Chrsitine McWebb

title.none: Greene, Le Débat (Chrsitine McWebb)

identifier.other: baj9928.0802.013 08.02.13

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Chrsitine McWebb, University of Waterloo,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: de Baviere, Isabeau Gontier Col, Pierre Col, Jean Gerson, Jean de Montreuil, and Christine de Pizan. Greene, Virginie, trans. Le Débat sur le Roman de la Rose. Traductions des classiques du Moyen Age, vol. 76. Paris: Editions Honore Champion, 2006. Pp. 348. ISBN: $35.00 (pb) 2-7453-1418-1.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.02.13

de Baviere, Isabeau Gontier Col, Pierre Col, Jean Gerson, Jean de Montreuil, and Christine de Pizan. Greene, Virginie, trans. Le Débat sur le Roman de la Rose. Traductions des classiques du Moyen Age, vol. 76. Paris: Editions Honore Champion, 2006. Pp. 348. ISBN: $35.00 (pb) 2-7453-1418-1.

Reviewed by:

Chrsitine McWebb
University of Waterloo

This volume is a welcome addition to the translations into modern French of Christine de Pizan's works. Thanks to the North American feminist movement of two or three decades ago, many of de Pizan's works have long been translated into English. Translations into modern French, on the other hand, are still slow in appearing, though progress has been made in particular with the recent translations of Le livre des trois vertus, L'Avision-Christine and the Ditié de Jehanne d'Arc in Voix de femmes au moyen âge: savoir, mystique, poésie, amour, sorcellerie (Regnier-Bohier, Danielle, éd, Paris: Laffont, 2006).

Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun's conjoined Roman de la rose (1236-1278) is without a doubt one of the foundational works of French medieval literature. We would be hard pressed to name a work that has enjoyed the same popularity and renown as the famous, or infamous, Roman de la rose, with over 300 extant manuscripts. This work has provoked much controversy, debate, and scholarship in the past as well as today. One of those reactions was the exchange of letters that took place between 1401 and 1403 between Christine de Pizan and Jean Gerson and the work's proponents Jean de Montreuil and the brothers Gontier and Pierre Col. This literary debate, which is the first of its kind in the French epistolary tradition, is undeniably the best known example of the kind of reactions the Roman de la rose could provoke.

Thus far, Eric Hicks' edition (Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1977 and 1996) was the only edited and published French version of the debate epistles. (My critical anthology, Debating the Roman de la rose [New York: Routledge, 2007] includes the debate epistles as one chapter. I use British Library, Harley 4431 as my base manuscript, all the while noting variants with BNF fr. Ms. 12779 which is Eric Hicks's base manuscript.)

In her translation, Greene chooses to follow Hicks' format and sequence of letters and texts which allows the reader to easily refer back to the original documents. Evidently, it would have been more beneficial to have a double-faced edition with the texts in Old and modern French. The documents translated, then, are those contained in manuscript BNF fr. Ms. 12779, which, as noted above, served as base manuscript for Hicks' edition. These are followed by Jean de Montreuil's Latin epistles (103, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 152, 154) which Eric Hicks had already translated into modern French. Greene reproduces these translations here as she does also for Jean Gerson's letter Talia de me. However, the footnotes are updated from Hicks' edition, and Greene adds more cultural context to the exchange of correspondence that was the querelle. Keeping in line with the sequence of texts proposed by Eric Hicks, Jean de Montreuil's epistles are followed by five more letters not included in the initial manuscript, but which can be found in BN f. fr. Ms. 1563. Very helpful here are the variants noted between the two versions of the first of these five letters, namely Christine's response to Jean de Montreuil. This response is included also in BN f. fr. Ms. 12779. Jean Gerson's treatise of a vision against the Roman de la rose, Pierre Col's response to Christine de Pizan and Jean Gerson, as well as his fragmented second response to de Pizan and, in turn, the latter's reply to Pierre Col and Jean Gerson's letter in Latin to Pierre Col, the Talia de me mentioned above are the other four documents that make up this chapter. The concluding chapter is a collection of ancillary pieces, where, again Greene takes the lead from Eric Hicks: de Pizan's Ballade 36, the Rondeau which follows, and Ballade 37 as well as relevant excerpts from the Livre de la cité des dames and excerpts from Jean Gerson series of sermons titled Poenitemini which he pronounced in the church St.-Jean-en-Grève between December 3, 1402 and March 18, 1403.

In her own translations, Greene opts for modernization and readability, thus targeting with this volume not only specialists but a broad francophone readership. This is confirmed by the contextualizing introduction preceding each section of the work which offers the reader a quick and succinct overview and analysis of the ideological implications of the debate.

The bibliography is divided into six sections listing manuscripts, printed editions of the works cited as well as secondary sources. This part of Greene's work could have been more complete as it only lists, for instance, printed editions of Christine de Pizan's works cited in this particular translation. At the same time, when preparing critical editions or translations of medieval texts, one has to clearly define the analytical scope of the work which can be as broad or as narrow as one wants it to be. It is therefore crucial that the target readership be explicitly or implicitly defined. Since Eric Hicks has edited the epistles, which have been re-edited in my anthology with facing English translations, there is no need to include them in the translation into modern French. Virginie Greene's readership will find a quick and very insightful overview of the debate about the Roman de la rose, an excellent translation into modern French as well as a useful bibliographic apparatus. This work is certainly suitable as a text to be used in undergraduate or graduate classes as well as by scholars who need a thorough introduction into the cultural and literary context of the quarrel without necessarily delving into detailed philological analyses.