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Christine de Pizan and the Categories of Difference

Marilynn Desmond editor
Volume: 14
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Christine de Pizan and the Categories of Difference
    Book Description:

    Places Christine de Pizan’s work in the context of larger discussions about medieval authorship, identity, and categories of difference. Here, contributors from the fields of history, literature, legal theory, art history, and medieval studies offer a truly interdisciplinary perspective on the Christine corpus. Contributors: Michel-André Bossy, Cynthia J. Brown, Mary Anne C. Case, Thelma Fenster, Mary Weitzel Gibbons, Monica H. Green, Judith L. Kellogg, Roberta Krueger, Deborah McGrady, Benjamin M. Semple, Charity Cannon Willard, and Diane Wolfthal.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3498-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION: From Book-Lined Cell to Cyborg Hermeneutics
    (pp. ix-xx)
    Marilynn Desmond

    Donna Haraway’s cyborg myth points to the “transgressed boundaries, potent fusions and dangerous possibilities” of technology in the late twentieth century: “we are living through a movement from an organic, industrial society to a polymorphous, information system” (Simians161). Since we will become increasingly defined by our electronic relations to the “informatics of domination,” this shift has inescapable implications for our social, economic, and cultural constructions as readers. Our hybrid identities will eventually be constructed through electronic textuality and the technological possibilities of hypertext and virtual reality.¹ The human organism grafted onto the electronic network will constitute the cyborg reader...

  2. Part I: The Belly of the Monster

    • CHAPTER 1 Christine de Pizan on the Art of Warfare
      (pp. 3-15)
      Charity Cannon Willard

      The series of letters written by Christine de Pizan during her participation in the quarrel over theRoman de la Rosecall attention to her relations with government employees, notably the royal secretaries with whom her husband had been associated during his lifetime. Little attention, however, has been given to the knights and military men with whom she rubbed elbows early in her career, probably at the court of Louis d’Orléans, except for those who are known to have belonged to the Court of Love founded in 1402, or to the Dame Blanche à l’Ecu Vert, the order founded by...

    • CHAPTER 2 Christine’s Anxious Lessons: Gender, Morality, and the Social Order from the Enseignemens to the Avision
      (pp. 16-40)
      Roberta Krueger

      In the midst of her autobiographical portrait at the end of theAvision-Christine,Christine tells how Nature inspired her to strike the anvil with her own “outils” as productively as she had formerly engendered with her womb and how, between 1399 and the time of writing theAvisionin 1405, she wrote fifteen major works (L’Avision-Christine,ed. Towner, 163–64). Her activity during this period is remarkable not only for the quantity of texts she produced, but also for their variety and their complexity. The works include two books of moral dicta (theEnseignemensandProverbes moraux); a moralized mythology...

    • CHAPTER 3 “Douleur sur toutes autres”: Revisualizing the Rape Script in the Epistre Othea and the Cité des dames
      (pp. 41-70)
      Diane Wolfthal

      Roy Porter recently argued that rape was not on the minds of pre-industrial women and that feminist scholars should not project their concern with rape onto the past (221). Indeed, Johan Huizinga’s classic account of late medieval culture,Herfsttij der middeleeuwen(The Autumn of the Middle Ages), seems to lend support to Porter’s assertion that rape was not a problem for fifteenth-century women. Huizinga’s book mentions all sorts of violence—execution, war, torture, assault, persecution, brigandage, and even dwarfs confined with iron collars—but omits any reference to sexual violation (1–29).

      But rape was an issue for fifteenth-century women....

    • CHAPTER 4 Christine de Pizan and the Authority of Experience
      (pp. 71-88)
      Mary Anne C. Case

      Christine de Pizan and theQuerelle des femmestradition of which she forms a part have much to contribute to ongoing debates in feminist jurisprudence. Her condemnation of theRoman de la Rose,for example, is an important precursor of the MacKinnon-Dworkin view of pornography. In responding to those who value the poem’s literary merits over the adverse effects its message may have on the lives of women, Christine comes very close to asking, with Catharine MacKinnon, “If a woman is subjected, why should it matter that the work has other value?” (MacKinnon,Feminist Theory202). More generally, Christine presages...

  3. Part II: Situated Knowledges

    • CHAPTER 5 “Perdre son latin”: Christine de Pizan and Vernacular Humanism
      (pp. 91-107)
      Thelma Fenster

      Recent criticism on Christine de Pizan has renewed an earlier query: did Christine know Latin, and if so, how well? In part, however, the question invites worn-out conclusions about men and Latin, women and the vernacular and the oral, and in the end we may wonder about its strict relevance to Christine studies. Early French humanists such as Jean de Montreuil, Gontier Col, Nicolas de Clamanges, Ambrogio Migli, Jean Muret, and others sought to achieve eloquence in Latin. Christine, on the other hand, has left a body of writing only in French. A good deal of her work participated in...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Critique of Knowledge as Power: The Limits of Philosophy and Theology in Christine de Pizan
      (pp. 108-127)
      Benjamin M. Semple

      As a late medieval woman author composing her works in the vernacular, Christine de Pizan is not necessarily a writer we would expect to have taken part in philosophical or theological speculation. In several significant ways, she lacked the requisite “qualifications” for the study of these disciplines. Their traditional language was Latin, yet she wrote in French; the usual participants in these branches of inquiry were men; and authority in either discipline generally required a university education and an institutional rank (such as doctor of theology or clerk).

      However, if we examine the evidence provided by her works, particularly in...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Bath of the Muses and Visual Allegory in the Chemin de long estude
      (pp. 128-145)
      Mary Weitzel Gibbons

      Although Christine de Pizan studies have exploded in the past twenty years, textual interpretations of her oeuvre have far exceeded attention to the visual images as they interact with the texts.¹ Recently, however, a few scholars, such as Sandra Hindman, have explored aspects of the intricate interplay of text and image.² My aim is to probe further into text and image relationships. In this essay I will focus on one miniature,The Bath of the Muses(Figure 17), found in Christine’sLivre du chemin de long estude,in order to highlight the integral part illuminations play in her manuscripts: images...

    • CHAPTER 8 “Traittié tout de mençonges”: The Secrés des dames, “Trotula,” and Attitudes toward Women’s Medicine in Fourteenth- and Early-Fifteenth-Century France
      (pp. 146-178)
      Monica H. Green

      In a brief exchange with Lady Reason early in theLivre de la cité des dames,Christine de Pizan turns to one of the common themes in medieval misogynistic rhetoric: the vile or deformed nature of the female body. So defective is the female body that Nature herself is ashamed at having created it. Christine locates these views in one particular text, what she callsDu secret des femmes(which I shall refer to for the moment by both its Latin and French titles,Secreta mulierum/Secrés des dames). Christine’s opinion of this work is unambiguous: it is a “traittié tout...

  4. Part III: Engendering Authorship

    • CHAPTER 9 Transforming Ovid: The Metamorphosis of Female Authority
      (pp. 181-194)
      Judith L. Kellogg

      The standard view of Ovid in the Middle Ages was that he was love’s inspired clerk. Chaucer describes him as “Venus clerk, Ovide, / That hath ysowen wonder wide / The grete god of Loves name” (“House of Fame” lines 1487–89).¹ Christine de Pizan, however, voices an exasperated counterview that saw Ovid as love’s degraded and conniving clerk. She says, for instance, of hisArs amatoria,“Homs qui veult selon ce livre faire / N’amera ja” (whoever seeks to learn from this book will never know how to love) (Epistre au dieu d’Amourlines 374–75).² In a subsequent...

    • CHAPTER 10 What Is a Patron? Benefactors and Authorship in Harley 4431, Christine de Pizan’s Collected Works
      (pp. 195-214)
      Deborah McGrady

      Around 1411, Christine de Pizan presented the queen of France, Isabeau of Bavaria, with an exquisite manuscript copy of her courtly and didactic works (British Library, Harley 4431). Containing thirty texts and decorated with 130 miniatures, this anthology constitutes the most complete extant collection of Christine’s works. The manuscript opens with a dedication addressed to the queen, along with a frontispiece depicting the presentation scene (Figure 27). This liminary material reproduces the traditional components of a medieval gift-giving scene; through word and image, the writer subordinates herself to the queen, and the patron functions as inspiration for and judge of...

    • CHAPTER 11 The Reconstruction of an Author in Print: Christine de Pizan in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries
      (pp. 215-235)
      Cynthia J. Brown

      In 1488, Antoine Vérard published theLivre des fais d’armes et de chevalerie,the first of Christine de Pizan’s texts to be printed in France. The author, however, would not have recognized her own work at first glance. Not only was the title altered to read theArt de chevalerie selon Vegece,¹ but Christine’s name as author was replaced by the name Vegetius, one of her acknowledged sources. In addition, the first-person speaker had disappeared from the text in Vérard’s version. Christine’s female narrator had originally been identified from the start, since the speaker defended her status as a woman...

    • CHAPTER 12 Arms and the Bride: Christine de Pizan’s Military Treatise as a Wedding Gift for Margaret of Anjou
      (pp. 236-256)
      Michel-André Bossy

      M anuscript Royal 15.E.VI in the British Library is a gift that Queen Margaret of Anjou received in 1445 from John Talbot, first earl of Shrewsbury, on the occasion of her marriage to Henry VI of England. The book is a compilation of narrative texts and treatises, all in French, and the crowning piece close to the end is Christine de Pizan’s military treatise, theLivre des fais d’armes et de chevalerie,which she wrote in 1410. What did Talbot with his scribes and illuminators have in mind when they selected theFais d’armesfor special display in the gift...