Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Christine De Pizan and the Moral Defence of Women: Reading beyond Gender

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Christine De Pizan and the Moral Defence of Women: Reading beyond Gender

Article excerpt

Rosalind Brown-Grant, Christine de Pi.Zan and the Moral Defence of Women: Reading beyond Gender (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, zooo). xiv + 24 pp. ISBN o-5 zi-64194-z. C4o.oo/$64.95.

This is a lucidly argued, well-structured, original, and perceptive monograph on four of Christine's prose texts and one prosimetrum (the Epistre Otha), all composed over the period 1399-1405: the debate on the Roman de la Rose 0401-2), the Epistre Othea (1399-1400), the Avision-Christine, the Cite des dames, and the Livre des trois vertus (all 1405). The decision to discuss the first two texts in non-chronological order is well justified, since it allows us to absorb the theoretical underpinning of the attack on misogyny which informs Christine's defence of women generally (Christine's concern throughout is not only to refute the thematic content of misogynist texts but also to condemn the deceptive rhetorical strategies operating within them). Chapter in makes the best case to date for reading Othea as an ethical and literary anti-Rose, thereby offering a convincing resolution to the debate as to whether Othia celebrates or castigates the female sex. In chapter iii, Rosalind Brown-Grant demonstrates that the very disparate elements (autobiography, politics, allegory, the debate on gender) that make up the enigmatic Avision-Christine are woven into a cohesive whole within a general programme of ethical and political instruction. Chapters iv and v are devoted to two works aimed specifically at the female reader, the Citi des dames, a catalogue of illustrious women designed to valorize women's contribution to history, and the Livre des trois vertus, a manual of instruction encouraging women to give the lie to misogynist discourse by the practice of virtue in their everyday lives. …

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