Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Love Debate Poems of Christine De Pizan: Le Livre Du Debat De Deux Amans, le Livre Des Trois Jugemens, le Livre Du Dit De Poissy

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Love Debate Poems of Christine De Pizan: Le Livre Du Debat De Deux Amans, le Livre Des Trois Jugemens, le Livre Du Dit De Poissy

Article excerpt

Barbara K. Altmann, The Love Debate Poems of Christine de Pizan: Le Livre du debat de deux amans, Le Livre des trois jugemens, Le Livre du dit de Poissy (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1998). 294 PP.; 4 plates. ISBN 08130-1578-2- $49.95.

Barbara K. Altmann has put all late medieval scholars in her debt by making available an excellent critical edition of Christine de Pizan's three debate poems, whose composition c-1400 reflects renewed interest in the kind of courtly love casuistry made popular by Machaut some fifty years earlier, and whose dedications reveal the importance of the economics of patronage for an ambitious female writer obliged to earn her living by her pen (the poems are dedicated respectively to Louis d'Orleans, jean de Werchin, and a male person unnamed). While each poem has its own identity (the first examines whether love brings more joy than sorrow, the second whether there can be reasonable limits to fidelity, the third whether the male or the female can be declared the more unhappy participant in love), the three poems have in common the interesting fact that the debates remain unresolved, even when referred to the dedicatees for arbitration. This lack of resolution is indeed one of Christine's innovations, as it allows her to work into each text a degree of ironic distance that permits not just engagement with but also rejection of the ideals of courtly love. Altmann thus convincingly demonstrates that the three poems are essentially variations on the one theme, namely, that illicit love inevitably leads to disaster and despair, particularly for the lady involved. The inherent interest of both the subject matter and the manner is expertly dealt with in a richly documented, perceptive, and comprehensive introduction covering the author, the place of the debate poems in literary tradition, the generic transformations wrought by Christine, the interplay of form and content, orality, philology, and codicology. …

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