Jean de Meun


Jean de Meun
(Jehan de Meung)
(ca. 1235/40–1305)
   Jean de Meun, who continued GUILLAUME DE LORRIS’s fairly short first part of the ROMAN DE LA ROSE (ca. 1237), created one of the most influential, but also most provocative allegorical poems in the late Middle Ages. He was borne at Meung-sur-Loire as Jean Chopinel (or Clopinel) and gained his master of arts degree, probably at the University of Paris. He is documented as residing at the Hôtel de la Tourelle in the Faubourg Saint-Jacques (Paris) from at least 1292 to his death. Apart from his work on the Roman, he translated from Latin into French such famous works as Vegetius’s De re militari (ca. 385–400 C.E.), BOETHIUS’s De consolatione philosophiae (The CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY, ca. 525/526 C.E.), and the well-known correspondence of ABELARD and HELOISE (ca. 1120–40). Jean also claims to have translated GIRALDUS CAMBRENSIS’s De mirabilibus Hiberniae and Aelred of Rievaulx’s De spirituali amicitia, neither of which has been preserved, and he also seems to have authored the satirical Testament maistre Jehan de Meun and Codicile maistre Jehan de Meun. Jean is, however, best known for his portion of the Roman de la Rose, which he wrote between 1264 and 1274. Its enormous popularity is documented by more than 250 manuscripts and 21 printed editions from 1481 to 1538.We know of one Dutch, two Italian, and three English translations, the earliest of which was written by Geoffrey CHAUCER. Jean deeply influenced the greatest writers in Italy, France, and England from the 13th through the 16th century, such as DANTE, BOCCACCIO, GUILLAUME DE MACHAUT, Chaucer, John GOWER, Thomas HOCCLEVE, John LYDGATE, Thomas USK, Gavin DOUGLAS, Jean FROISSART, Jean Molinet, and Clément Marot.CHRISTINE DE PIZAN, enraged about the misogyny in Jehan le Fèvre’s French translation (ca. 1371–72) of the Liber lamentationum Matheoluli (original ca. 1295) and in Jean de Meun’s portion of the Roman, participated in a large open debate about gender issues, the querelle de femmes. In 1401 Jean de Montreuil, royal secretary and provost of Lille,wrote an enthusiastic defense of the Roman (today lost), to which Christine responded with a vehement attack on Jean de Meun’s derogatory treatment of women. An exchange of letters followed involving two other royal secretaries, Pierre and Gontier Col, defending Montreuil’s perspective. But Jean Gerson, chancellor of the University of Paris, supported Christine’s argument, particularly since he had already preached a sermon against Jean de Meun in 1401 and subsequently wrote a poem in the form of a vision against the Roman in 1402. Christine published her correspondence with her opponents in 1402, which ignited further debates, stretching to the end of the year when those involved turned toward other interests. Christine, however, continued her energetic defense of women in her subsequent writings. The influence of the Roman de la Rose on medieval German literature seems to have been minuscule, since we know of no translations and direct allusions, apart from some didactic love debates. The Styrian poet Hugo von Montfort (1357–1423), however, seems to have adapted some of the allegorical elements in his poem “Ich gieng ains morgens auss durch aventewr” (no. 28).
   Although Jean de Meun purported to continue and complete Guillaume’s Roman, his almost 18,000 verses represent a highly innovative and independent allegorical treatise containing a multitude of philosophical and pragmatic reflections. His portion of the Roman begins with the Lover despairing over his chances to win the Rose, when Reason appears and advises him against love altogether, since it is nothing but “A treasonous loyalty, disloyal faith—/A fear that’s full of hope, a desperate trust—/A madman’s logic, reasoned foolishness” (Robbins 1962, vv. 4272–74). Reason also offers teachings about spiritual, religious friendship as an alternative to erotic love, about the effects of Fortune, and what constitutes true happiness—a reflection of Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae—then about the irrelevance of wealth and the corruption of justice. Reason illustrates her arguments with references to the lives of famous people in the Roman Empire, such as Seneca and Nero, Croesus and Phanie, but she also refers to the destiny of the king of Sicily,Manfred, and other kings who had been victims of misfortune. At this point, however, the Lover decries Reason as lewd and irresponsible, and turns to a Friend who advises him to use bribery and deceit to win his Rose.Again the Lover vehemently rejects this avenue, but he has to listen to the Friend’s lengthy discussion of how to use gifts and largesse to achieve his goal. This suddenly gives way to a laudatio temporis acti, a lament about the depravity of the present time and a praise of the golden past. Next the Friend explains how jealous husbands abuse their wives, and the Jealous Husband defends his position by relating the story of Heloise and Abelard, which then leads to a misogynistic diatribe, quickly interrupted again by the Friend’s teachings of the art of love, which motivates the Lover to visit Fair Welcome. Hereupon the God of Love forgives the Lover for listening to Reason and promises help.
   The following sections represent an allegorical battle plan of how to win the Rose, particularly involving False Seeming and Forced Abstinence. False Seeming kills Evil Tongue and enters the castle, where they win the Duenna as go-between, which allows the poet to have her outline her life of lewdness, to develop a theory of love, to tell stories of unhappy female lovers in antiquity (Dido, Phyllis, Oenone, and Medea), and of how women gain men’s love. She illustrates this strategy with the stories of Vulcan, Venus, and Mars. Although the Lover then gains entry into the Castle of Jealousy, Danger still blocks his way to the Rose. Subsequently the various allegorical figures fight against each other until a truce is declared. Venus then agrees to come to Love’s aid, and the battle begins anew. Both here and earlier the poet interpolates short digressions, once offering an apology for having written his book (using the modesty topos, a conventional medieval rhetorical motif), then examining the relationship between art and nature, the question of destiny and free will, the influence of the stars on human life (astrology), explaining the properties of mirrors and glasses, dreams and frenzies, the true nature of nobility, finally turning to a general complaint about man’s abuse of nature and his breaking of all natural rules. Nevertheless Nature sends Genius to encourage the God of Love, and Genius expounds the absolute relevance of sexuality and love for Nature to continue through the creation of progeny. Genius also describes the life of the blessed in paradise, and argues, drawing from Roman mythology and literature (particularly Virgil), that Jupiter ordered man to enjoy his life and to make full use of all the resources supplied by nature. Inspired by this long speech, Love’s barons prepare the final assault on the castle of Jealousy. In the meantime Venus attacks the tower of Shame, while the poet quickly tells the stories of Pygmalion and of Cinyras and Myrrha to demonstrate that man ought to love and enjoy sexuality. Once Venus has set fire to the tower of Shame, the Lover succeeds in gaining entrance into the Ivory Tower and finally wins the Rose. This last section is nothing but a thinly veiled, almost pornographic description of the sexual act of deflowering the Rose (v. 21,736). The Roman de la Rose concludes with the poet admitting that he entirely forgot Reason’s exhortations and enjoys his rose.With this the Lover awakens from his dream and ends his account.
   Scholarly opinions about Jean’s intentions and strategies vary widely, particularly because of the poet’s unique form of irony and satire and the sophisticated differentiation between the narrator figure and the actual author, not to mention the numerous allegorical figures.Moreover Jean’s portion is characterized by highly contradictory discourses determined by various voices, and it would be impossible to determine which of these truly win the debates. The obvious didacticism is undermined at every turn of the narrative, and lofty ideals deftly clash with highly truculent and erotic images. The traditional ideal of fin’amors (or COURTLY LOVE), as defended by Guillaume, still lingers in the background, but Jean makes every effort to deconstruct it without truly offering an alternative, except for crude sexuality.Undoubtedly the Roman de la Rose, with all its contradictions, fragmentary nature, distorted discourse, and encyclopedic character (see the wide range of sources from classical antiquity to the 12th century), proves to be one of the masterpieces of medieval French literature. The 13thand 14th-century manuscripts containing the Roman de la Rose were some of the best and most richly illustrated manuscripts of their time.
   Bibliography
   ■ Arden, Heather. The Romance of the Rose. Boston: Twayne, 1987.
   ■ Brownlee, Kevin, and Sylvia Huot. Rethinking theRomance of the Rose”: Text, Image, Reception. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992.
   ■ Classen, Albrecht. “Hugo von Montfort: A Reader of the Roman de la Rose,” Monatshefte 83, no. 4 (1991): 414–432.
   ■ Dahlberg, Charles, trans. The Romance of the Rose. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1971.
   ■ Fleming, John F. The Roman de la Rose: A Study in Allegory and Iconography Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969.
   ■ Le Roman de la Rose. Edited by Félix Lecoy. 3 vols. Paris: Champion, 1965–1970.
   ■ Robbins, Harry W., trans. The Romance of the Rose. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1962.
   ■ White,Hugh.Nature, Sex, and Goodness in a Medieval Literary Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
   Albrecht Classen

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Jean de Meun — Jean de Meung (auch Jean de Meun, eigentl. Jean Clopinel (frz. = Hinkfuß) oder Jean Chopinel ; * um 1240, wahrscheinlich in Meung sur Loire; † spätestens 1305, wahrscheinlich in Paris) war ein französischer Autor. Leben und Werk Über seine… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Jean de Meun — Jean de Meung Jean de Meun, Jehan de Meung, Jean de Meung ou Jean Chopinel, Jean Clopinel (v. 1240 à Meung v. 1305 à Paris) est un poète français du XIIIe siècle, connu surtout pour sa suite du Roman de la Rose. Sommaire 1 Biographie 2 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Jean de Meun — French literature By category French literary history Medieval 16th century  …   Wikipedia

  • Jean de Meun — ▪ French poet de Meun also spelled  de Meung  born c. 1240, Meung sur Loire, France died before 1305       French poet famous for his continuation of the Roman de la rose, an allegorical poem in the courtly love tradition begun by Guillaume de… …   Universalium

  • Jean de Meun — Jean de Meung ou de Meun (Jean Clopinel ou Chopinel, dit) (v. 1240 v. 1305) écrivain français. Il continua le Roman de la Rose, commencé par Guillaume de Lorris …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Jean Clopinel de Meun —     Jean Clopinel de Meun     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Jean Clopinel de Meun     (Or MEUNG.)     French poet, b. c. 1260 in the little city of Meung sur Loire; d. at Paris between 1305 and 1320. He took the name of his native city, but received… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Jean Chopinel — Jean de Meung (auch Jean de Meun, eigentl. Jean Clopinel (frz. = Hinkfuß) oder Jean Chopinel ; * um 1240, wahrscheinlich in Meung sur Loire; † spätestens 1305, wahrscheinlich in Paris) war ein französischer Autor. Leben und Werk Über seine… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Jean Clopinel — Jean de Meung (auch Jean de Meun, eigentl. Jean Clopinel (frz. = Hinkfuß) oder Jean Chopinel ; * um 1240, wahrscheinlich in Meung sur Loire; † spätestens 1305, wahrscheinlich in Paris) war ein französischer Autor. Leben und Werk Über seine… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Jean Gerson — Jean Charlier de Gerson Born December 13, 1363(1363 12 13) Gerson, Champagne, France Died July 12, 1429( …   Wikipedia

  • Jean De Meung — Jean de Meun, Jehan de Meung, Jean de Meung ou Jean Chopinel, Jean Clopinel (v. 1240 à Meung v. 1305 à Paris) est un poète français du XIIIe siècle, connu surtout pour sa suite du Roman de la Rose. Sommaire 1 Biographie 2 …   Wikipédia en Français


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