Gender and Text in the Later Middle Ages

By Jane Chance | Go to book overview
Christine-author in the Trois Vertus is in certain significant ways then speaking as a "real-life" version of Sebille de la Tour in a socioliterary context that reinforces the efficacy of that voice and that status (in contradistinction to the diegetic failure of Lady Sebille in the Duc).26In this context, I think, the explicit--and elaborately prepared--citation of Sebille's letter serves as yet another strategy for rewriting romance. This gesture of auto-citation in the Trois Vertus both recalls and (retrospectively) rereads the Duc des Vrais Amans, now from the newly and definitively empowered authorial perspective of Christine-author in 1405. Christine's earlier courtly romance, itself a complex and tension-laden rewriting of the thirteenth-century roman courtois and the fourteenth-century dit amoureux, is, here in the Trois Vertus, both valorized as literary artifact and critiqued as courtly discourse. And we are left with a particularly striking instance of the dynamic of rewriting romance in the progressively developing oeuvre of Christine de Pizan.
Notes
An earlier version of this essay was given at the MLA Convention in San Francisco on December 30, 1991. My thanks to Mary Speer for organizing the session on "Rewriting Romance."
Editions and translations (used with selective emendations) of Christine de Pizan's works are as follows: Le Livre du Duc des Vrais Amans, ed. Roy; The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Richards; The Book of the Duke of True Lovers, trans. Fenster with Margolis; Le Livre des Trois Vertus, ed. Willard and Hicks; A Medieval Woman's Mirror of Honor, trans. Willard. Page numbers in text citations will refer to these editions.
For this rhetorical stance in late medieval French poetry, see Brownlee, Poetic Identity; and "Ovide et le moi poétique 'moderne.'" See also Friedman, "Mesnie faux semblant." For Christine's special use of this stance, see Cerquiglini, "L'étrangère," esp. 245: "cette tension entre contrainte et engagement personnel est vécue par Christine comme une manière d'être au monde."
See Brownlee, "Discourses of the Self"; and Richards, "Christine de Pizan and Dante." Citations in this essay of Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose, are from the Langlois edition.
It is interesting to contrast the parallel depiction of the protagonist's youth in the opening sequence of Froissart Espinette amoureuse, ed. Fourrier, vv. 1-388.
See Dulac, "Christine de Pisan." Dulac astutely points out Christine's use of Machaut's Lady Espérance as a component in the dame of the Duc des Vrais Amants "avant le rendez-vous secret," citing a key segment from Espérance's speeches in the Remede (vv. 2169-80). Also relevant is the Remede's elaborate presentation of the Lady as magister and exemplum, beginning in vv. 317-56: she instructs the Lover in "la tres noble doctrine" (v. 353).

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