary for procreation. It is important to understand that the philosophical disquisitions addressed to the Lover by the personifications mentioned above—Ami (Friend), le Jaloux (the Jealous Husband), Richece (Wealth), Amour (the God of Love), Nature, Génius, Vénus, etc.—succeed one another in cascading and sometimes contradictory opinions. Since the Lover encounters these figures in his quest for access to his beloved Rose, we should not be surprised that the philosophical views espoused by the characters canvas a variety of perspectives on love in general, and the nature of women in particular. The parrhesia—bold or even scandalous speech—in some cases cannot fail to provoke reaction on readers, and, consequently, varied interpretations in the 300 or so versions.2

Since no original manuscript of either Guillaume's initial poem or Jean's continuation survives, we have only subsequent manuscript versions by which to appreciate the work. Given the originality of Guillaume's poem, and Jean's polemical continuation steeped in the roiling waters of Parisian intellectual politics of the 1270s and '80s, the Rose encourages a variety of performative interpretations, as we can see in manuscript versions of the Rose over the next several centuries. From one decade to the next, the increasing numbers of manuscripts of this popular—and progressively controversial—work morph to reflect evolving cultural and aesthetic norms, while admitting rubrics, interpolations, and visual images that infuse each version with contemporary poetics and, often, politics. The first difference between manuscripts and a critical edition, then, is the status of the work itself. Whereas the latter seeks to construct a fixed text, a text seeking to reconstruct the "original" work from manuscript "witnesses," the versions of the Rose that we find in extant manuscripts offer performances or interpretations of the work each different from the other. Cumulatively, they constitute the work, as medieval readers encountered it: in subtly varied renditions.

There's a second, more dramatic difference between a modern critical edition and a manuscript version of a vernacular work like the Rose. Whereas both the modern edition and a manuscript version play a meta-critical role vis-à-vis the work they represent, and both offer a particular reading of it, only the codex offers insight into how the work was performed at a given moment and context. Manuscript versions of a given [End Page 95] work offer different renditions with different rubrics, paintings, even sequencing in some instances. And, in the absence of a holograph text, each new version was executed without reference to an original. That comes as a matter of course in a pre-print culture, where a manuscript version was the work so far as a given medieval reader was concerned. Very much like readers today, they wanted an up-to-date rendition. That meant one whose art, graphics, and scribal hand(s) were contemporary. Each time a vernacular work, or an ancient text, or a Bible was produced, it assumed a contemporary form. It follows logically from this that manuscripts had the dual function of, first, recreating the text in a multi-media format—though the latter need not include paintings—and, secondly, of performing it as a "self-conscious meta-critical reflection on the idea of the 'work'" (Nichols, The Whole Book).

Such reflection was not always confined to presenting the work by itself, however. Another genre of codex, called a miscellany, aggregates works of various lengths and topics. The name implies that they contain a random (miscellaneous) gathering of works. In fact, multi-work codices—especially those produced by the same scribe—rarely constitute random groupings. One often finds an organizing principle at work, and that principle simply intensifies what I referred to above as the "self-conscious meta-critical reflection on the idea of the 'work'."3 Of course in the case of a miscellany we need to emend the phrase to read a "self-conscious meta-critical reflection on the idea of the 'works'" in relation to one-another. In short, the miscellany multiplies occasions for comparative reflection. In the space remaining, I want to discuss one such codex.

II. Constructing the Codex

Manuscript 525 of the Bibliothèque Municipale de Dijon is a poetic miscellany produced in two stages, the first being a version (c.1335) of the Roman de la Rose followed by four short works. Between the years 1355 and 1362, this manuscript was appropriated by a scribe who added twelve more works to the original version, thereby giving the codex an entirely new form and meaning.4 The scribe who planned and executed this transformation was a scribe called Mathias du Rivau, a native of Poitou.5 Gaston Paris provided the first notice of the manuscript, then known as Bibliothèque de Dijon 298 in the Bulletin de la Société des anciens textes (Paris 44–49). Of the seventeen works from the two phases—fifteen remain today—those not in Mathias's hand are the first and longest of the codex, the Roman de la Rose (ff. 4r–112v), and [End Page 96] four short works immediately following: L'epistre des femes (f. 113r–vd), L'evangile des femes (ff. 113vd–114ra), Motet des femes (f. 114rb) Centilogium Jehan de Meun (f. 114rb–va).6

This means that, although Mathias planned and executed the codex as we have it, the first section, beginning with the Rose, and followed by four short texts (folios 113r–114v) on the topic of women—apres est prosa mulierum (f. 1v)7—dates from several decades before he undertook his project in 1355.8 This is a key point, for at least two reasons. First, the Rose is the motivating force and the principle of inclusion for all the other works in Dijon 525, which means, secondly, that Mathias sought a copy of the Rose that he could place at the head of his miscellany as a reference for the works that follow. Indeed, the distinctive aspect of this codex is the critical intelligence behind its choice of texts whose force and focus spring from their dialogue with the Rose. In short, the codex consists of the Rose, and seventeen (now fifteen) works whose meaning in this framework differs from what they might be in a different setting.9 Why is that the case? Or, rather, how can the multi-work codex affect the meaning of works it incorporates?

It does so in at least three ways. In the first instance, the simple fact of choosing to incorporate x rather than y immediately confers a distinction on x as having a special significance for the logic of this codex. X therefore assumes a situational inflection that it would not possess in another setting. Secondly, the manuscript structure of the content establishes a relational sequencing, which reveals that the master scribe conceives an underlying intentionality for the manuscript.10 Once the works take their place in the planned sequence, a third influence of the codex on their meaning emerges. As readers encounter them, they discern at least two levels of signification: a basic sense apprehended from reading the texts themselves—meanings one might perceive irrespective of setting—and another more complex sense derived from the cumulative perception of all the texts in the codex.

By positioning the Rose as the first (and longest) work in Dijon 525, Mathias du Rivau renders the meta-critical dialectic among the works even more dynamic. In effect, he positions the Rose as the masterwork of the codex, whose multiple dimensions will be targeted by the texts that follow. Reading the later works, we quickly recognize that they address varied aspects of the Rose.11 This being so, the first question we need to ask is why the first section of the manuscript is the only part of the codex not in Mathias du Rivau's hand? Sylvia Huot suggested some years ago that Mathias obtained a pre-existing Rose to serve his purpose.12 Were the Rose the only work in the first section, one might [End Page 97] argue that, given the critical aim of Mathias's project, "importing" the masterwork would allow him to create a zone of critical differentiation between it and the texts that follow. But that would be to ignore the prosa mulierum that fill out the two folios remaining in the gathering located at the end of the Rose (ff. 113r–114v). The texts are unusual, even unique to this codex—and, I would argue, explain what attracted Mathias to this particular manuscript in the first place. The "Motet des femes" (O bicornix / A touz jours / Virgo Dei genitrix) has not been found elsewhere, and Dijon 525's version of the Epistre des femes is distinctive. We will return to these works in a moment, when I will argue their crucial role in the inception of Mathias's project.

First, however, I want to suggest that when Mathias "acquired a ready-made" copy of the Rose, as Sylvia Huot puts it, it was not simply an exemplum of the masterwork that he obtained for his purposes, but the purpose itself. I'm not referring simply to the Rose, though that, of course, was of paramount importance for Mathias's plan.13 But even more intriguing for him, perhaps, were the four prosa mulierum on folios 113r–114v. Intriguing, I would argue, because Mathias must have recognized that when his anonymous precursor included the four prosa mulierum at what was the end of his manuscript, he effectively transformed those two folios into a critical zone of differentiation. This means that the four texts have an importance that has gone largely unrecognized.14 Or, rather, they have simply been taken for granted as antifeminist resonances from Jean de Meun. John Haines, for example, observes: "this remarkable motet against women, possibly written and even composed by Jean de Meun, brings out a medieval antifeminism seldom found so candidly expressed in song…." (Haines 38). Sylvia Huot echoes Gaston Paris, Ernest Langlois, and Henri Omont in characterizing the prosa mulierum as "all strongly antifeminist" (Huot 76).

Misogyny is indeed a medieval trait, but antifeminism—with its modern ideological overtones—is anachronistic, leading readers to project modern ideology back onto medieval texts. In the case of these pieces, for example, it fails to see the dialectic that takes its cue from Jean's work, and then ironically disrupts it. That is the critical dynamic Mathias perceived in the work he found, and then elaborated in the execution of Dijon 525. By labeling the prosa mulierum as antifeminist, critics miss both the nuanced differences between the four pieces and their dialogue with the masterwork. Perhaps most ironically, while recognizing these texts as reminiscent of the Rose, the critics seem to have overlooked the shifting sands of meaning—and appearance—on which Jean de Meun constructs his narrative. [End Page 98]

Fig. 3. Le Roman de la Rose, Marginal Annotations by Scribe, Mathias du Rivau. Bibliothèque municipale de Dijon, MS 525, f. 111v.
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Fig. 3.

Le Roman de la Rose, Marginal Annotations by Scribe, Mathias du Rivau. Bibliothèque municipale de Dijon, MS 525, f. 111v.

Consider folio 111v of our manuscript, for example (Fig. 3), just one folio before the Rose ends (f. 112v) and the prosa mulierum begin on folio 113r. Sylvia Huot has pointed to Mathias's habit of annotating passages of interest to him in Dijon 525.15 As she notes, this habit begins in the elaborate table of contents he constructed for the manuscript. Here on f. 111v, we find two annotations in Mathias's distinctive red ink: one signaling a couplet in the first column (Fig. 4), the other a more extensive passage on column two (Fig. 5). [End Page 99]

Fig. 4. Mathias du Rivau highlights a couplet on deceit in love. Bibliothèque municipale de Dijon, MS 525, f. 111vc (detail 1).
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Fig. 4.

Mathias du Rivau highlights a couplet on deceit in love. Bibliothèque municipale de Dijon, MS 525, f. 111vc (detail 1).

Touz jours cuide chascune weilleQue chascun decevoir la weille.

(f. 111vc)

Every old woman thinks that everyone wants to deceive her.16

This first passage—a couplet in the form of a proverb—sums up the long episode that begins with Bel Accueil's acceding to the request of Venus to reward the Lover's long quest by allowing him to "cueillir la Rose" ("pluck the Rose"; f. 110vc). The lover, now rhetorically cast as a pilgrim begins to enumerate his "equipment," notably his pilgrim's staff, "royde et fort" ("stiff and strong"; f. 110vc) and wallet of softest leather hanging from his belt. Nature, he tells us, made them for him at her forge:

Nature qui les me bailla,Des lors que primes les tailla,Soustilment forgiez y avoit,Comme celle qui forgiez y savoit,Mieulz qu'onques Dedalus ne sot […]

(f. 110vd)

Nature furnished me with them just as soon as she'd shaped them, having forged them ever so delicately—better than Daedalus would have known how to do.… [End Page 100]

Nature, the Lover assures us, meant him to make good use of this equipment, which he gladly does as he makes his way using his staff to plunge into ditches "ou je ne voy goute" ("where I can't see a thing"; f. 110vd). There is much more of this kind of thinly veiled periphrasis alluding to the Lover's use of the staff and purse with which Nature has endowed him. At the most basic level, the sexually charged integument belongs to the narrative of the Lover's long quest, with the sexual innuendo leaving little doubt as to the outcome. On another level, the extended troping of pilgrimage as sexual escapade is the first of several sections at the end of the Rose to play upon the ways in which eroticism exploits linguistic deceit. It is not surprising then to find Jean adding still more examples of the duplicity of l'art d'amor to the final episodes of the Rose.17 More pointedly, this is a reprise of the (by now) far-off dispute between Reason and the Lover regarding the etiquette of naming sexual organs.18

The dispute, we recall, occurred at the beginning of Jean de Meun's continuation when the Lover reproaches Reason for having referred to Saturn's couilles 'balls' in a passage where Reason—intent on explaining the superiority of love (agape) over justice—cites the myth of the birth of Venus, a by-blow of Jupiter's castrating his father, Saturn.

Iustice qui jadis regnoitAu temps que Saturnus regne avoit,Cui Jupiter copa les couilles,Son filz com si fussent andouilles—Moult ot cy dur filz et amer—Et puis les gieta en la merDont Venus la deesse issa,Car le livre le dit ainsi….

(f. 30vd)

Long ago, when Justice ruled, in the time of Saturn's reign, he whose balls Jupiter, his son, cut off as though they were sausages—what a hard and bitter son was he—and threw in the sea whence Venus emerged, just as the book tells us….

The Lover does not react immediately to Reason's story, intent as he is on arguing against her insistence on substituting agape for Eros. Then suddenly, on folio 31vc, some 156 lines later, the Lover expresses his disgust for Reason's indecorous use of the term "couilles:"

Mais or vous ouy nommer cy,Si com me semble, une paroleSi esbaulevree et si foleQue qui vouldroit a ce muser [End Page 101] A vous en prendre a encuser,L'en n'y porroit trouver defenses.

(f. 31vc–d)

But I heard you name here, as it seems to me, a word so shameless and crazy that whoever wanted to reflect on accusing you, one would never be able to find a defense.

Significantly, the Lover does not himself mention the word in question, but Reason immediately grasps the allusion.

Bien voy certes a quoy tu pensesUne autre foiz quant tu voulroisExcusacion en orrasS'il te plaist ramentevoir.

(f. 31vd)

I see clearly what you're alluding to. Some other time, at your pleasure, You'll hear my rationale, if it suits you to remember.

Key to Reason's response is the term ramentevoir, 'to recall, recollect.' It both postpones a rationale for her choice of words to an indefinite future, and places the burden for seeking the promised explanation on the Lover. Instead, the lover insists on an immediate explanation, which plunges them into an argument about the propriety of referring to sexual organs by their proper names (Reason), as opposed to referring to them euphemistically or by periphrasis (the Lover).

When the Lover quits the company of Reason to pursue his quest, one imagines that he has put the latter's lapse of linguistic decorum behind him. Certainly, we have no reason to expect a reprise of their debate at the end of the poem. Yet, slyly, that's just what Jean de Meun does do in choosing the moment of the Lover's conquest of the Rose to recall (ramentevoir) his debate with Reason about plain speech vs. periphrasis. This time it is the Lover's turn to choose the linguistic register for speaking of sexual organs and exploits. Not surprisingly, he chooses the elaborate (if labored) metaphor of religious pilgrimage with which to couch his erotic narrative. However amusing as a linguistic exercise the Lover's long periphrastic description of his sexual organs and amorous adventures may be, one soon tires of the exercise… which is what Jean intends. It is not that he is siding with Reason's insistence on plain speaking—he knows that both direct and indirect description have their place. Reprising the debate in this manner, however, allows him both to expose the Lover's naïveté (and self-deception), and to bring the narrative full-cycle, back to the beginning.19 It also emphasizes his focus on deceit—and the penchant for self-deception—in the language of love. [End Page 102]

Which brings our inquiry back to its point of departure with the epigram (Fig. 4) that Mathias du Rivau singles out by his marginal notation:

Touz jours cuide chascune weilleQue chascun decevoir la weille.

(f. 111vc)20

Every old woman thinks that everyone wants to deceive her.

Mathias must have noted, as we do, how Jean's rhetoric transforms an unremarkable proverb into a cleverly turned epigram redolent of equivocation. Thus, the repetition of the pronouns chascune/chascun, whose differentiation infuses a sly gender tension, the verb cuide ('thinks') that saps the force of decevoir ('to deceive'), and the incongruous homonyms weille (vieille, 'old woman') and weille (vouloir, 'to want or wish to'), all hint at the duplicity and psychological slipperiness that Jean de Meun perceives and inscribes in l'art d'amours.

The second passage (Fig. 5) that Mathias highlighted on the margin of folio 111vd of his copy of the Rose follows closely on the first. Reading it, one recognizes, in more elaborated form, the sardonic candor of the first couplet.

Aussi sachiez et n'en doubtez,Qui du mal assoie n'aura,Ja du bien gueres ne saura;Qui ne scet de honneur que monte,Ja ne saura congnoistre honte;Onq nuls ne sot quel chose est aise,S'il n'ot avant aprins mesaise;Nuls n'est pas digne d'aise avoir,Qui ne vault mesaise savoir;Qui mesaise ne scet souffrir,Nuls ne li devroit aise offrir.Ainsi va des contraires choses,Les unes sont des autres gloses;Et qui l'une en vault defenir,De l'autre li doit souvenir,Ou ja par nule entencion,N'i mettre diffinicion.Car qui des .ii. n'a congnoissance,Ja n'i connoistra difference;Sanz quoy ne peut venir en place,Diffinicion que l'en face.

(f. 111vd)21 [End Page 103]

Fig. 5. Mathias du Rivau highlights poets' philosophy of definition by comparing opposites. Bibliothèque municipale de Dijon, MS 525, f. 111vd (detail 2).
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Fig. 5.

Mathias du Rivau highlights poets' philosophy of definition by comparing opposites. Bibliothèque municipale de Dijon, MS 525, f. 111vd (detail 2).

Now hear this and do not doubt it: He who won't make trial of evil, will never find out what good is. He who knows nothing about honor, will never recognize shame. No man can understood comfort, who hasn't experienced discomfort. No one's worthy of being well off, who's afraid of adversity; and no one should offer to help those who can't bear misfortune. That's how opposites work: each explains the other. Whoever wants to define the one, must keep the other in mind, or else he'll never reach a definition, no matter how hard he tries. For without knowing them both, you can't recognize difference… definitions depend on difference.

III. Dialectic of Contrary Things

With these exemplary oppositions, Jean sketches his philosophy of life embraced to the fullest extent, as opposed to the sheltered life of Guillaume's walled garden ruled by Amour's restrictive code of conduct. Jean holds that if one cannot escape the contingency of life, it should at least be possible, on the condition of embracing a full range of experiences, to describe and define it. In short, Jean substitutes critical intelligence for Guillaume's rule-governed garden.22 Unlike the latter, he embraces comparative experiences of contraires choses ("contrary [End Page 104] things") or difference; it is not an art d'amours he seeks, then, but antinomian definitions and descriptions.

When Jean writes, "Sanz quoy ne peut venir en place / Diffinicion" ("Without difference definitions can't happen"), he identifies the space of differentiation that allows critical intelligence to function. Les contraires choses are an important component of critical intelligence, at least the kind that allows Jean de Meun to invoke the differentiating dynamic that allows him to transform Guillaume's Rose into a wide-ranging philosophical inquiry. We've also seen how critical differentiation allows Jean to juxtapose episodes like the Lover's debate with Reason about linguistic propriety and the much later periphrastic description of the Lover's pilgrimage and success in attaining his goal. If one had to choose a single example of critical differentiation, however, it would be difficult to find one more abrupt than the rupture made by the contrast of the last line of the work with those immediately preceding. The latter—as though to remind readers of how drastically Jean has departed from the format and premises of his predecessor—reprises Guillaume's dream allegory with its conceit of rosebush, the rosebud, and rose:

Ains que d'iluec me remuasseOu mon weil encore demeurasse,Par grant jolivetie cueilliLa fleur du beau rosier fueilli,Ainsi oi la rose vermeille.A tant fu jour et je m'esvueille.

(f. 212vd)

Before I took myself thence where I'd still like to stay, with great joy I plucked the flower from the beautiful leafy rosebush, and now I have the bright red rose. Then it was day and I awoke.

While the last line would seem to follow logically from those preceding—especially since Jean rhymes "la rose vermeille" with "et je m'esvueille"—it has the opposite effect. An effect signaled, one might add, by the different realms that vermeille and m'esvueille inhabit: the one being tied to the dream conceit of the allegorical garden and dream, the other to the poet's waking world. The rupture of the last line has an even more striking origin, however. It represents a switch in linguistic register between Jean and Guillaume. Jean did this in reverse when he began his continuation (f. 23rb)23 without alerting the reader to the change in authorship; indeed he delayed announcing his presence for some six thousand lines. Here the final line flashes back to Guillaume's prologue: [End Page 105]

Au vintiesme an de mon aage,Ou point que amours prent le peageDes jeunes gens couchiez m'estoieUne nuit si com je souloie,Et me dormoye moult forment.Si vi .i. songe en mon dormant,Qui moult fu bel et moult me plot.Mais en cel songe onques riens n'ot,Que avenue trestot [ne soit]

(f. 4ra)24

In my twentieth year—the age when love takes a toll on young people—I went to bed one night, as was my wont, and fell into a deep sleep. Then I saw a dream while sleeping, which was very beautiful, and pleased me greatly. But in this dream nothing occurred, which did not soon come to pass….

In single work codices, or in miscellanies where the individual pieces do not have the dialogic linkage characteristic of Dijon 525, the final line would still represent a rupture sending us back to the opening lines of Guillaume's narrative. It would also signal Jean's sly reversion to Guillaume's narrative code, by way of a last reminder to the reader of the critical differentiation Jean imposed between his work and Guillaume's. It's an arrogant gesture, if you will, indicating the ease with which Jean can appropriate or discard Guillaume's narrative and its premises.

But Dijon 525 is not a single-work codex, and even before Mathias du Rivau acquired it for his purposes, there were still the four prosa mulierum filling the last two folios (113r–114v). For these texts, the instances of critical differentiation implicated in the doctrine of contraires choses that Mathias highlighted in the final folios of the Rose set the theme for the prosa mulierum, and through them, of the texts he chose for his dialogue with the Rose. While space does not permit describing Mathias's choices at length, let me briefly underscore their adherence to the contraires choses thematic, before looking at the nature of the prosa mulierum from the first phase of Dijon 525.

Note nine gives a complete list of the contents of Dijon 525 as well as the placement of the pieces in the codex. Having discussed the dialectical relationship between the Rose and the moralizing and satiric Roman de Fauvel of Gervais de Bus (ff. 158bis–164r) in a book chapter, "Variance as Dynamic Reading," I won't say more here (Nichols, From Parchment to Cyberspace, ch. 5). The other pieces also display satiric and moralizing themes (often concerning women) and are either by Jean de Meun, or were ascribed to him, or else served as models for him [End Page 106] (e.g., Boethius and the Recluse of Molliens) or, if successors, channel or repurpose themes from his Rose. In the first two categories, we find the Centilogium magistri Johannis De Moduno (f. 114–114v), C'est le testament maistre Jehan de Meun (ff. 115–25), C'est le brief maistre Jehan de Meun, qui fist le Romans de la Rose (ff. 164r–165), the letters of Peter Abelard and Heloise (whose vernacular translation was ascribed to Jean de Meun), and Boesce, De consolacion, in the translation ascribed to Jean de Meun (ff. 201r–221).

Those serving as models for Jean or who channel him are Chaton [Cato] en françoys (ff. 125v–128v); two works by the early thirteenth-century Reclus de Molliens (Le Roman de Miserere, ff. 129–45, and Le Roman de Charité, ff. 145bis–158); Jean de Justice, L'Advocacie Nostre Dame (ff. 166–177v), L'Evangile de Nicodème (ff. 178–184v), and Jacques de Cessoles, C'est le jeu des eschaz (ff. 185–200v). Taken as a group, the works assembled by Matthias de Rivau all share moral philosophical or religious themes often cast in dialectical terms characteristic of Jean's contraires choses. As is the case for Jean's Rose, or for the four prosa mulierum, readers must pay close attention to rhetorical structure and resist hasty categorization, as we will now discover.

Now let's return to the prosa mulierum of the final two folios of the original Rose manuscript. As a reminder, the works in question are: L'Epistre des femes (f. 113r–vd), L'Evangile des femes (f. 113vd–114ra), Motet des fames (f. 114rb), and Centilogium Jehan de Meun (f. 114rb–va). We saw that the several scholars who have written about this manuscript—notably, Gaston Paris, Henri Omont, Sylvia Huot, and John Haines—concur in characterizing the prosa mulierum as "antifeminist," and even demonstrating "unmitigated misogyny."25 That the texts in question have harsh things to say about women is undeniable. That plus their association with Jean de Meun—also evident—has undoubtedly led them to share his reputation for misogyny. In the case of Paris, Omont, and Huot, who did not linger over the prosa mulierum when looking at Dijon 525, their judgment is understandable. But Haines has written the only detailed study of the material to date—at least the Motet and the Centilogium—so his characterization suggests an ideological, rather than a nuanced reading.26 The reason for this lies, I think, in the fact that Haines, like the others, considered primarily the most strident elements of the poems without taking account their interaction with other, very different aspects of these texts. Which might explain why the contraires choses expressed in the very same poems don't get a hearing. In short, scholars have not taken their cue from Mathias's annotations in the final folios of his Rose to note the critical differentiation [End Page 107] that structures the prosa mulierum. And since at least two have been attributed to Jean de Meun, while the association of the other two with him has been affirmed, why would they not also make use of critical differentiation in their dynamics just as he does?27

These are questions requiring a dedicated article to answer properly. For now, by way of conclusion, let me simply introduce aspects of these four texts that have not been addressed previously, but which suggest that, however much the harsher passages clash with contemporary sensibility, they at least belong to a branch of philosophical anthropology current in the fourteenth century whose purpose was not to diminish, but to define personhood using fourteenth-century criteria.28 This meant taking a cue from Genesis by distinguishing male from female, humans from higher beings, and pre-from post-lapsarian life. In this scenario, humans are flawed, fair game for ridicule, and often perceived through stereotypes. Fabliaux, dits, and proverbs provide ready-made forms that exploit such stereotypes. They cater to the views of popular audiences, so it's not surprising to find that dits and fabliaux "share a frank and idiomatic tone…and a vocabulary that addresses…everyday matters" (and prejudices; see (Fiero et al. xi). These genres are didactic, and their rhetoric is not ours, so it's not particularly useful to judge them by our contemporary codes.

Since these popular works tend to be preserved in manuscript collections, often compiled by a scribe with at least a general organizing scheme in mind, they must be considered in the context of the codex where they appear. This is certainly the case of the first of the prosa mulierum, which Dijon 525 designates as L'Espistre des femes (Fig. 6). Four versions of this dit survive, two in Paris, two in Dijon and Besançon.29 Dijon 525 is the only one to designate the dit as espistre. Both Paris witnesses, however, call it La contenance des famescontenance in the period denoting 'conduct,' 'behavior,' 'appearance,' 'visage' (Godefroy). Since Besançon 592, a later manuscript, gives no designation, scholarly consensus accepts the Paris title, whence the rendering, The Ways of Women, adopted by Professor Fiero and her colleagues in their edition and translation of the dit in Dijon 525.30

The two Paris versions occur in codices whose organizational principles are very different from each other, but equally cogent for the purpose of illuminating the sequence of prosa mulierum in our codex. In Paris 1593, for example, the Contenance, appears in a mixed collection of popular genres, e.g. fabliaux, a selection from the Roman de Renart, dits (including La Blasme des fames, a dit in a similar vein as [End Page 108]

Fig. 6. L'Epistre des femes. Bibliothèque municipale de Dijon, MS 525, f. 113r.
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Fig. 6.

L'Epistre des femes. Bibliothèque municipale de Dijon, MS 525, f. 113r.

[End Page 109] the Contenance), as well as Fables by Marie de France, and a selection of poems by Rutebeuf. In other words, the works all inhabit the frontier between oral folk tales and their poetic reworkings for the purpose of divertissement. Marie de France, we recall, describes that frontier with engaging frankness in the Prologue to her Lais:

Des lais pensai, k'oïez aveie.Ne dutai pas, bien le saveie,Ke pur remambreance les firentDes aventures k'il orient,Cil ki primes les commencierentE ki avant les enveierent.Plusurs en ai oï conter,Nes voil laissier ne oblier.Rimé en ai e fait ditié….

(vv. 33–41)31

I thought of the lays that I had heard. / I did not doubt it, I knew well, / That for remembrance they had made them / Of the adventures they had heard, / Those who first began them / and sent them on ahead. / I have heard a number related, / I don't want to leave them or forget them. / I have put them into rhyme and made poems out of them.

The second Paris codex, BnF, fr. 12483, illustrates the reason vernacular manuscript study is so fascinating. Even though it's ostensibly a miscellany of popular works like BnF, fr. 1593, the structuring principle of BnF, fr. 12483 is very different. In 1916, Arthur Lånfors named it the "Rosarius" because the "anonymous compiler consciously created a 'rosary' of pieces in honor of the Virgin Mary."32 This is particularly germane to our inquiry because the prosa mulierum demonstrate the same combination of secular and sacred, or, more accurately, the same correlation between fames, 'women' as descendants of Eva, and Eve's transfiguration by Ave, the Virgin Mary. As moderns, we are so accustomed to sacred and secular as separate spheres that it is hard to imagine them as unselfconsciously co-extensive as a homeomorphic continuum of secular/sacred experience.33 The Eva/Ave reversal is just such a continuum, and it is also consistent with Jean de Meun's definition of contraires choses, each of which is imbricated in defining the other. In other words, sacred self, secular self, secular other, and sacred other, all distribute along the same single-bounded space.

As though signaling a mile marker on the continuum of sacred and secular space, the "Rosarius" scribe introduces the Contenance as a [End Page 110] mignotise,34 thus defining the dit and its role in his rosary of works in honor of the Virgin. Like Marie de France, the Rosarius scribe also gives his source as an anonymous truber, the kind of poet who gave live—hence oral—performances for audiences in public venues, such as taverns, town squares, and courts.

Des mignotises vos diraiEt des contenances des dames;Combien que soient preudfamezIl i a trop de mignotiseUns trubers einsi le devise:S'uns hons quenoissoit l'avantage….35

I will tell you of the coquetry / and the conduct of women; / however worthy they may be, / there is too much affectation [in them]. / A trouvère puts it this way: / "If men understood the advantage.…

There is neither space nor reason to quote the 176 lines of the Contenance des fames. The opening lines are particularly important, however, for they frame the dit squarely within the dialectic of secular/spiritual definition. We'll also look at some other lines representative of the oral and popular milieu of the genre, before noting the moral tone on which the poem concludes. The editors of this edition translate the Contenance's title as The Ways of Women.

Se homs cognoissoit l'avantageQue Dieux quant le fist a s'ymageLi donna—ce fu congnoissance—Moult auroit au cuer grant poissanceQuant d'en usier ne sauroit rien 5A decevrier le mal du bien.Cilz a congnoissance perdueQui du bien au mal se remue,Et met cuer et cors et avoirEn lieu don't ne le puet revoir; 10Et de franchise entre en servageEt son corps gaste en fol usageEt met sa pensee et sa cureEn feme, qui a petit cureComment aucune chose avieingne 15Mais qu'a son vouloir se contieingne.Si vous en diray la semblance,La maniere et la contenence; [End Page 111] Et ne le tieingne nul a fable:Moult a feme le cuer muable, 20Et tressaillant et dur et tender….36

If men understood the advantage / Of having been shaped in God's image, / With reason for their dower, / Their hearts will swell with power/ When they used it as they should / To distinguish bad from good. / He surely has lost his mind / Who would good in evil find, / Who invests heart and body and gain / Where they cannot be reclaimed; / Over freedom chooses slavery, / Wastes his body in debauchery, / Investing heart and mind / In frivolous womankind, / Who doesn't care a jot / For things that suit her not. / My poem to you conveys / Female manners, female ways; / And let none deem disreputable/That a woman's heart is mutable, / Fluttering from tender to cold….

The first six lines channel the creation story in Genesis.37 They do so to establish the Contenance as an extended meditation on its salient features. These are the acquisition by man of the power of knowledge when God said "Let us make man to our image and likeness;" and the misuse of that knowledge by confusing good with evil: "Quant d'en usier ne sauroit rien / A decevrier le mal du bien."38 Interestingly, though purportedly about women, the Contenance devotes the first thirteen lines to the many ways males have failed to behave rationally. Of course, their original and continuing mistake is to place that rationality in the service of women, as lines 13–16 make clear. If those lines point to Adam's original fault in heeding Eve's argument in favor of tasting the fruit, the rest of the Contenance elaborates on precisely why "a woman can't be more like a man," to quote Professor Henry Higgins.

The point of the anthropology in the Contenance is not misogyny, per se, but the way it channels transhistorical folk beliefs ingrained in culture. A number of proverbs about women have been identified in the dit, and it should not be difficult to find many more. Precisely because of the deep roots running from folk beliefs to the Contenance des fames, it is helpful to bear in mind the concept of the homeomorphic continuum discussed above. The dit never speaks about individuals, only about the collective abstract "man" homs, and equally collective abstraction, feme. In the manner of a Möbius band it begins with man, Se homs, and ends with a proverb about women addressed to men. Men and women are always on the same boundary, the same homeomorphic continuum. No matter how much the dit says about women, just as surely does it implicate men. After all, the traits attributed to women are not physiological, [End Page 112] but characterological. They are traits projected on women by men who find them first in themselves. Misogyny is a form of male exorcism.

To return, finally, to the biblical structure established for the Contenence at the beginning. The frame of the creation story explains the purpose of the extended meditation on the human failings first manifested in the Fall, but continuing down to the poem's present day. The meditation generates a theological metatext that fourteenth-century readers would not fail to grasp. Human failings can't be cured, in this scenario—they are innate since the Fall—but they can be overcome by faith in the contraires choses, things opposite to fallen humans but within their same bounded spiritual space: the woman, Mary (Ave), and the man, Christ.

There is much more to be said about the other prosa mulierum. And, in light of our last remarks about the Contenance des fames, one of the most striking examples of the juxtaposition of the power of Jean de Meun's contraires choses can be found in the third part or tenor of the motet—O bicornix / A touz jours / Virgo Dei genitrix—the third of the prosa mulierum. As we recall, this is the work described by John Haines so insistently as "antifeminist" (Haines n. 7). And yet, it closes with the Gregorian chant, Virgo Dei genitrix ("O Virgin Mother of God"), a Marian hymn sung in Roman Catholic churches to celebrate the feast days of the Virgin, particularly Assumption (August 15), and the Nativity of the Blessed Mother (September 8). What could be better suited than the motet structure to represent the polyphonic continuum of sacred and secular? And what better emblem of the continuum that Mathias du Rivau found in the manuscript of the Rose that he, like Jean de Meun continuing Guillaume de Lorris's poem, chose to complete with works reflecting his understanding of the defining power of des contraires choses?

Stephen G. Nichols
Johns Hopkins University


1. "Much has been written and spoken about the digital efflorescence of medieval studies in recent years. The field is hardly alone in its warm embrace of Humanities 2.0 and the exponential increase in information and data it has enabled. Nowhere are the quantitative dimensions of this transformation more apparent for medievalists than in the ongoing digitization of the parchment inheritance" (Holsinger).

2. Although Euripides first used the word parrhesia in the fifth century B.C.E., it appears in Christian theological texts as well. Its connotations range [End Page 113] from "free speech," to forceful expression of belief—where, at least in pre-modern times, belief and truth are held to be identical—to courageous speech, where speaking truth may be dangerous. In the Middle Ages, parrhesia occurs in courtly contexts for purposes of inculcating moral behavior, and tends to take the form of a dialogue. This is how Jean de Meun introduces it, where the authority figures—Raison, Ami, Nature, Génius, etc.—expound various ontologies meant to guide the lover. The fact that the moral code expressed in each case deviates from the mean to the extreme suggests another connotation of parrhesia, 'scandal.' Which is to say that Jean exploits parrhesia's parameters for parodic effect. On the concept of parrhesia, see the Berkeley lectures by Michel Foucault, "The Practice of Parrhesia," and "Techniques of Parrhesia" (Foucault).

3. For a discussion of "codex intentionality," see Nichols, "'Art' and 'Nature'".

4. Bibliothèque Municipale de Dijon 525 may be accessed at <;Dijon525>. Critics agree that with the exception of the first section—Le Roman de la Rose (ff. 4r–112v) and four short pieces about women (ff. 113r–114v)—a single scribe named Mathias du Rivau (see n. 5) copied the rest of the codex. Dating of the manuscript is precise thanks to inscriptions on folios 164r and 221r. Folio 164r: "Explicit iste liber, qui fuit inceptus, mediates et sic adimpletus Parisius, et etiam sic finitus in vico Boni Putei prope portam sancti Victoris circa nativitatem Domini, anno ejusdem M.CCC.LV." Folio 221r: "Cy finent les livres de Boesce Que j'ay escript a grant angoesce. Parisius in domo domini episcopi Ambianensis. anno.m.ccc.lxij., mense septembris."

5. The scribe's name occurs on the last folio of the letters of Abelard and Heloise, originally beginning on f. 204 (old foliation), which are among the 37 folios detached from the manuscript at some point. In an article devoted to the missing folios, Henri Omont notes that besides the two inscriptions bearing the dates 1355 (f. 164r) and 1362 (f. 221v)—I use the current foliation—"L'un des feuillets aujourd'hui conservé à Paris porte une troisième souscription, qui donne le nom du copiste Mathias du Rivau, avec une troisième date, 1361: "Expliciunt Epistole Petri Abaielardi et Heloyse, primitus ejus amice, postmodum uxoris, scripte Parisius per me Mathiam Rivalli, in domo episcopi Ambianensis, anno Domini millesimo CCCo LXo primo, mense decembri" (Omont 368).

6. The most recent discussion of the structure of Dijon 525 dates from John Haines's article, "An Antifeminist Motet by Jean de Meun(?): O bicornix / A touz jours / Virgo Dei genitrix." He provides a list of the seventeen original works (Haines 23), and a table showing the codicological structure of Dijon 525 (Haines 25). Although more frequently found in medieval philosophy, the term centilogium here refers to Jean de Meun's composition of one hundred Latin words all beginning with the letter F, dictated by the topic, Femina, 'woman.'

7. Prosa is a late classical and rhetorical term connoting "continuous speech," or speech "moving forward," as opposed to the recursive rhetoric of verse. "The term prosa (oratio) means 'speech turned forwards' (proversa). It is the opposite of versus, which indicates the return of the same regular course of [End Page 114] the meter…. In prose we are concerned with a flow of words…." Handbook of Literary Rhetoric 748 a–b.

8. According to John Haines, the codicological organization of Dijon 525 consists of four sections, as seen in the table of his article (Haines 25):

Section Contents
A: ff. 1–114, gatherings 1–14 (ii, 19, 2–148) Roman de la Rose, Epistre des femmes, Evangile des fames, Motet des femes, Centilogium
B: ff. 115–65, gath. 15–20 (1512, 16–188, 197, 2010) Testament, Chaton en françois, Roman de Miserere, Roman de Charité, Roman de Fauvel, Brief
C: ff. 166–200, gath. 21–25 (218, 226, 235, 247, 258) L'Advocacie Nostre Dame, Passion, Purgatoire-Paradis, Jeu des echaz moralisé, Letters of Abelard & Heloise
D: ff. 201–21, gath. 26–29 (264, 278, 286, 293) Boesce de Consolacion

9. We'll look briefly at the nature of the works Mathias incorporated into Dijon 525 in a moment. First, however, we need to see how Mathias uses the Rose to shape the codex's dialectic.

10. On the question of manuscript intentionality, see Nichols, "L'Orgueil du manuscrit" and also "Art and Nature." The most recent, and extensive, discussion of the term appears in Nichols, From Parchment to Cyberspace.

11. Sylvia Huot also points to the correspondence between the texts Mathias collected in Dijon 525 and his interest in certain aspects of the Rose. His marginal cross-references to other texts, she notes, "indicate that the book was actually studied as a whole, and not simply built up piecemeal. In particular, it seems that Mathias chose at least some of his texts with the Rose in mind wishing to provide fuller treatment of certain topics that interested him and that the Rose did not adequately explain"; Huot 79.

12. "Mathias began his anthology with a copy of the Rose that he acquired ready-made, for this portion of the manuscript is not in his hand"; Huot 76.

13. Huot argues that "The Rose must have seemed to him the perfect starting point for his one-volume personal library. It contained everything that interested him: a reworking of the Latin tradition, moral and spiritual edification, an introduction to important philosophical problems, topical social commentary"; Huot 84. For her, the compiled texts simply served to gloss or flesh-out aspects of the Rose that interested him. I believe that they are dialectically involved with the master text of the codex. [End Page 115]

14. John Haines's article on the "Motet des femes" (f. 114r) is the first to focus on this group, though he is primarily concerned with the motet, and also characterizes them as "antifeminist."

15. "We can derive an impression of his intellectual and literary interests from the marginal annotations he left in MS Dij. These glosses, nearly always entered in red, are of two kinds: geometric symbols or nota signs marking a passage he considered important, and a series of notes identifying shared motifs among certain texts in the collection"; Huot 79.

16. All translations from Middle French are my own, unless otherwise indicated.

17. The epigrammatic signature of the Rose, taken from Guillaume de Lorris's preface, and often used as a rubric on the incipit of manuscripts, reads: "Ci commence le romans de la rose/ ou l'art d'amours est toute enclose" ("Here begins the Romance of the Rose, where the art of love is wholly contained"). "Art" here connotes several meanings: "treatise," "practice," "nature of," etc. It's germane to note that in medieval philosophy, art and nature are frequently opposed, art having the favorable connotation of ingenium, "intelligence," "talent," "invention," "aesthetically pleasing."

18. The Rose section of Dijon 525 has 51 lines per column, 102 per page and 204 per folio, except, of course, where there were, or are, miniatures (many manuscript miniatures, particularly in the Rose section, were cut out). The original dispute between Raison and L'Amant occurs on f. 31v. The pilgrim passage begins on f. 110vc, or 89 folios and some over 18,000 lines later.

19. That is to say, back to the beginning of Jean de Meun's continuation of Guillaume de Lorris's very different romance on folio 23rb (vol. 1, v. 4029 of Lecoy).

20. This passage corresponds to vol. 3, vv. 21507–508 in Lecoy.

21. This passage corresponds to vol. 3, vv. 21532–552 in Lecoy.

22. From our perspective, the true parrhesia, or scandal, of Jean's philosophy lies in its challenge to the rule-governed social order of courtly society. Guillaume's Garden of Leisure, or Pleasure (Jardin de Déduit), is a metaphor for aristocratic courtly society, on the one hand, and equally rule-governed religious institutions, on the other. Rather than accepting a preconditioned order imposed by social or religious codes of conduct (and thought!), Jean proposes anthropological fieldwork to experience a full range of social conditions from which one would not deduce rules, but non-normative descriptions and definitions. In fact, Jean proposes something akin to a do-it-yourself moral philosophy.

23. Corresponds to vol. 1, v. 4029 in Lecoy.

24. The end of this line is missing (as are the ends of the following eight lines) because of a miniature showing the courtly vices Villennie and Felounie (the rubrics remain), which has been excised from the verso of this folio. Dijon 525 has suffered serious loss of miniatures (twenty-three in all), especially, but not exclusively, in the Rose section. [End Page 116]

25. "Given the salient traits common to both Jean's Rose and the Centilogium in Dijon 525—their academic learnedness, frank sexuality and unmitigated misogyny—there is some support for the Dijon manuscript's attribution of the Centilogium to 'master Jean de Meun'" (Haines 30).

26. Ideological because of the insistent repetition of the anachronistic "anti-feminism" in Haines's article: in the absence of feminist discourse—a modernist concept—you can't very well speak of antifeminism. Leaving aside the running head, "An Antifeminist Motet by Jean de Meun," at the top of every other page, many pages have at least one instance of the term, while others have two or three iterations (I don't count the variations—also present—"misogyny" and "against women"). This would be trivial were it not that these references keep the article focused an obvious aspect of the texts, while not probing what those aspects—that scholars have agreed on—really mean. When so insistently stressed, "antifeminism" suggests a modernist ideological agenda, rather than an inquiry into the fourteenth-century purport and context of these texts.

27. Dijon 525 ascribes the Centilogium to Jean: "Centilogium magistri Johannis de Maduno." As we saw in note 27, John Haines accepts this attribution. The motet des femes, on the other hand is not ascribed in the manuscript to Jean de Meun. The British website Refrain suggests without comment that the author might be Chaillou de Pesstain (, probably on the grounds that Dijon 525 includes a version of Gervais de Bus's Roman de Fauvel (ff. 158bis–164ra). Since there's no evidence in this manuscript of the embellishments or music of Chaillou's principal version (Paris, BnF fr. 146), the ascription of the motet in Dijon 525 is not compelling. John Haines, for his part, opts for Jean de Meun's authorship: "Thus this remarkable motet against women, possibly written and even composed by Jean de Meun, brings out a medieval antifeminism seldom found so candidly expressed in song, and antifeminism that has succeeded in surviving well beyond the Middle Ages" (Haines 38). Given that the first two texts in this grouping, L'Epistre des femes and L'Evangile des femes, are anonymous, it's not obvious whence arises the impetus to ascribe authorship to the motet.

28. On the concept of personhood in medieval theology and philosophy, see Alain Boureau.

29. Besançon, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 592, f. 17v; Dijon, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 525, f. 113r; Paris, BnF, MS fr. 1593, f. 107r; Paris, BnF, MS fr. 12483, f. 40v. See Fiero et al. Arthur Långfors has an exhaustive discussion of this dit and its context in work on the Rosarius codex in his Notice du manuscrit français 12483.

30. See Fiero et al. 6. Their edition and facing-page translation may be found beginning on pages 86–87.

31. Marie de France, Lais, "Prologue," Bonnie Wheeler, Marie de France On-Line Reader. Translation by Bonnie Wheeler.

32. Also see Fiero et at. 6; and Långfors. [End Page 117]

33. A "homeomorphic continuum" is like a Möbius band in which sacred and secular experiences have only one boundary such that, as with a Möbius band, starting from the secular leads to the sacred without ever leaving the same space, even though the space may look very different at the spiritual end from how it appears at the secular end. The point is that the single-bounded space contains both experiences. Having only one side and one boundary, "a closed Möbius band is any surface that is homeomorphic to this band. Its boundary is a simple closed curve that is homeomorphic to a circle" ("Möbius Strip"). One can describe the chivalric quest—as depicted by Chrétien de Troyes's Yvain, for example, or even better, the grail cycle—as taking place on a single-bounded homeomorphic continuum which departs from the secular space of Arthur's court, but returns (for the successful hero) to the same space now revealed in its sacral form by the transfigured hero.

34. Mignotise from mignoter, 'to caress, treat tenderly, cherish,' connotes actions characteristic of mothering or female ministrations and caring. From this gendered inflection the substantive mignotise has a number of meanings ranging from those close to the basic sense of the verb—"caress," "compassionate tenderness"—to behavioral associations such as "coquetry," "affectation," and "preciosity." In the plural form, it suggests "sensuality:" "seductiveness," "sensual pleasure"; Godefroy.

35. See Fiero et al. 7. The last line here, "S'uns hons…," is the first line of the Contenance.

36. See Fiero et al. 86–87. Translation by the editors.

37. In particular, as the editors point out, Genesis 1:26 and 3:22: "et ait faciamus hominem ad imaginem et similitudinem nostrum.…"; "et ait ecce Adam factus est quasi unus ex nobis sciens bonum et malum nunc ergo ne forte mittat manum suam et sumat etiam de lingo vitae et comedat et vivat in aeterum." ("And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness…"; "And he said: Behold Adam is become as one of us knowing good and evil: now therefore lest perhaps he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever"). <>.

38. In light of the juxtaposition of L'Espistre des femes (f. 113r) with the Rose passage that Mathias highlighted a page-and-a-half before, on f. 111vd, it's clear that this reference to the crucial role of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis, recalls Jean de Meun's similar formula discussed earlier: "Aussi sachiez et n'en doubtez, / Qui du mal assoie n'aura, / Ja du bien gueres ne saura; / Qui ne scet de honneur que monte, / Ja ne saura congnoistre honte."

Manuscripts Cited

Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Cod. Gall. 80. <;CodGall80>

Besançon, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 592.

Dijon, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 525 (olim Bibliothèque de Dijon, MS 298). <;Dijon525> [End Page 118]

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 146. <>

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