Christine de Pizan (also seen as de Pisan; French pronunciation: [kʁistin də pizɑ̃] ( listen); 1364 – c. 1430) was an Italian French late medieval author. Her most famous literary works are The Book of the City of Ladies and The Treasure of the City of Ladies. She served as a court writer for several dukes (Louis of Orleans, Philip the Bold of Burgundy, and John the Fearless of Burgundy) and the French royal court during the reign of Charles VI. She wrote both poetry and prose works such as biographies. She completed forty-one works during her 30-year career from 1399 to 1429. Her success stemed from a wide range of innovative writing and rhetorical techniques that critically challenged renowned writers such as Jean de Meun, author of the Romance of the Rose, which she criticized as immoral.
She married in 1380 at the age of 15, and was widowed 10 years later. Much of the impetus for her writing came from her need to earn a living to support her mother, a niece and her two surviving children. She spent most of her childhood and all of her adult life in Paris and then the abbey at Poissy, and wrote entirely in her adopted language, Middle French. Her early courtly poetry is marked by her knowledge of aristocratic custom and fashion of the day, particularly involving women and the practice of chivalry. Her early and later allegorical and didactic treatises reflect both autobiographical information about her life and views and also her own individualized and humanist approach to the scholastic learned tradition of mythology, legend, and history she inherited from clerical scholars and to the genres and courtly or scholastic subjects of contemporary French and Italian poets she admired. Supported and encouraged by important royal French and English patrons, she influenced 15th-century English poetry.
In recent decades, Pizan's work has been returned to prominence by the efforts of scholars such as Charity Cannon Willard, Earl Jeffrey Richards and Simone de Beauvoir. Certain scholars have argued that she should be seen as an early feminist who efficiently used language to convey that women could play an important role within society. This characterization has been challenged by other critics, who say that it is either an anachronistic use of the word or a misinterpretation of her writing and intentions....LESS
Advice and guidance for women of all ages, from Europe's first professional woman writer
Written by Europe's first professional woman writer, The Treasure of the City of Ladies offers advice and guidance to women of all ages and from all levels of medieval society, from royal courtiers to prostitutes. It paints an intricate picture of daily life in the courts and streets of fifteenth-century France and gives a fascinating glimpse into the practical considerations of running a household, dressing appropriately and maintaining a reputation in all circumstances. Christine de Pizan's book provides a valuable counterbalance to male accounts of life in the middle ages and demonstrates, often with dry humour, how a woman's position in society could be made less precarious by following the correct etiquette.
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