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The Debate: Second Phase

The Debate: Second Phase

(p.103) III The Debate: Second Phase
Debate of the Romance of the Rose
Christine de Pizan
University of Chicago Press

The second phase of the debate was inadvertently initiated by what might be considered the surprising intervention of one of the most prominent theologians of the time, Jean Gerson, who published a treatise against the Romance of the Rose some four months after Christine compiled her first collection of documents. Whereas Christine, in her first letter, tackles directly the moral and religious issues raised by the second author of the Romance of the Rose, Jean de Meun (who becomes the single target of her criticisms), Gerson creates a fictional framework, an allegorical dream vision featuring a legal trial, that significantly complicates the issues of agency and authorial responsibility. He does indeed start his treatise with a sequence of specific reprisals, in the form of eight articles submitted by Lady Chastity, who considers her position to be threatened by the Rose. The accusations by Gerson, several of which intersect with those of Christine, clearly are based upon moral teachings of the sort that Gerson included in his sermons. However, the bulk of Gerson's treatise is devoted to a lengthy speech of the advocate for the court, Theological Eloquence, who focuses more closely upon what one might call an ethics of speech and the identity politics of slander. But the point is that Gerson makes the question of who is speaking and who is responsible a center of attention, just as he makes the use of dirty language and a morality of expression—itself a component of Christine's and Chastity's previous critiques—the principal focus of his criticisms.

Keywords:   Christine de Pizan, Jean Gerson, Romance of the Rose, Jean de Meun, Lady Chastity, moral teaching, sermons

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