Sunday, July 1, 2012

Author Serendipity #5: Christine de Pizan, Early Feminist

Welcome to this week's installment
of my new book meme!

The purpose of this new feature is to highlight those authors I have recently discovered, and whose books I would love to read. Such discoveries might come about through browsing on the Internet (on Goodreads, Shelfari, or Amazon), a chance encounter with an interesting book in a bookstore,
or through other bloggers' recommendations.

The authors I choose will be those who write in my favorite genres, and might be either emerging authors, or have been in print for a while. 
They will, however, be entirely new to me.

This week, I would like to thank
Brian Joseph @ Babbling Books
for my discovery of a daring medieval writer!
You can access the post which mentions
this writer and her audacious book

Here's my fifth discovery!

Christine de Pizan
(Dec. 24, 1362 - Dec. 23, 1433)
Medieval poet and early feminist

This author's views on the status of women were remarkably modern, given the time she lived in, which was rife with misogynistic ideas.  Born in Venice, Italy, she wrote courtly poetry, as well as several works contributing to the rhetorical tradition.   In doing my research, I found conflicting dates for her birth and death; the ones shown above are from her Goodreads profile. 

The book mentioned in Brian's post is, according to scholars, the very first one written by a woman in defense of her gender. 

Although she was born in Venice, she spent most of her life in Paris, as well as at the abbey of Poissy. She wrote in what is known as Middle French.

Her best-known and most influential works are The Book of the City of Ladies and The Treasure of the City of Ladies, both of which exhort women to resist misogyny and stereotypical attitudes toward their gender.

Several scholars have brought her work out of obscurity; among them is the great advocate of feminism, Simone de Beauvoir. Other scholars include Earl Jeffrey Richards (translator of the edition of The Book of the City of Ladies shown here), Charity Cannon Willard, and Rosalind Brown-Gran (translator of the edition sold on Amazon).

Christine de Pizan
Paperback, 282 pages
Persea Books
June 1, 1998
(first published 1405)

From the Wikipedia Synopsis

In The Book of the City of Ladies de Pizan created a symbolic city in which women are appreciated and defended. She constructed 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 completely female perspective. Only female voices, examples and opinions provide evidence within this text. Christine, through Lady Reason in particular, argues that stereotypes of woman can be sustained only if women are prevented from entering the dominant male-oriented conversation.


Christine de Pizan
Paperback, 192 pages
Penguin Classics
May 7, 1985
(first published 1405)

From the Wikipedia Synopsis 

In The Treasure of the City of Ladies, she highlights the persuasive effect of women’s speech and actions in everyday life. In this particular text, Christine argues that women must recognize and promote their ability to make peace. De Pizan then argues that "skill in discourse should be a part of every woman’s moral repertoire".  She proved that rhetoric is a powerful tool that women could employ to settle differences and to assert themselves. Overall, she presented a concrete strategy that allowed all women, regardless of their status, to undermine the dominant patriarchal discourse.

For further information:


  1. Thanks for the link to my Blog Maria. Maybe when you and some others have read this we can have an interesting discussion about the work.

  2. You're very welcome, Brian!! I would LOVE to have a group discussion of this work! Hopefully, there will be others interested as well!

    Thanks for commenting back!! : )

  3. I love to hear about women who were before their time. This is an awesome post!

  4. Oh, thank you so very much, Steph!! Of course, these books will make it into my collection as soon as I can get them! Thanks again for your super nice comment!! : )

  5. Thanks a lot for your interesting blog.

    I have been fond of Christine de Pisan for quite a while reading a lot about her life.

    I am impressed by her courage in pointing out the misogynistic ideas spread among the male dominated world.

    In "Le livre de la Cité des Dames", she mentions Anastaise praising her skills as an "enlumineresse". I advise you the reading of the e-book "Anastaise, the Sharpened medieval Quill" by A. Warwick.

    The historical fiction deals with the “querelle du roman de la rose” and the ideas of Christine de Pisan and her role in the Court of King Charles VI.
    The diary of Anastaise depicts her daily life with the French poet and first female writer in Europe. Told from the perspective of a sharp-eyed teenage girl, the feminist ideas of Christine de Pisan offer an acute insight into the fight of women challenging misogyny in late medieval France.

  6. Hi, Jane!

    Well, thank you for the compliment! I had never heard of this woman before, and it was thanks to my blogging buddy Brian @ Babbling Books that I found out about her. I'm so glad he posted an article about this author! It's wonderful that she was a pioneer in women's rights! I need to get her books ASAP and read them!!

    As for the Amazon link you included in your comment, I looked up the book, and it does look interesting, but alas, it's a Kindle edition...I don't read e-books. I just prefer printed books that I can hold in my hands. Besides, I'd much rather turn pages than scroll them. If you know of a printed edition of the book, I'd love to check it out!

    Thanks for your fabulous comment!! :)


THIS IS NOW AN AWARD-FREE, AND TAG-FREE BLOG. Thanks for the compliment, though! : )

As of today, 9/23/18, I have permanently enabled comment moderation, due to a sudden rash of SPAM comments. I appreciate your patience!

Thanks for your thoughts on my posts! I always reply here, as well as comment back on your blog. Have a WONDERFUL day!! :)