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(p.195) IV Aftermath
Debate of the Romance of the Rose
Christine de Pizan
University of Chicago Press

The sermons of Jean Gerson are collected together with others of his sermons, both in French and in Latin. In the opening of this sermon delivered on the third Sunday of Advent, Gerson discusses the Gospel for that Sunday, on the mission of Saint John the Baptist as messenger announcing the coming of Christ. It is possible that these texts represent notes for the sermons, which would explain their fragmentary, and occasionally incoherent, quality. Not only can one not distinguish Jean's voice from those of the characters he introduces, but the intention of the words is always evil, even when the words support the good. Pierre Col's response, which is addressed to Christine, but which responds both to her letter and to Gerson's treatise, is important at the very least because it is the only part of the debate that has come to us representing the specific arguments of the defenders of Jean de Meun. But it does much more, for in addition to rebutting the points made by the two detractors, it continues the game of voices begun by Gerson. Just as Gerson coyly erased the identity of Jean de Meun behind the character of the Foolish Lover, knowing full well of whom he was speaking, Pierre Col maintains an identical ironic stance: he shows that he knows the identity of the treatise's author but prefers to address his comments to the principal character, Theological Eloquence, an ironic stance furthered by the fact that his other interlocutor is not a personification but rather, Christine de Pizan. The gesture has the effect of attenuating the limit between living author and fictional creation, thus putting into practice the critical problem of expression and intention that, pace Jean de Meun, he develops throughout his letter. At the same time, feminizing the voice of Gerson, along with other references by Col to the theologian's lack of experience with love and carnal relations, could even be read as a questioning of his manhood.

Keywords:   Christine de Pizan, Jean Gerson, Romance of the Rose, Jean de Meun, sermons, treatise, Gospel, Foolish Lover

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