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Title: The Roman de la Rose : nature, sex, and language in thirteenth-century poetry and philosophy
Author: Morton, Jonathan Simon
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Jean de Meun's continuation of the Roman de la rose (The Romance of the Rose), written in Paris in the 1270s, presents a vast amount of philosophy and natural science in vernacular poetry, while engaging thoroughly with contemporary, local philosophical and institutional debates. Taking this into consideration, this study investigates how the Rose depends for its meaning on questions around human nature, natural philosophy, and the philosophy of language that were being discussed and debated in the University of Paris at the time of its composition. It suggests a reading of the poem as a work of philosophy that uses Aristotelian ideas of nature and what is natural to present a moral framework – at times explicitly, at times implicitly – within which to assess and critique human behaviour. The concepts of the unnatural and the artificial are used to discuss sin and its effects on sexuality – a key concern of the Rose – and on language. The Rose is shown to present itself as artificial and compromised, yet nevertheless capable of leading imperfect and compromised humans to moral behaviour and towards knowledge which can only ever be imperfect. It is read as a presenting a rhetorical kind of philosophy that is sui generis and that appeals to human desire as well as to the intellect. The specific issue of usury and its relation to avarice is examined, studying contemporary theological and philosophical treatments of the question, in order to illustrate similarities and contrasts in the Rose's theoretical methodology to more orthodox modes of philosophical enquiry. Finally, the poem's valorisation of pleasure and of the perversity inherent in artificial productions is explored to show how poetry, though deviating from the strictures of dialectical language, is nevertheless productive and generative.
Supervisor: Swift, Helen J.; Trifogli, Cecilia Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Intellectual History ; Late antiquity and the Middle Ages ; Literatures of Romance languages ; French ; Roman de la rose ; Jean de Meun ; Guillaume de Lorris ; Aristotle ; nature ; artificial ; ethics ; poetry ; philosophy ; usury ; rhetoric ; dialectic ; science ; sodomy