Gender and Text in the Later Middle Ages

By Jane Chance | Go to book overview
4. in the Quarrel. He characterized the Rose in terms reminiscent of Ovid and the confusion of tongues at Babel, which arose from the sin of pride. He called the Rose "chaos informe [...] et babilonica confusio [...] et Protheus in omnes se formas mutans" [a misshapen chaos, a confusion like the Tower of Babel, a Proteus changing itself into every shape] ( Hicks, ed., Le Débat sur le Roman de la Rose, 166). Rather than commending Jean de Meun's consummate skill in incorporating such a vast range of philosophical, scholastic, and classical sources into his poem, truly a Protean feat, Gerson saw it instead as vain.
5. Christine thought both parts to be of a piece, "je tiens tout ung mesme edifice" [I hold the whole the same edifice] ( Hicks, ed., Le Débat sur le Roman de la Rose, 135).
6. See my essays "French Cultural Nationalism" and "Modern Minorities and Medieval Universalism."
7. Willard, Christine de Pizan, 116.
8. Fra Gabriele de Barletta, an extremely influential Dominican preacher of the fifteenth century (fl. 1470), whose sermons were often reprinted throughout the next century, picked up Aquinas's term in his sermons. In defining occasionatus, a rare word only employed to describe women as imperfect males, Du Cange cites Barletta who had claimed, "mulieres sunt imperfectiores viris et quoad sexum, quia est mas occasionatus; et quoad intellectum, quia deficiunt in discretione" [women are more imperfect men both as regards gender, since they are defective males and as regards intellect, since they lack discretion].
9. Le Livre de la Cité des Dames, ed. Curnow, 651; trans. Richards, 23. All translations are from Richards. The allusion to woman not being man's slave because she was not formed from his feet seems to me to point to Aquinas's text as Christine's source. Curnow argues that Christine was answering Mathéolus, but in the overall context of Christine's discussion against the claims of the philosophers, Aquinas would seem to be the ultimate target of Christine's argument.
10. Mosse has explored how the historical construction of national identity simultaneously depended on a similar construction of sexual identity as well; see his richly documented Nationalism and Sexuality. In the field of civilization studies, essentialist approaches have been a repeated source of controversy: scholars have posited the existence of a transhistorical national mind--the American mind, the French mind, the German mind. This kind of Wesenskunde was relegated to the trash bin when it turned out to hide a particularly reprehensible political agenda, as in the case of Nazi studies of the "essence" of the German Geist or of jüdisches Wesen. Contemporary feminist criticism might profit from considering the history of essentialist approaches in civilization studies.
11. Walters, "Woman Writer and Literary History," speaks of "the androgynous narrative voice in which a female clerk speaks through the male God of Love" (2).
12. The best treatment of Christine's use of diminutives is Margolis, "Elegant Closures". Quilligan, Allegory of Female Authority, 17, takes a somewhat different position here: "In diametric contrast to this [ Wittig's] modern polemic against

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