“Le Roman de la Rose”: fear, danger, & walls vs. #bridgesnotwalls #NoWallsNoBan #LoveTrumpsHate


Also this weekend, from UBC’s good president:



I am thankful. These public statements are valuable and heartening. They give hope. And it’s a joy to see a university be a university. A “safe space,” a haven, a sanctuary citadel for a whole community of citizens. Like its early medieval monastic antecedents; and like medieval European universities that survived international conflict (ex. the 14th-15th c.) as transnational stable cultural loci, network-nodes, and welcoming refuges for the universitas of scholars. An idealistic “Europe without borders” at the service of greater goods. Continued in (internationalist, decolonising, anti-imperialist) translatio studii et imperii here in Canada.


Welcome back to UBC Medieval Studies, MDVL301A. 24-30 October 2016: on the threshold of Samhain / Hallowe’en / All Saints and All Souls, when the borders between realities are thin and permeable. A time when those from other worlds walk among us. We are wise to welcome them. (These last two sentences are of course true of any literature course, any time.) That week, we met maps and mapping, Danger, Fear, a wall, a fortress, and psychomachia…



Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae & De natura rerum
British Library Harley MS 2660 (1136)


  • reading: psychometry / psychogeography / psychomachia, the multiplicity of impediments (ex. Wealth), Pygmalion, structure, (compositional) shape (Roman de la Rose 4-9, 44-45, 53-59, 154-158, 229-233, 236-245, 319-326)
  • music in class this week:
    (1) Hildegard of Bingen, The Origin of Fire – Music and Visions (Anonymous 4)

    (2) Hildegard of Bingen, Canticles of Ecstasy (Sequentia)

    (3) (attrib.) Alfonso X, Cantigas de Santa Maria (Sequentia)



1 Discussion of blog questions & comments on week 7

2 Geometry and geography


Beatus of Liébana, Commentary on the Apocalypse
BNF MS lat. 8878 (11th c.)


1 Student presentation & class discussion

2 Geometry, geography, and geology

Human external spatial relations, relationship to physical space, environment:

Human internal space:

  • as a man-made imaginary construct and artificial creation
  • psychomachia, psychometry, and psychology; the “minor” but instrumental characters:
    —Wealth, Poverty, Hunger (154-158)
    —Rebuff (“Resistance”; Dangiers), Shame, Evil Tongue, Fear (44-45)
    —those four guardians + Jealousy (53-59)
    —Rebuff , Fear, Shame (229-233)
    —Venus vs Shame & Fear (319-320)
    —On Dangiers: see People of Color in Medieval Art History > Roman de la Rose here and here [additional note: he could be a potential ally, stop following orders, and join the cause of Love for reasons of class, compassion, and social justice]

Human artifice, artefacts, design, architecture, and art:

  • reading (broad sense) man-made physical spaces in the Rose
  • the garden wall decorated with carved images (bas-relief sculpture) and painting (4-9): (L-R)
    —Old Age
    —Religious Hypocrisy
  • Inside, the art of textiles and fashion (10-20):
    —the doorkeeper, Idleness;
    —inside, birds, Pleasure & Joy, the God of Love & Pleasant Looks & Beauty, Wealth & her lover, Largesse & Arthurian knight, Generosity of Spirit & young man, Courtesy (the first to speak to the lover, 13) & knight, Youth & her lover
  • the story of Pygmalion and Galatea
    mise en abyme and ekphrasis
    —embedded within the description of another three-dimensional art-work, a tiny silver image-statue-reliquary (321-26);
    —which is also used as a device to bring “relics” and “pilgrimage” into the grand OTT mixed metaphor of the “conquest” of the “Rose”

Points to Ponder & sneak previews of next week:

  • Looking at reliquaries, in association with Astronomy work of looking at astronomical instruments
  • QUESTION TO CONSIDER: the story of Pygmalion, its relationship to Genius on creativity (vs Nature: see next week’s reading), and considering what the difference is between:
    —a stone-mason and a sculptor?
    —a carpenter and a carver?
    —a metal-worker or a smith and a jeweller (we can also discuss the interesting in-between-or-both case of goldsmith & silversmith)?
    —craft and art?
  • Art, psychogeography (see also: Rhetoric group notes), and ideas of making and finding, materials and sense, and making sense of and understanding:
    —ex. entendemen, Troubadour poetry about trobar, and the use of sens & matiere in prologues to Marie de France’s Lais and Fables and to some of Chrétien de Troyes’s romances
    —ex. in 20th c. plastic & visual arts: Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Bill Reid, Kenojuak Ashevak, Louise Bourgeois
    —also Aristotle Poetics

British Library Harley MS 4425 f. 14v


Two things.

First: there is the alternative to universities, education, the free movement and interaction of ideas and the people in whose minds they reside, reading, questioning, and intelligent life.


(The Economist, January 21st-27th 2017, p.27)

Second thing: there is hope in resistance, in joining a Rebel Alliance to Restore the Republic. In the Roman de la Rose, that means the Army of Lovers whose General Organa is the Goddess of Love herself.


Image credits, via Twitter: @JohanOosterman, @ubcprez, @BLMedieval, @laBnF, @robmmiller, @jessehurlbut

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