Author

JOANNA LUFT

Date of Award

6-2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Supervisor

Professor A. Savage

Abstract

The following work investigates the critical history, and offers a rereading, of the symbol of the rosebud in Guillaume de Lorris's and Jean de Meun's thirteenth-century The Romance of the Rose. An interpretation of the rosebud as the female beloved, while invoked on the basis of convention and context, is continually undermined by the literal details of the symbol itself. The phallic shape and male owner of the rosebud cast it as an indeterminately gendered symbol. In the absence of a secure female object-mirror in which to view himself as verifiably masculine, the subjectivity of the Narrator-Lover undergoes a radical fragmentation such that it comes to resemble the indeterminacy of the rosebud. The relation of sameness between the speaking voice and rosebud situates it as a subversive copy, rather than feminized reflection or Other, of the Narrator-Lover figure. In addition to its imagery, a dynamic of sameness underwrites the structure of the poem, which progresses through a sophisticated interplay of repetition such that the distortions that accrue as a result of allusions and reiterated events stand as sites of irony and implication. While an allegory, the poem is not necessarily interpretable as a conventional romance. Readings that posit it as such rely on a definition of allegory as a bilevel narrative in which a conventional, allegorical, message overrides the particularities of the literal text. Rather than beyond, however, the meaning of the poem's imagery inheres in the material construction of the figures themselves. As an allegory the Rose generates, not another level of meaning, but a complex set of interconnections that compels its readers to attend to and negotiate the text's surface dynamics. The subject matter of the Rose is not so much the politics of love as the politics of interpretation.

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