chapter  11
14 Pages

The Querelle de la Rose and the Ethics of Reading

WithMarilynn Desmond

In 1401-1402, Christine de Pizan contributed three letters to the Querelle de la Rose, an epistolary debate on the ethical implications of reading Jean de Meun's portion of the Roman de la Rose. In early 1402, she collected her two letters and Gontier Col's two letters—but omitted Montreuil's——in a dossier she called the "epistres du debat sus le Roman de la Rose." She composed two cover letters for this dossier, one addressed to Queen Isabeau and one to the Provost of Paris, Guillaume de Tignonville. The epistles in the Querelle participate in a century-long tradition of literary and textual responses to the Rose; nonetheless, the rhetorical skirmishes in the Querelle tend to obscure the interpretive performances of these letters as readerly engagements with Jean de Meun's text. Christine's critique of the Rose emphasizes that Jean de Meun defames the female sex by portraying women as deceitful and wanton.