An Introduction to Literary Debate in Late Medieval France
From Le Roman de la Rose to La Belle Dame sans Mercy

Joan E. McRae

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How medieval poems sparked discussions on women’s agency, love, marriage, and honor that prefigured modern feminism  
“Beautifully written and organized, this book offers for the first time an invaluable comparative study in the unique historical and cultural context of Late Medieval France.”—Anne-Hélène Miller, University of Tennessee, Knoxville  
“A refreshingly clear overview of two of the debates that shaped French literary history.”—Julie Singer, author of Representing Mental Illness in Late Medieval France: Machines, Madness, Metaphor  
This volume immerses readers in a debate tradition that flourished in France during the late Middle Ages, focusing on two works that were both popular and controversial in their time: Le Roman de la Rose by thirteenth-century poets Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun and La Belle Dame sans Mercy by fifteenth-century royal secretary and poet Alain Chartier. This is the first comparative volume on these important works and the discussions they sparked.  
Engaging with questions of women’s agency, love, marriage, and honor, these two poems prompted responses that circulated via treatises, letters, and sermons among officials, clerics, and poets. Joan McRae provides commentary on the two texts, a timeline and summary of the resulting debates, and biographical sketches of the leading intellectuals who matched wits over different ways of reading the texts, including pioneering writer Christine de Pizan. McRae shows that these works and the debates, read together, consider a range of social issues that raise questions of gender, the place of power and hierarchy in societal relationships, and the responsibility of writers for the effect of their works on readers.
An Introduction to Literary Debate in Late Medieval France is a helpful overview of these weighty arguments for both students and scholars. McRae provides a compact, comprehensive, and up-to-date study, spotlighting influential literary expressions that evolved into the “querelle des femmes,” the “woman question,” which in turn paved the way for modern feminism.  
Joan E. McRae, professor of French and humanities at Middle Tennessee State University, is the author of Alain Chartier: The Quarrel of the Belle Dame Sans Mercy.  
A volume in the series New Perspectives on Medieval Literature: Authors and Traditions, edited by R. Barton Palmer and Tison Pugh  
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