POL200Y1 Study Guide - Final Guide: Sabines, Exemplum
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jan 12th 2011 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 but 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 to
•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 transvestite.
•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
•he didnt get reintegrated into intellectual society until 13th C. even when he was first translated
considered subversive cause not christian. with thomas aquinas he regained respectability.
•women suitable only for domestic matters. he had direct impact on context of women in society
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b) Pauline Christianity and Augustine- women as temptresses within the City of Man
•biological nature of women acts as form of original sin that corrupts them and others.
•augustine one of most influential father of church, known for city of god work 426ad. he was
trying to give defense of christianity at time of youth for Christianity as religion..if god so great
why did rome fall.
•plato good is objective out there universalist , for augustine god personal
•augustine attacks pagan doubters, need god to achieve some access to fulfillment of
good...aristotle is pagan thinker!
•what are two cities? city of god and city of man, distinguished by where people end up at end
of city. members of city of god are those who destiny it is to go to heaven, city of men those
whose destiny is those who dont perceive heavenly prize. in history these two communities
combined. still have to function in city of man even if destiny different, two cities
indistinguishable to all but god. clinging to will of good and limited goods
•what is role of christian subject then? christians should be obedient as test of christian
virtue..what about women? augustine drawing from books of new testament develops line of
argument hostile towards women. plato/aristotle place women inferior positions because of
capacity to reason. for augustine it would seem that eve is prototype for women, 1st by fact that
women made from rib of man(notion that they are made to follow lead of man), in addition
though not all women will be eves (that they will seek by cunning to sin) what is interesting
about augustine is his agonizing or gymnastics in dealing with biological features of women. put
women under cloud of suspicion. second failing of women in the fall of rome/idea of original sin.
women also began to tempt man by very biological nature of women.
•question of resurrection of flesh, those who are to be saved will rise to heaven with very
bodies..raises problem in regard to woman. biological nature of women establish lust...women
will undergo resurrection where organs will not function in same way, sort of neutered to enjoy
heaven without lust. very nature of women on earth lends itself to encouragement of corruption.
•right goal of women is submission in house and silence in public world
c) Courtly love literature (especially de Meun’s the ‘Roman de la Rose’)- women as naturally
and universally immoral
•women as extension of eve/master of manipulation treachery
•tradition specific to medieval era. developed strong anti-feminism. general theme were how to
seduce/ and how to conduct love affairs. Adulteress love only true form of love?? love destroyed
•Roman de la Rose, novel..finished by de Meuns. popular tale of how man can present himself
and win favors by women but of course done in flowery language of medievalism, plucking the
rose(women).. what is proper strategy for seduction is his question. his take is that because
women morally dubious and vicious to seduce them you have to be insane(or the same?) in a
popular sense the machiavelli of seduction. can lie to them, can bribe to them as long as you get
prize in the end. gave rise to long debate. pizan wrote series of letters attacking de Meuns
portrayal, her book of the city of ladies final statement of vindication for women against de
Meun. pizan not only person to articulate sense of equality for women but what is generally the
case were outside legit grounds of orthodox. so we see movement of cathars..cathars saw women
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as equally capable but for those who saw themselves as step down there were practices to liberate
women from traditional settings.dualism of body/spirit, christians need to live in realm of spirit
and deny body.
•declaration of heresy of cathars.
d) The character Christine’s restatement of the case against women: I.10.1; I.10.2; I.11.1; I.14.1;
I.27.1; I.37.1; II.44.1; II.47.1; II.66.1.
II. A Reformer in a Time of Tradition.
a) Tough circumstances
b) Pizan the author and Christine the character
Argument of the lecture: Pizan seeks to counteract many strands of theory, literature and practice
that denigrated women. Christine the character draws on these traditions to voice various
objections to the work of the Three Ladies in building the city. The city is inhabited by a
pantheon of female heroes from both history and literature. This city functions differently from
the ideal communities of Plato and Aristotle, serving not as moral ideal or political blueprint, but
as an alternative community of identity for women (distinct from the family and the household)
through which they can reevaluate their true capacities. In this work Pizan seeks to counteract a
long tradition of theory and literature that denigrated women. In contrast to Plato, the city is
inhabited by a pantheon of female heroes from both history and literature. This city functions
differently from the ideal communities of Plato and Aristotle, serving not as moral ideal or
political blueprint, but as an alternative source of identity for women through which they can
reevaluate their true capacities.
Using the figures of three allegorical women—Reason, Rectitude, and Justice—she seeks to
construct the titular City of Ladies, a symbolic repository of all that is good and noble in women
and a place of refuge that can stand in its irrefutable truth as an impregnable defense against
future attacks by sharp-tongued and sexist male writers.
Christine’s city offers a gallery of compelling models of womanhood. The permanent residents of
the City of Ladies are united and strong. Scholars, inventors, artists, prophets, saints, warriors,
pious wives, and dutiful daughters all take their place in the well-proportioned and carefully
designed auspices of her city. In sampling from history, mythology, literature, and the Bible,
Christine offers her own full, complete, and universal portrait of womanhood.
rectitude: morally correct behavior or thinking; righteousness :
In The Book of the City of Ladies Christine de Pizan created a symbolic city in which women
are appreciated and defended. Christine, having no female literary tradition to call upon,
constructs three allegorical foremothers: Reason, Justice, and Rectitude. She enters into a
dialogue, a movement between question and answer, with these allegorical figures that is from a
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