Piers Plowman and the querelle of the Rose: Marriage Caritas and the Peacock’s “Pennes”, Caritas and the Peacock’s “Pennes”
This article reads PPl in relation to the Roman de la Rose and the so-called querelle of the Rose, arguing that L’s poem is precocious within a coming culture of Rose critique and reassessment. It investigates many allusive coincidences to discuss PPl in relation to the questions of sexual ethics raised by the Rose and which were to become so contested in the querelle. Like other engagements with the Roman de la Rose, PPl interposes itself between the Rose and its sources, investigating de Meun’s equivocal reading practices, in order to consider questions of human sexuality. This article is divided into four sections. The first engages with the question, which is raised by Pierre Col, one of Jean de Meun’s supporters, of why the Rose comes in for sharp criticism so long after that poem’s composition, considering, too, the timeliness of that criticism in relation to questions about marriage. The second part looks at the way in which L worked the theme of marriage into his poem in a way that draws attention to the missing case for marriage in the Roman de la Rose. This theme, indeed, comes to displace another concern with same-sex desire that is exhibited both in the Rose and one of its sources, Alain de Lille’s De planctu Naturae. The new marriage proponents and critics of the Rose, a community which includes WL, iterated a different structural opposition, not between natural and unnatural love but, rather, between sodomy and marriage, which required and produced a blindness to same-sex desire. The third part of this article works to establish the distinctive way in which L set his reading of the natural world apart from the Natura plangens tradition, making a dynamic typological drama out of the theme of caritas. This is a distinctiveness that has also been identified by Hugh White. This article engages with White’s work but reaches some different conclusions. In the fourth section this article considers L’s interest in caritas and curiositas in relation to double entendre, comparing and contrasting the discussion of obscenity in PPl with that in both the Rose and the querelle, finding out the ways in which L incorporated sexuality into his version of an ethical life. (ID)
New Medieval Literatures, 10 (2008), 49–86.