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A Gift of Love In her Nov.

2003, GLQ: The Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies critical analysis of The Romance of the Rose entitled Authorship, Love, and the Gift In the Roman De La Rose,* Masha Roskolnikov challenges time honored interpretations of the second part of this famous art work by contending it is not only something much different than a traditional romance typified by the standards of the genre, but is unique. It is her assertion that the second part of the work as written by Jean De Meun, rather than being merely a continuation of the first, is also an expression of the love held by de Meun for Guillaume de Lorris, the author of the first part. Although I would contend she makes a defensible claim, this is perhaps not best evinced by her inclusion of the scholar, Simon Gaunts, remark: there is something queer about a heterosexual romance entirely mediated by the affection between the lover and the (male) figure of the ladys receptivity (especially when the lady is no lady but a flower). As insightful as that observation might seem on the surface, it fails to address the fact that all three (The Lover, Fair Welcome and the rose bud) first appear in de Lorriss work, not de Meuns, and therefore could not possibly be evocative of any imagined affection de Meun had for de Lorris given the forty years separating the parts of the poem. If this seeming contradiction occurred to her, it did not hamper Roskolnikovs efforts. In stating her case, Roskolnikov first makes clear that this is not a gift of romantic love, per se, but a gift of mourning without sadness performed by philosophers and as philosophy. She goes on to add that It might be read as a mourning of the very possibility of having loved, a mourning for unlived possibilities. She cites the overall flavor of the piece, what she calls its allegorical mode of mourning, as the context within which the speaker supposedly pursues heterosexual fulfillment only to find himself consistently confronted by disappointment in the form of instructional narratives delivered by allegorical personages more committed to elucidating all

the drawbacks of heterosexual love, primarily the predictable unfaithfulness of women. This inclination toward cuckoldry, or the presumption of same, pervades the piece. And interestingly enough, it does so within the context of gift giving, love (heterosexual encounters) being seen as a commodity readily available in return for gifts. This, of course, relegates such encounters to the level of prostitution. Although this quality is one of the primary reasons most label the piece as misogynistic, Roskolnikov seems to be claiming the misogyny as more of a hetero-social veneer, the better to obfuscate, while obliquely emphasizing unlived possibilities as imagined by Jean de Meun. So, of what value is de Meuns gift to de Lorris? Roskolnikov refers to Jacques Derridas assertion that a gift is profoundly implicated in time and narrativity, essentially a representation of time. With this in mind, she goes on to point out that the world of medieval mourning was replete with ways to give time to the dead in the form of masses, chanteries, etc. De Meuns secular gift to the dead de Lorris, time in the form of text, she contends is especially valuable in that it not only seeks nothing in return, but represents completion of de Lorriss work, a continuation of his reputation, thus is an act of unconditional love. To support her claim, one need only refer to the text and the God of Loves speech to the troops: Here is Guillaume de Lorris, whose/enemy, Jealousy, causes him such grief and torment that he/is in danger of dying if I do not see about saving him. (p 162: 1048310485). Later, the connection is reasserted: Here Guillaume will rest./May his tomb be filled with balm and incense, myrrh and aloes,/ for he has served and praised me well. (p 162: 10532-10534). These direct references to the author of the first part by the author of the second are unprecedented within the text, arguably serving a purpose transcendent to it.

Roskolnikov at first seems to want to drive her point home with the following observation: But it is for Bel Acueil [Fair Welcome] that the Lovers tears are shed, and the loved one of Amorss [God of Love] speech is clearly Guillaume. The implication is clear: The Lover (speaker) yearns for access while the author yearns for Guillaume. But then, after all this, Roskolnikov seems to hedge, at least with regard to de Meuns conscious motivation: This attempt to preserve Guillaume need not be intentional or earnest to be effective; without doubt, Jean makes rhetorical use of mourning in a manner that figures same-sex love. De Meuns motivation being intentional or not, this reading offers an interesting, if not altogether convincing alternative interpretation of one of the most beautiful pieces of Romance literature one will find.