De Pizan, Christine

Assigned: De Pizan, Christine. “Christine’s Reaction to Jean de Montreuil’s Treatise on the Roman de la Rose (211-18);from Book of the City of Ladies (218-24). Also read the editors’ introduction (209-11).

“Christine’s Reaction to Jean de Montreuil’s Treatise on the Roman de la Rose” (1402)

1. On 211-12 (“To a most skillful and learned person…”), how does Christine de Pizan, in her address to Master Jean Johannes, cast her own powers of discernment and her skill as a writer in comparison to the highly educated men against whom she will be arguing? What is this sort of rhetoric apparently designed to accomplish by way of setting up the debate with them?

2. On 212-13 (“Yet why did I say earlier…”), de Pizan repeatedly calls the text that is the object of her criticism “a work of idleness” (212). What is her justification for issuing such a harsh judgment against the Roman de la Rose? Furthermore, what is the basis of de Pizan’s condemnation of the use of certain language which she identifies as sinful or shameful?

3. On 213-14 (“I cannot yet be silent about…”), what further moral objections does de Pizan set forth against the author of the Roman de la Rose on these pages? Which does she make with the most intensity, and why might that be?

4.On 214-16 (“And there is more, my God…), de Pizan focuses more intently on one of the speakers of the text, the Jealous Husband. What claims does she reproach this speaker for making about women’s nature and conduct? How does she combat these negative remarks against women, and again (as at the outset) cast herself as having the authority to make such arguments?

5. On 216-18 (“And then after all this, by God…”), what final criticisms does de Pizan level against Jean de Meun and his masterpiece, the Roman de la Rose? On the whole, what sense does de Pizan (herself born in Venice, Italy, and later a dweller in Paris, France) set forth regarding the proper role of literary works in French life around the turn of the fifteenth century, as opposed to the pernicious effects she finds in the text she is criticizing?

From The Book of the City of Ladies (1405)

Part One, 1. Here Begins the Book of the City of Ladies….

1. On 218-20 (“Following the practice that has…”), what self-image is Christine de Pizan beset with at the outset of this book, and on what account is she so filled with negative thoughts about herself and her gender? What is compelling or appealing about de Pizan’s self-presentation here?

Part One, 4. Here the Lady Explains to Christine…. and Part 8. Here Christine Tells How…

2. On 220-23 (“Thus, fair daughter, the prerogative…’”), what is the “City of Ladies” (220) that Lady Reason tells Christine de Pizan to begin building—of what is it composed, and how is it to be built? Why do you think de Pizan has chosen to set forth her case against misogyny with an architectural metaphor? What provenance and connotations might work to her advantage here?

From Part Two, 36. Against Those Men Who Claim…

3. On 223-24 (“Following these remarks, I, Christine, spoke…”), what examples does de Pizan offer by way of opposing the common medieval notion that it is not beneficial to educate a woman? What makes these examples rhetorically effective? In responding, take into account de Pizan’s concluding remarks about her father’s encouragement of her desire for learning, and her mother’s failure to appreciate that desire. What does this knowledge add to our sense of who Christine de Pizan is, as a human being and as an intellectual?

4. General question: Christine de Pizan’s works as here selected date to the beginning of the fifteenth century. It would be a mistake, as many commentators have pointed out, to label de Pizan a “feminist” author because she really is not advancing a case for women’s equality with men in most or all areas of life. Even so, to what extent do the arguments she sets forth in our selections from Christine’s Reaction to Jean de Montreuil’s Treatise on the Roman de la Rose”(1402) and The Book of the City of Ladies (1405) share points of contact with modern feminist arguments and goals? Explain.

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B. et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 3rd ed. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-60295-1.

Copyright © 2021 Alfred J. Drake