contributor.author: Molly Lynde-Recchia, Western Michigan University

title.none: Psaki (ed. and trans.), Jean Renart's Romance

identifier.other: baj9928.9612.005 96.12.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Molly Lynde-Recchia, Western Michigan University, lynde@wmich.edu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1996

identifier.citation: Regina Psaki, trans. & ed. The Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole (Roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole). New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1995. Pp. xli, 280. $48. ISBN: ISBN Hardback- 0-8153-0400-5.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 96.12.05

Regina Psaki, trans. & ed. The Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole (Roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole). New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1995. Pp. xli, 280. $48. ISBN: ISBN Hardback- 0-8153-0400-5.

Reviewed by:

Molly Lynde-Recchia, Western Michigan University
lynde@wmich.edu

Given the existence of three editions and a recent translation of the Roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole, one can at first glance wonder at the need for this one. Edited by G. Servois in 1893, by Rita Lejeune in 1936, most recently by Felix Lecoy in 1962 (rpt. 1979), and translated into English by Patricia Terry and Nancy Vine Durling in 1993, the romance now takes a different shape in the hands of Regina Psaki, who offers both an edition and a facing-page translation into English of this highly original and fascinating text. In all fairness, it is not entirely correct to compare this edition and translation with those just mentioned, since the basic premise and editorial philosophy contrast strikingly with previous editions.

Psaki's is a diplomatic transcription which refrains from interpretive editorial practices as much as possible: it contains only those marks of punctuation present in the one existing manuscript copy of this work, Vat. Reg. 1725 (the occasional dash and dot, and circle-dash combinations to fill in short verse lines). As in the manuscript copy, the first letter of each line is separated by two spaces from the rest of the line; word divisions remain those of the original as well. An appendix brings together all of the lyric passages. It is noteworthy that Psaki has included only text included in Vat. Reg. 1725, and thus does not include in her edition the supplemental verses which Lecoy, basing himself on various chansonniers, added to the lyric insertions. However, as a service to the reader and to facilitate comparison to Lecoy's authoritative edition, she uses his line numbering. In her view, the diplomatic transcription functions as a sort of middle ground between the manuscript itself and a fully edited text. In keeping with this philosophy, there are relatively few notes. This is a careful attempt to represent the original document as closely as possible on the printed page, and will be very valuable to scholars who seek a closer relationship with "the original artifact in the manuscript" to compare with the "tidied, deciphered, and (metaphorically at least) pre- translated and interpreted versions we take for granted" (p. xxix).

Psaki does not fail to acknowledge that if the text itself is presented in a more neutral representation, the interpretive act is still present in the English translations on the opposite page. As far as her translation itself is concerned, her purpose as described in the introduction is to follow the line structure of the Old French as closely as possible: "Thus every difficulty, every repetition, every hitch is as visible as I could make it and as it could not be in a translation whose aim is to smooth over such problems" (p. xxxi, emphasis added). While she attempts as literal a rendering as possible, she does not refrain from the homogenization of verb tenses, the insertion of subject pronouns and proper names for clarification, and slight modifications of formulaic expressions, in order to present a clear and comprehensible English version of the romance.

The volume's introduction covers, among other topics, the history of the authorship question, including mention of Bedier's discovery of Jean Renart's encoded signature in the Roman de la Rose as well as in the Roman de l'Escoufle, and a discussion of the debate involving the dating of this work and previous editors' respective views on the matter. While Lejeune, Lecoy, and Psaki concur that the time period evoked in the Roman de la Rose is sometime around 1208-15, they differ in their theory of when the work was actually composed. Psaki, like Lejeune, believes that the text was written around 1212, Renart's use of historical allusions and personae thus seen as "resonat[ing] as modern with the audience for whom he wrote them" (xii); by contrast, Lecoy, seconded by Michel Zink, suggests that the actual date of composition was 1227-28. According to Psaki, this question has important implications for the interpretation of the work, those theorizing an earlier writing date being more inclined to see it as a "roman realiste," and those subscribing to a later compositional date emphasizing the work's literary qualities. As she succinctly states, "At issue, then, is whether Jean Renart the author represents his world or evaluates it, and whether he is in any fundamental way engaged with his political context, or remains deliberately distanced from it in order to create a self- sufficient literary world" (pp. xii-xiii).

Psaki sees two primary areas of Renart's originality: first, his inclusion of factual, historical figures and court life, and second, his use of inserted lyric fragments in the narrative. In his prologue, he himself makes the claim of originality on the basis of the second feature. The forty- six lyric passages are unaccompanied by musical notation in the manuscript copy but, according to Renart, may be sung ("'s'en vieult l'en I chante et lit' [if you want you can sing and read it]" [xxvii]). These, as well as the historical allusions mentioned above, and other intertextual elements (such as the history of Troy, embroidered on a robe), participate in the creation of a text which, in Psaki's words, "transgresses narrative boundaries, breaks the narrative frame, to invoke other literary forms, other aesthetic worlds and other modes of delivery and reception" (p. xvii). Psaki's view of Renart's blend of narrative modalities is one which stresses his originality in the juxtaposition of song and story. She offers some insightful comments on the lyric insertions, notably on those attributed to the courtly Conrad.

The work lends itself well to feminist approaches, in that it treats the theme of a woman (Lienor) who successfully defends her impugned reputation, thus regaining her betrothed (the Emperor Conrad). However, the meaning behind Psaki's remark that "Jean Renart's adoption of Lienor as a figure for textuality establishes that textuality as specifically male [sic] and thus remains problematic" (p. xv) is elusive, since Lienor is, after all, female. Aside from this, her discussion is clear, thorough, and enlightening.

Finally, the introduction also includes a brief overview of sources and influences of the Roman de la Rose. In this section as well, her work is well-documented and offers enough material to both satisfy the general reader's need for basic information as well as stimulate the specialist. For example, Psaki provides a brief definition of the word "realiste" in this context in order to avoid a confusion with nineteenth-century realism. While pointing out that the influence of the Roman de la Rose, especially that relating to the insertion of lyric fragments into narrative, is too great to adequately cover in this context, she does nevertheless mention several works which also contain the mixed-form. Readers interested in this subject are referred in a note to Maureen Barry McCann Boulton's The Song in the Story (Philadelphia, 1993).

This edition of the Roman de la Rose will be very useful in a classroom setting, alongside Lecoy's traditional edition. A comparison of the two would be appropriate not only for students of this text, but also for those interested in the changing editorial theories and practices relating to medieval manuscripts. Psaki argues convincingly for an examination of accepted notions about what constitutes a medieval text when she compares the medievalist who has not worked directly with manuscript copies (or editions close to them) to "an art historian who has never worked even from slides or photographs of medieval painting and sculpture but only from nineteenth-century watercolors of the originals, done in nineteenth-century style" (p. xxix). While editions such as Lecoy's render a great service to the reader in presenting highly accessible texts, there is also room in the profession for those such as Psaki who prefer less intervention in the source text.

Regina Psaki has made an important contribution to Romance of the Rose scholarship in this diplomatic transcription accompanied by literal translation and introduction. The Roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole is a highly interesting work from both a thematic and a narrative point of view; it causes us to pose questions about generic boundaries and to reconsider the always implicit interrogative about the real versus the poetic. Psaki's transcription and translation will provide readers and scholars with another lens through which to view the original text.