Gender and Text in the Later Middle Ages

By Jane Chance | Go to book overview

6
Rewriting Romance: Courtly Discourse and Auto-Citation in Christine de Pizan

Kevin Brownlee

Over the course of the first ten years of her career (ca. 1395-ca. 1405), Christine de Pizan engaged in a series of self-conscious revisions of the dominant literary discourses and genres of late medieval France, motivated in large part by her perception of the necessity of establishing an explicitly female authorial voice in contexts which had, before Christine, excluded that possibility. One of the key components of this revisionary endeavor involved a series of rewritings of the courtly romance, a particularly prestigious generic form with important political as well as literary dimensions. In this case (as in Christine's earlier writings considered as a whole) it is not a question of a simple (or single) strategy, but rather of an evolving series of attempts to come to terms with discursive and generic models by simultaneously modifying and utilizing them. The present essay focuses on two different kinds of rewriting of courtly romance in two works of Christine de Pizan.1

First, I consider Christine's Livre du Duc des Vrais Amans (written around 1403) as a provocative "feminist" (regendered) rewriting of the classic fourteenth-century form of romance narrative--the dit amoureux, especially as practiced by Guillaume de Machaut and Jean Froissart. At the same time (and, in a sense, not surprisingly) Christine's Duc is a selective but powerful response to and rewriting of the Romance of the Rose. In the prologue to the Duc des Vrais Amans, Christine engages in a standard late medieval rhetorical ploy: Speaking as professional writer she differentiates her affective state qua author from that of her patron (an unnamed seigneur, v. 12), which she has been "commanded" to sing in a first-person context.2 The work that follows thus recounts, from his perspective, the story of his love for an unnamed lady in what appear to be impeccably courtly terms, both

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