Questions of authorial and narratorial voice, and of authorial responsibility for characters’ speech, are of key importance in the debates over the Roman de la Rose and the Belle Dame sans Mercy. This article examines the way authorial epitaphs and epitaph-like encomia anticipate fifteenth-century readers’ theorizations of the role of the author, within the specific context of these two early iterations of the querelle des femmes. The Rose invites discussion of these questions via its dual authorship and the temporal gap between the composition of the two parts, as exemplified in the passage on the “death” of the first author and the prophesy of the second; this text is extraordinarily available for debate, through the fifteenth century and beyond, precisely because its authors are so emphatically dead. The debate of the Belle Dame sans mercy then redeploys the textual mode of the epitaph: as a means of tying the querelle to the Rose debate, and as a vehicle for further theorization of authorial responsibility. In a number of Belle Dame debate poems, the fictional tombs of authors and characters important to the Rose and Belle Dame debates serve to extend the querelle into a more contested and experimental space, underlining the indeterminate place of the female subject after the death of the author.


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pp. 407-424
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