The Roman de la Rose, one of the most copied, and commented on, of medieval vernacular texts, has retained its enigmatic character through the centuries. Rich in meanings, elusive in meaning, it has generated a variety of interpretations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Kevin Brownlee and Sylvia Huot have provided a synopsis of the literary debates surrounding the Roman de la Rose, ranging from the Christian allegorical school of D.H.Robertson to the philosophical perspectives of neo-Platonism and the more purely literary concerns of structure, genre and discourse. Most recently there has been attention paid to receptivity, both as a subject of intrinsic interest and as an entree into the meaning of a controversial text. The Roman de la Rose has not, to my knowledge, been placed within the context of the eleventh-twelfth-and thirteenth century debates over married clergy, homosexuality, and concerns over natural and unnatural love, perhaps because scholars have viewed it usually through the lens of courtly love literature and, more recently, Christine de Pizan’s assault on its misogyny.


This paper, a tentative approach by someone who is not an expert in this area or on this text, argues that Guillaume de Lorris offers a veiled description of a male to male love relationship. Jean de Meun then re-describes Guillaume’s text, extending it with debates and digressions that focus, among other matters, on the issue of natural and unnatural love, and supplying a heterosexual ending while nevertheless remaining ambivalent with regard to the female sex. Although there are other interpretative paths that provide entrees into the homosexual concerns in the text, the path that I would like to pursue begins with the argument that homosexual behavior was reinterpreted in late twelfth and early thirteenth century Europe as unnatural and even horrific.


Extract from ‘The Roman de la Rose and Thirteenth Century Prohibitions of Homosexuality’

a paper by Jo Ann Hoeppner Moran Cruz for the Georgetown University Cultural Studies Conference


Sketches for Roman de la Rose and K Book from the Medieval manuscript 

Book of he Hours