Christine de Pizan (1364-c.1429)
Introduction: the enduring problem of perception
-exciting moment in intellectual history where groups of marginalized individuals come to
develop sense of empowerment/equality, not just about woman ut argument for equality that
coiuld e generalized appropriated and learned from.
-on surface clear that gains of woman enormous.
*how work and contributions of woman continue to be perceived judged and continued..problem
of perception! most obvious to look to media. eg. belinda stronach focus on her relationship with
peter mckay not her accomplishments.. female politicians have harsher judgement
-looking at book in relation to how classical sources inform the work / influential medieval
sources in her work
-similar to plato in creating city through dialogue as well as narrative, pizan doing something
different in intent from plato. despite fact that both communities have timelessness to them(form
of jjustice held to be eternal model) for pizan not meant to be universal form= it is gender
specific, nor meant to suggest utopian ideal/real model for political community. nor is it
metaphor for thinking of ones ultimate destiny. womens desire for citizenship meant to make
difference in conduct and her life.
-interesting thing: question of arguing for womens equality without real strong theoretical
tradition in which equality has been theorized. women in medieval france facing and living in
hierarchical structures. highly oppressive- argue in interesting way how woman can create
empowered interesting sense of self. some may look to locke/rosseau to human equality
commitments but pizan grounds intuition in actual principle. her sense of equality based on
perception of womans contribution and what they have done.
-3rd consideration of her legacy what does it contribute?
-defense of women based on basic principle of augustine(that nature is good)
I. Confronting late medieval misogyny(the hatred of women by men) (Pizan’s reference
•mateolus who wrote book of leviticus. character christine takes up book, more she reads the
more despondent she gets. she realizes that mateolus not unique in way he characterizes
women as vicious/corrupt/inferior, so she realizes he is representation of vast amount of
literature and commentary that is offensive to her and that she is sad about, it enforces and
seeks into her own sense of identity. she evokes emotion of shame. these writers given her
sense of inferiority (ashamed of being a woman as she has internalized criticism)illusion to
•aristotle- passions/emotions get in way of women and make them intellectually inferior
•augustine biological nature of women acts as form of original sin that corrupts them and others.
•courtly love tradition- women as extension of eve/master of manipulation treachery
a) Aristotle and his legacy-women as intellectual inferiors- via N. Oresme
• passions/emotions get in way of women and make them intellectually inferior