An independent study on Le Roman de la Rose and a study trip to Brittany with Professor Elizabeth Kinne

There were three of us, Professor Elizabeth Kinne, two comparative literature students (Lucile Culver and myself, Joshua Norman), and a car ride to Brittany to visit the Scriptorial of Avranches as a part of an independent study that took place during the spring semester of 2012.

The ride to Avranches was a rainy one, as we would learn is common in Brittany.  Once we arrived in Avranches (and after having eaten a glorious picnic lunch brought to us graciously by our beloved professor), we visited the Scriptorial, a museum of manuscripts and the making of manuscripts.  Through many ‘hands-on’ exhibitions, beautifully made historical posters in different wings of the museum, and several very interesting videos on the making of manuscripts themselves, we learned an immense amount of facts about what we were studying in class.

Our class looked mostly at Le Roman de la Rose, a romance written by two authors in the Middle Ages—Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun—that is about the conquest of a rose-bud through allegory and constant Medieval tools of explanation.  Before starting the romance, Professor Kinne told us that it would be a sort of encyclopedia to Medieval literature, and she was far from being wrong.  After having finished the work, we moved on to fabliaux for a bit of levity, and ended with Geoffrey Chaucer’s translation of Boethius’ Consolatio Philosophiae, which, in fact, inspired my senior thesis that is being advised by Professor Kinne.

We went to several different towns in the Brittany-Normandy area, we stayed in a beautiful auberge de jeunesse in Dinard and ate some of the best crèpes and gallettes imaginable while drinking great cidre.  The following morning we were off to Saint-Malo to see the breathtaking coast (and extremely windy weather), and then finally into the border of Brittany and Normandy to see le Mont Saint-Michel.

Le Mont Saint-Michel, a true scene from a conte de fée, was extraordinary.  Through the guidance of Professor Kinne, Lucile and I walked up the mountain (not on our knees as pilgrims of the Middle Ages did) through the unending tourism shops selling knights’ gear and arms, and finally to the top itself, much less touristy and much more enthralling.  The view of the sand (for the tide was out) from the top of the mountain from the cloister, was amazing in and of itself, but with the clouds passing overhead and their shadows beneath, the idea of men and women making the pilgrimage to this religious holy ground was, quite frankly, astounding.

After having left the mount with our trusted professor we headed back to Paris, stopping halfway to partake in some coffee, and arrived around 17h in the city.  It was, and will forever be, one of my favorite moments of my time in France (and I’m sure one of Lucile’s as well). Heading out on a weekend before finals with a extremely knowledgeable professor was the perfect break that kept our brains active and our eyes full of splendor.

-Joshua Norman