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Christine de Pizan's Changing Opinion

Christine de Pizan's Changing Opinion: A Quest for Certainty in the Midst of Chaos

Douglas Kelly
Series: Gallica
Volume: 4
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Christine de Pizan's Changing Opinion
    Book Description:

    'Christine de Pizan's Changing Opinion' examines the evolution of Christine's thought on true and false opinion. She reflected deeply on the subject of opinion while analyzing, evaluating, challenging, and changing her own and others' opinions in her lifelong quest for certain truth. Parsing opinion in Christine's writings gives us insight into her thought on controversial issues while highlighting opinions that were and, indeed, often still are, subjective and controversial. The first two chapters treat her definition and description of opinion, including her conception of the thinking mind and the arts by which that mind expresses thought; they also follow her changing opinion about the nature and power of fortune in the world she knew. The next three chapters treat three specific changes in her opinions on misogyny, chivalric [or courtly] love, and self-interest and enlightened self-interest in society. The last chapter relates Christine's views on opinion to recent work on subjectivity in medieval writing. DOUGLAS KELLY is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-520-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-6)

    In the second part of the Advision, Christine relates her encounter with ‘une grant ombre femmenine sans corps’ (II.i.9) [a great, disembodied feminine shade]. This is Lady Opinion. Christine recognizes her from previous encounters, notably in the debate about the Roman de la rose. ‘Ne fus je celle’, Lady Opinion asks,

    qui mist le debat entre les clers, disciples de Maistre Jehan de Meun ... et toy sur la compillacion du Romant de la Rose, duquel entre vous contradictoirement escripsistes l’un a l’autre, chascune partie soustenant ses raisons, si comme il appert par le livret qui en fu fait? (Advision,...

  6. 1 Opinion as a Concept: Definition and Cognition
    (pp. 7-40)

    Many of Christine de Pizan’s opinions remain controversial today. They are debated in the same arena as in the Advision Cristine: the university classroom and its extension, academic symposia and publications. Such debates focus on what Christine’s opinions are, how she arrives at them, and how valid they may be today. My intention here is to examine criteria she used for making and changing opinion in order that she might distinguish true from false opinion, an examination that will allow us to appreciate and evaluate the grounds and rigor of her opinions as she defined and articulated them in an...

  7. 2 Opinion as a Personification: Description and Invention
    (pp. 41-76)

    In the Advision Christine defines opinion as a more or less credible view that one may accept or reject. It follows that opinion can represent any view that comes up in debate, serving to ‘faire bouger les catégories mentales’,¹ or, as Christine herself puts it, to ‘mouvoir nos oppinions’ (Débat, p. 145:972–73) [change our opinions]. Human limitations explain why opinion rather than certain knowledge prevails in human thought. The desire to know impels humans to form opinions and defend them when attacked. Since, however, an opinion may be true or false, and since its truth or falsity is a...

  8. 3 Misogyny, Introspection, and Radical Opinion
    (pp. 77-106)

    One can best study Christine de Pizan’s use and evaluation of opinion at those critical moments when she changes her mind. There are four principal instances of such changes in her writings. Taken separately, they fall within the context of the three kinds of opinion treated in what follows: opinions generally received that she contests, treated in this chapter on misogyny; controversial opinions, analyzed in Chapter 4 on noble love; and, finally, generally accepted opinions that Christine shares, discussed in Chapter 5 on the king and national self-interest. The fourth change, treated in the preceding chapters, is the major breakthrough...

  9. 4 Love, Reason, and Debatable Opinion
    (pp. 107-141)

    In her early writings Christine de Pizan saw a defense against misogyny and a hope for the commonweal in noble love. Good lovers are a bulwark against misogynist defamation in both the Epistre au dieu d’amours and the Dit de la rose. Yet, as with misogyny, a change of mind occurred in her opinion about such love, albeit the change took place over a somewhat longer time. The change was also related to her views on misogyny and her search for effective ways of combating that prejudice.² As Christine’s views evolved, she perceived more clearly that not la donna, but...

  10. 5 Self-Interest, Common Opinion, and Corrective Encomia
    (pp. 142-168)

    Christine de Pizan was typical of her times in being unaware of the value of individual psychology. Indeed, psychology and psychiatry, as we know them today, did not exist for her time other than as a physiology based on the humors or on natural or God-given intellectual virtues and faculties like those she describes in her own mind and body.² A proper balance of the humors was desirable in humans; such balance was achieved in moral terms, not by psychoanalytical introspection. Hence, when dealing with individual problems, there was a movement towards the more general that might explain and permit...

  11. 6 Opinion and Subjectivity
    (pp. 169-180)

    Christine de Pizan’s æuvre is complex and can be perplexing today. As Lady Opinion explains, the Advision itself

    sera de plusieurs tesmoingnee diversement. Les ungs sur le langaige donront leur sentence en plusieurs manieres: diront qu’il n’est pas bien elegant, les autres que la composicion des materes est estrange. Et ceulx qui l’entendront en diront bien. (Advision, II.xxii.59–63)

    [will be variously evaluated. Some will give various opinions on its language. They will say it isn’t elegant; others will say that the composition of its subject matter is strange. And those who understand it will speak well of it.]


  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 181-212)
  13. Index
    (pp. 213-226)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-227)