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  • Jean de Meun et la culture médiévale: littérature, art, sciences et droit aux derniers siècles du Moyen Âge dir. by Jean-Patrice Boudet et al.
  • Jonathan Morton
Jean de Meun et la culture médiévale: littérature, art, sciences et droit aux derniers siècles du Moyen Âge. Sous la direction de Jean-Patrice Boudet, Philippe Haugeard, Silvère Menegaldo et François Ploton-Nicollet. (Interférences.) Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2017. 374 pp., ill.

There has been an increasing interest in the intellectual context of the Roman de la rose, the first part attributed to a Guillaume de Lorris of whom nothing is known beyond his being named in the text, and the longer second part to Jean de Meun. As well as being the author most associated with the seminal text of the Rose, Jean translated Latin works into French, including Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy and the letters of Abelard and Heloise. This volume has a biographical rather than a textual focus, considering Jean de Meun himself. Charles Vulliez questions the common story told, most recently by Luciano Rossi, that Jean studied law in Bologna and became an archdeacon in Orléans, while demurring to draw any firm conclusions. Armand Strubel treads well-charted territory with an overview of the unreliability of Jean's author persona in the Rose, while Sylvie Lefèvre's solid philological essay provides interesting details about the naming of Jean de Meun in the 'B' family of Rose manuscripts. Christopher Lucken revisits Roger Dragonetti's speculative theory that Jean de Meun wrote both his and Guillaume's parts, writing a chapter that takes this position as a hypothesis 'qu'aucune preuve tangible ne saurait jamais confirmer' to give a literary interpretation of the Rose (p. 86). In the very next chapter, Patricia Stirnemann speculates that Jean de Meun could not have written the Rose in Paris but did so in the entourage of Philippe de Beaumanoir. This claim is based largely on conjecture and on some points of resemblance in illuminations of some early Rose manuscripts, and wholly contradicts the evidence for Jean's bibliography put forward by Vulliez, which shows Jean to be based either in Paris or in Orléans. Constant Mews, in his interesting piece on thirteenth-century Parisian university culture, agrees with Rossi's biography of Jean de Meun. They cannot all be right. This is an oddly stark disagreement in a volume whose aim is, at least in part, biographical but, bafflingly, such disagreement is not even raised as an issue. The same unacknowledged problem of contradiction recurs: Françoise Viellard's essay on Jean's translations states that his version of the letters of Abelard and Heloise has [End Page 430] not survived (p. 204), while Jean-Marie Fritz's subsequent chapter discusses the translation in BnF, MS fr. 920 as unambiguously Jean's. Jean-Marc Mandosio suggests a grand scheme in which Jean puts forward a unified philosophy in the Rose, which cannot square with the undecidability of the author figure presented by Lucken. Miren Lacassagne and Thierry Lassabatère show some ways in which Jean influenced Eustache Deschamps. Élodie Gidoin gives an interesting reading of the famous Oxford manuscript, Douce 195; Hélène Biu offers a detailed presentation of Honorat Bovet's long poem L'Apparicion Maistre Jehan de Meun; and Marie-Hélène Tesnière discusses a manuscript in the light of the Querelle du Roman de la rose, whose stylometrics are elsewhere analysed by Earl Jeffrey Richards. The standout chapter is that of Antoine Calvet: an elegant account of the Rose's influence on late medieval alchemical treatises.

Jonathan Morton
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science


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pp. 430-431
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