POL 200: January 19, 2011
Modes of political argument in Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies.
I. The City as Metaphor-both removes women from their primary source of identity in
the family, but leads them to focus on their actions in the present
III. Paradiastole- redescription of perceived weaknesses so as to have them perceived
anew as strengths
Argument of the lecture: Pizan’s text is multi-layered in terms of its argument. While
she demonstrates to us that women have performed well in positions of political power,
she also suggests that ultimately this is not the goal to which we should ask all women to
aspire. Indeed, her political project is much more radical, suggesting that we reassess
what types of roles and activities are indeed most beneficial to the establishment and
sustaining of collective life.
A proper and wider vision of justice must not only acknowledge that we cannot in
principle exclude certain classes of people from positions of power and privilege as they
can show the capabilities to succeed there. More deeply, justice requires that we rethink
the frameworks that identify what positions and activities are most valuable to political
communities. Greatest honours are due not to kings, legislators and founders, but to
those who have developed the practical skills and crafts without which civilization would
How do we judge peoples contributions?
She has to deal with the presuppositions of her times
Wants to restore a sense of dignity to women
- public roles for women in the church
- she needed to develop an arguments to escape heresys
- places arguments in orthodox Christian traditions
city as a metaphor: city of ladies, how does it function?
- literary device: trope
- image that allows for women to rethink their identities, reinterpret themselves
- serves as an inspiration for noble action
- the city of ladies/god, serve as a virtual community