The Roman de la Rose and Parisian philosophy in the XIIIth century

01 jan 2016 09:00 - 01 mar 2016 18:00

Call for proposals for a conference co-organized by Marco Nievergelt, fellow of the IAS

The Roman de la Rose is not only the most influential late-medieval vernacular poem (with over 300 extant Manuscripts), along with Dante’s Commedia, but is also a uniquely challenging work. Jean de Meun’s continuation of the poem fuses themes from medieval satire and love-poetry with a wide range of philosophical questions that show a particular concern for contemporary controversies and issues. The speeches by central characters such as Reason, Nature and Genius are saturated with references to both ancient auctores and more recent, scholastic debates. But while there is widespread consensus about the encyclopaedic range of themes evoked by the poem, and about Jean’s presence in the cultural orbit of the University, little work has been done in assessing the intellectual and cultural significance of his engagement with philosophical materials. While in the 1940s Gérard Paré could still claim that Jean was merely ‘un vulgarisateur et un traducteur’ who ‘continue de mettre à la portée des laïcs les rudiments de sa science universitaire’, it is now clear that this is an unsatisfactory assessment. On the one hand, Jean’s understanding of philosophical problems debated in Paris during the 1260s and 70s appears to be far more precise and informed than Paré allowed for. On the other, Jean’s handling of such materials is often provocative, critical and creative, and the poem cannot be reduced to a patchwork of mere ‘allusions’ to scholastic theories and debates. Seeing the Roman de la Rose in terms of a passive ‘adoptions’ of philosophical positions elaborated by the scholastics is therefore inaccurate. Jean’s poem is a self-conscious, deeply informed, and intellectually challenging intervention in the intellectual debates of its time. Attempting to justify this claim raises a whole range of larger, more profound questions regarding the interface between poetry and philosophy as it is deployed in the Rose and as it influences later medieval poetry.

The Roman de la Rose has seen much recent critical attention from literary scholars but its engagements with medieval thought have not been explored as, for example, Dante’s have been. The conference will enrich our understanding of the Roman de la Rose itself and its cultural and intellectual significance in the history of philosophy as well as of literature by encouraging a sustained dialogue between philosophers, intellectual historians and literary historians. The Rose juxtaposes a whole range of different currents and debates in thirteenth-century thought and by reading it in the light of that thought, we also hope to reveal connections between different aspects of medieval philosophy as well as between philosophy and poetry. It is our hope that such collaboration will shed light on the complexity of the poem not least by allowing an understanding of the idiosyncratic poetico-philosophical method of the Rose, which challenges current disciplinary barriers as well as medieval ones. We invite participants to explore any topic pertinent to the poem’s engagement with thirteenth-century university culture and learning—philosophy, theology and scientific knowledge more broadly. This may include attention to areas such as the following, among many others:

  • Aristotelian or Averroistic controversies in the 1270s
  • Aristotelian natural science
  • Grammar, Sprachlogik, semantics and philosophy of language and signification
  • Logic, specifically theories of relations
  • Syllogistic
  • Jean’s engagement with twelfth-century Neoplatonism
  • Fallacies and Equivocation
  • Rhetoric and poetics
  • Theology, specifically Trinitarian theology
  • Ontological issues (individuation; the debate on universals)
  • Faculty psychology / philosophy of mind / emotion
  • Cognition and epistemology (e.g. species-theory and perception)
  • Optics and vision (Mirrors and refraction)
  • Dreams and prophecy
  • Political philosophy
  • Intellectual dynamics and disciplinary tensions in University culture
  • The role of mendicants in the university
  • ‘Artists vs. Theologians’
  • Astrology and divination
  • Ethics
  • Economics
  • Jean’s engagement with earlier philosophers/poets/thinkers (Boethius; Alan of Lille; Bernardus Silvestris, etc.)
  • The relevance of earlier philosophers named in the Rose (e.g. Abelard; Origen; Alhacen, etc.)

Please get in touch with for further details before submitting an abstract. Abstracts to be submitted by March 1 2016.

Lieu et date du colloque : 20-21 juin 2016, Institut d’Études Avancées de Paris

Organisateurs :
John Marenbon (Trinity College, Cambridge)
Jonathan Morton (New College, Oxford/King’s College, London)
Marco Nievergelt (Institut d’Etudes avancées, Paris)

Allegory, Hermeneutics and Epistemology
01 September 2015 - 30 June 2016
30 June 2016
01 Mar 2016 18:00
Marco Nievergelt
Calls for proposals
Middle ages
Western Europe