Creation, Reproduction and Idolatry: Pygmalion and Generative Textuality in the Tradition of the Roman de la Rose
Intervention dans le cadre du colloque sur "Les Théories Médiévales de l'Acte Créateur", à l'Université de Fribourg.
The Roman de la Rose (completed 1269 – 78) is nothing if not ‘seminal’: it is one of the most widely circulated vernacular poems of the late medieval period, with over 300 manuscripts, and it is widely read, annotated, edited, translated, fought over and adapted in the most diverse forms well into the sixteenth century. But the Rose is also ‘seminal’ in a rather different, more literal and even obscene manner: its ends with a celebration of natural generation in the form of a sexual insemination of its central metaphor — the ‘rose’ — the poem’s central object and signifier.
But how are we to understand this ‘seminal’ moment in the poem, and what does it suggest about the generative, reproductive powers of poetry? More importantly still, what does it tell us about Jean de Maun’s attitude to his own poetic work, and to literary creation more broadly? I will be suggesting that far from simply celebrating the generative qualities of his own poetry, this closing episode tends to problematise the act of literary creation as such, notably by raising the possibility that poetic language itself, relying on oblique transfers of meaning, is fundamentally ‘unnatural’, idolatrous, even sodomitical and hence sterile — an idea that Jean develops in particular in relation to the figure of Pygmalion, whose own idolatrous act of creation is evoked just before the poem’s obscene conclusion. By staging an act of sexual generation and procreation described in terms of idol worship, Jean does not so much inaugurate a new model of literary authorship, but rather forces his later readers to reflect on the nature of literary creation as such: what does poetry actually produce? What is its ultimate ‘object’? In what sense is the Rose itself, as a poem, ‘seminal’ and ‘generative’ — and generative of what? I will be suggesting that Jean finally highlights the generative qualities of textuality at the expense of the creative agency of the literary author, and thus pushes a number of later fourteenth-century poets, notably Langland and Chaucer, to develop deeply ambivalent, highly complex and often ironic attitudes to their own poetic craft.
Plus d'informations (site du colloque)