Christine de Pizan’s defamation in the misandristic tradition

Historically entrenched in epic violence against men, castration culture, and harsh regulation of men’s sexuality, the misandristic tradition has become remarkably rich. It supports penal justice systems that overwhelmingly imprison persons with penises. It also suppresses protests against gender injustices that men endure. Writing around the start of the fifteenth century, the early anti-meninist Christine de Pizan exemplifies the pattern of gender defamation, deceit, and poor dearism that has shaped criminal justice and gender oppression more generally.

An income-seeking self-promoter, Christine de Pizan’s writings are voluminous, tedious, and incoherent. Nonetheless, according to her methods of literary analysis, she was deceitful and misandristic in a juvenile, not Juvenal, way. For example, she wrote:

And now, talking about deceptiveness,
I can’t imagine nor yet comprehend
how a woman might deceive a man.
She doesn’t go pursuing him,
nor calls or asks for him at home,
nor thinks of him incessantly,
since the man comes around to tempt her and deceive her.
How does he tempt her? You see, by such a manner
that there isn’t any suffering that isn’t for him light
to endure and easy to bear.
No other recreation does he seek
except his striving toward deceiving her,
for which he uses all his heart, body, and wealth.

{ Et a parler quant au decevement,
Je ne sçay pas penser ne concevoir
Comment femme puist homme decevoir:
Ne le va pas ne cerchier ne querir,
Ne sus son lieu prier ne requerir,
Ne pense a lui, ne ne lui en souvient
Quant decevoir l’omme et tempter la vient.
Tempter comment? Voire par tel maniere
Qu’il n’est peine qui ne lui soit legiere
A endurer et faissel a porter.
A aultre riens ne se veult deporter
Fors a pener a elles decevoir,
Pour y mettre cuer et corps et avoir. }[1]

Matheolus, an eminent figure in medieval men’s sexed protest, described with great wit women’s deceits. Not dogmatic or robotic, Matheolus occasionally omitted the implied formalism NAWALT (Not All Women Are Like That).[2] Christine de Pizan read Matheolus. She thus certainly knew of women’s deceits such as cuckolding. Today the cuckolding of men is institutionalized in deceitful paternity determinations that control massive financial penalties (“child support”) imposed for nothing more than men having sex of reproductive type. Along with her deceitful denial of women’s deceits, Christine de Pizan condemned all men as deceitful. That’s misandristic.

Christine de Pizan approved of brutal sexual violence against Ovid because his learned, sophisticated poetry, which she interpreted to describe his actual behavior, offended her. Ovid loved women. He loved all women. Ovid’s apparent willingness to offer freely his sexuality offended Christine:

He dissipated his body in every vanity and pleasure of the flesh, and not just in love for one woman. He gave himself to all the women that he could. He didn’t show restraint or loyalty, not holding to one woman. And such a life he had in his youth as much as he could, for which in the end he received the pay that such a case assures: that is to have dishonor and loss of his possessions and genitals. For his extreme wantonness, and so through his own acts and with words advising others to lead a life like the one that he led, he was finally sent into exile.

{ son corps laissa couler en toute vanité et delit de char, non mie en une seule amour mais abandonné a toutes femmes, se il peust, ne il n’y garda mesure ne loyauté, ne tenoit a nulle. Et tant comme it pot en sa jeunesce hanta celle vie, de laquel chose a la parfin en ot le guerdon et la paye qui a tel cas affiert: c’est assavoir deffame et perte de biens et de membres, car pour sa grant lubrieté, tant de fait en luy meismes comme de parolle en conseillant aux autres mener semblable vie quie it menoit, il en fu mené en exil. }[3]

Men historically have endured relatively harsh regulation of their sexuality. In medieval France, Ignaure loved twelve women. For that misdeed, he was killed, castrated, and his penis was cooked and secretly fed to his women lovers. Christine regarded castration as fitting punishment for Ovid as a proponent of polyamory:

Ovid returned to Rome after, by the favor of some young, powerful Romans, his supporters, he was called back from exile. Because he didn’t refrain from the misdeeds for which his guilt had already chastised him, he was for his faults punished and deprived of his genitals.

{ comme il avenist aprés que par faveur d’aucuns jeunes poissans Rommains, ses aderans, il fust rappellés de l’exil, et ne se gardast mie d’encheoir aprés ou meffiat dont la coulpe l’avoit ja aucunement pugnis, fu par ses demerites chastiez et diffourmez de ses membres. }

Nothing that Christine de Pizan wrote about Ovid is credible. But her justification for castrating Ovid exemplifies her vicious penal attacks on men.

Christine de Pizan defamed men in ways that have promoted the vastly gender-disproportionate incarceration of men. She associated men speaking about women in ways that offended her with a man brutally beating a woman physically:

Are they courtly or shameful men,
those who speak so vilely
about women, as they might say,
the most despicable commoner in the Empire?
What do I say, they say? But they mean nothing
to anyone, since they do too much evil.
I attest to one man, whom I do not know,
but he beat, about three months ago,
a women on top of a bridge
in Paris. He thus acted very wrongly.
And he is a man of renown.
so it’s said, although I don’t know his name.
There to his satisfaction he beat her with a stick
and with his palm, before everyone,
because she wouldn’t do
for him, what is not fitting
to do by any proper women,
yet he has no reputation for defamation.

{ Sont ilz courtois ou gent honnie
Ceulx qui tant dient villenie
A femmes, comme pourroit dire
Le plus ort vilain de l’Empire?
Que dis je, dient? mes leur font
Les aucuns, dont trop se mesfont.
Tesmoing d’un, que je ne cognoiz,
Mes il bati, n’a pas .III. mois,
Une femme, dessus le pont
De Paris, dont il meprist moult;
Et si est homme de renom,
Ce dist on, je ne sçay son nom.
La son saoul la bati d’un aulne,
Devant chacun, et de la paume,
Pour ce que elle ne vouloit,
Pour lui, faire ce qu’il ne loit
Faire a quelconques preude femme,
Et si n’a renom de diffame. }[4]

Despite widely disseminated myths within the misandristic tradition, what that unnamed man allegedly did was a serious crime under medieval French law.[5] A man merely attempting to “seduce” a woman with words remains a criminal offense in some U.S. jurisdictions today. Medieval French romances celebrate men engaging in brutal violence against men to earn women’s favor. It’s wholly implausible that among all the persons witnessing this crime against an innocent woman, none sought to bring the evil man-perpetrator to justice. Christine herself apparently did nothing to help the woman being beaten. Three months later, she didn’t even reveal the name of the man who alleged committed this horrific crime. Read sensitively, Christine depicted herself as morally grotesque. She obtusely defamed herself in representing a crime that she most probably fabricated to defame men.

medieval ladies watching men fight

Christine de Pizan wasn’t satisfied with merely defaming men. She called for burning the medieval literary masterpiece Romance of the Rose {Roman de la Rose}:

And the Romance of the Rose,
pleasing to the curious — such books should be burned!
But for these words now they strike at my eyes.
One is often beaten for saying the truth.

{ Et le Romant, plaisant aux curieux,
De la Rose, que l’en devroit ardoir!
Mais pour ce mot maint me sauldroit aux yeux
On est souvent batu pour dire voir. }[6]

Christine de Pizan wasn’t beaten for defaming Jean de Meun and advocating book-burning. Her outrageous claims made her famous, strengthened her claims to literary patronage, and made her a heroine to mis-educated literature students right up to the present. Not limiting herself to promoting book-burning, Christine de Pizan cited with approval the early-fourteenth-century Italian free-thinking professor Cecco d’Ascoli being burned at the stake because he allegedly “spoke badly about all women {dist mal de toutes femmes}.”[7] Advocating such brutal punishment for impersonal speech aligns Christine de Pizan with the most repressive totalitarians across history.

Modern professionals have embraced Christine de Pizan’s model of defamation and deceit. Analyzing the use of the words “cock {vis}” and “balls {couilles}” in the Romance of the Rose, a literary professor in a book published in 1995 solemnly and tendentiously declared:

Speaking the words for genitalia is not shameful. Rather, what is shameful is the fact that their articulation in this particular society can realize a symbolic form of violence against women. More often than not, these words signify damagingly for them. Furthermore, this pattern of signification is linked to irresponsible and harmful behavior, “goliardises et deshonnestetés {dissolute and dishonest}.” Unleashing such language publicly can act as a trigger mechanism for abusive conduct. The use of such words in what are habitual, sexualized slurs about women can often culminate in physical aggression. Under these circumstances, female shame is less symptomatic of excessive modesty than it is of the anxiety about verbal violence — about defamation — and its carnal counterpart. [8]

As if castration culture doesn’t cause enough damage to men, this scholar’s words can make men fear penal punishment for crying out about the injuries being done to their genitals. These words can act as a trigger mechanism for Super Bowl commercials featuring violent attacks on men’s genitals. They can culminate in the physical aggression that produces four times more violent deaths among men than among women. But how this game actually plays out is well-known. Public discourse takes much more seriously vague, abstract claims of harm to women than even the factual reality of men’s lifespan shortfall and vastly gender-disproportionate incarceration of men.

virtue-woman points at Christine de Pizan's feet

Scholarly deceit about Christine de Pizan disgraces modern literary studies. For example, a scholar tendentiously and uncritically characterized Christian de Pizan as embracing “socially profitable language”:

We have here the virtues that distinguish Christine’s way: Minervan wisdom and Roman eloquence define her writing as a powerful ethicopolitical medium for women and men in the community. As the very antithesis of the defamatory, it offers a socially responsible discourse. Her eloquent sapiential writing dismantles the symbolic domination of women maintained so effectively by the masterly clerical tradition. [9]

Are student being taught to discern nonsense? Christine “praises her corrupt and fratricidal patrons as the most benign and humane nobility in the world.”[10] With obvious interest in promoting herself, Christine instigated controversy over the Romance of the Rose:

Christine’s role in the Roman debate shows her once again less the friend of woman than of the powers that be, at their most oppressive: a position no more inevitable in her time than in ours. If Christine stood in advance of her day, it was in anticipating the prudish moralism of nineteenth- and twentieth-century literary censorship. … In fact it was Christine’s opponents, the defenders of the Roman — male, clerical, arrogant and patronizing though they were — who made the arguments that today permit us to read some of the most interesting writers, male and female, of our own time.

Many medieval writers, including medieval women writers, are far more learned, perceptive, and creative than Christine de Pizan. A scholar who studied Christine de Pizan extensively reported:

I have been charmed by some of her lyrics, impressed by her determination to educate herself and above all by her will to write. Yet I have also been terminally bored by the tedious, mind-numbing bureaucratic prose of Cité des Dames, imitated from the style of royal notaries and civil servants. I have been angered by Christine’s self-righteousness, her prudery, and the intensely self-serving narrowness of her views. I have been repulsed by the backwardness of her social attitudes, attitudes already obsolescent in the early fifteenth century when she lived and wrote. [11]

Christine described her father as an extremely wealthy man with wondrous celestial knowledge like the Christian God the Father. She described her mother as surpassing her father and reigning in gentle majesty like the Christian mother of God. She described herself as Christ plus the letters I-N-E, thus spelling Christine.[12] In contrast to her sense of being a divine savior, most of Christine de Pizan’s voluminous writings are narrowly predictable and uninspiring. So too is much modern literary scholarship about Christine de Pizan.

The spirit of protest in Old French literature includes vigorous literature of men’s sexed protest. Old French works of men’s sexed protest include the dramatic masterpiece The Play of Adam {Le jeu d’Adam}, the riotously transgressive romance Flamenca, the socially perceptive lais of Marie de France, the pungent Guide for fools {Chastie musart} on sexual-material inequality, and many other works, not even including brilliant medieval poetry of men trobairitz. Nonetheless, medieval men’s sexed protest is scarcely recognized today. Acting on behalf of dominant ideology, scholars who refer to medieval men’s protest typically dismiss it with simplistic and juvenile name-calling: “misogyny.”

At the end of 1916, Mary Morton Wood completed her doctoral dissertation entitled The Spirit of Protest in Old French literature. This dissertation, completed within the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Columbia University in New York City, was printed in New York as a book in early 1917. Chapter 7 of Wood’s book is entitled “Protest against Sex-Discrimination.” That chapter begins with a straight-forward declaration:

Today the most insistent revolt against social tyranny is feminism.[13]

Wood associated a “low moral standard” with “the great mass of misogynist literature with which the Middle Ages were afflicted,” apparently meaning “the long discussions of female depravity with which medieval literature abounds.” Under the moral standard of Christine de Pizan and Wood, only male depravity can licitly be discussed. That’s sex discrimination and social tyranny.[14]

Wood completed her dissertation while millions of men were engaged in the epic violence against men of World War I. Women in England were handing out white feathers to shame men into enlisting to fight in that brutal war. Medieval women similarly incited medieval men into epic violence against men. Elite men in medieval Europe had a life expectancy about nine years less than that of elite women such as Christine de Pizan. Wood was willfully ignorant or unconcerned about sex discrimination against men. That’s a form of social tyranny. Everyone should protest against it.

Christine de Pizan and the misandristic tradition have deeply corroded public discourse. Defamers claim to be defamed, and deceivers cry of deceit. Amid the ruins of shared, objective public reason, social power and verbal posing, not the truth, drive punishment. Penal justice systems that punish about fifteen times more persons with penises than with vaginas indicate the social reality of systemic sexism in its most personally damaging effects. To improve public welfare amid this disaster of public reason, more persons should extensively study and discuss medieval literature, including insightful medieval literature of men’s sexed protest.

* * * * *

Read more:

Notes:

[1] Christine de Pizan, Letter of the God of Love {Epistre au Dieu d’Amours} vv. 349-60, Middle French text and English translation (modified) from Erler & Fenster (1990). Fenster’s translation is reprinted in Willard (1993). Blumenfeld-Kosinski (1997) has Kevin Brownlee’s translation of the edition of Roy (1886-96).

[2] Matheolus has been harshly defamed within the misandristic tradition. No one who has perceptively read Matheolus would believe that “his entire text … is nothing but one unmitigated attack on women.” Blumenfeld-Kosinski (1997) p. 304. Christine de Pizan apparently didn’t read Matheolus himself, but read the century-later adaptation of Matheolus by Jehan Le Fèvre. Jehan Le Fèvre sought women’s patronage with his women-flattering The Book of Gladness {Le livre de Leesce}.

Ad hominem attacks are common within the misandristic tradition. Christine de Pizan pointed to Matheolus’s failure to perform sexually according to his wife’s demands:

And one sees everywhere such old men speaking obscenely and dishonestly, just as you can fully see with Matheolus, who himself confesses that he was an old man, filled with desire and no potency.

{ Et voit on communement telz viellars parler lubrement et deshonnestement, ainsi que tu le peuz veoir proprement de Matheolus, qui confesse lui meismes que il estoit viellart, plaine de voulenté et non puissance. }

Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies {Le Livre de la Cité des Dames} 1.8.5, Middle French text from Curnow (1975), English translation (modified) from Richards (1982).

Interpreting Matheolus’s brilliantly satirical book biographically, a scholar opined:

Christine did not go into any detail about Matheolus but her choice of an example of misogyny seems uncannily perceptive if, as may be the case, the impulse toward misogyny arises from the inability of men to come to terms with their own sexuality.

Gottlieb (1985) pp. 279-80. It may be the case that Gottlieb uncannily showed that the impulse toward ad hominem attacks arises from desperation to marginalize gender injustices against men and literature of men’s sexed protest.

[3] Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies {Le Livre de la Cité des Dames} 1.9.2, Middle French text from Curnow (1975), English translation (modified) from Richards (1982). The subsequent quote above is similarly sourced from Cité des Dames 1.9.2.

In disparaging Ovid, Christine distinguished between “honorable women {femmes honorables}” and “the worthless ones {les non valables}”:

Ovid has said, in a book that he made,
much evil about women, which I hold that he did wrong.
He gave his book the name the Remedy for Love,
and there he attributes to women nasty ways —
repulsive, sordid ways, filled with wickedness.
That women have such vices I deny.
I take my weapons up in defense of them,
against all who would throw a challenge down.
Of course I mean honorable women.
I’m not concerned with the worthless ones.

{ Ovide en dit, en un livre qu’il fist,
Assez de maulx, dont je tiens qu’il meffist,
Qu’il appella le Remede d’Amours,
Ou leur met sus de moult villaines mours,
Ordes, laides, pleines de villenie.
Que tieulz vices ayent je le lui nie;
Au deffendre de bataille je gage
Contre tous ceulx qui getter vouldront gage.
Voire, j’entens des femmes honorables;
En mes comptes ne mes les non valables. }

Epistre au Dieu d’Amours vv. 281-90, sourced as previously.

[4] Christine de Pizan, The Book of the Transformation of Fortune {Le Livre de la Mutacion de Fortune} vv. 5353-70, Middle French text of Solente (1959-66) via Solterer (1995) pp. 157, English translation (modified) from id. p. 158. Id. omits vv. 5357-8, which I’ve included from Wood (1917) p. 197. A variety of other sources also quote this grotesque anecdote, e.g. Paris (1842) p. 142.

[5] This anecdote fits within the genre of misandristic “rule of thumb” myths. On those myths, Kelly (1994). For an obfuscatory response characteristic of the misandristic tradition, Freyd & Johnson (1998). The inconvenient reality is public discourse (including “scholarly” work) about domestic violence is a cesspool of anti-men bigotry. For typical unwillingness to recognize openly the underlying gender-power social dynamics, Tyler (2010) p. 435.

[6] Christine de Pizan, Other Ballads {Autres balades} 37, vv. 24-7, Middle French text from Roy (1886-96) vol. 1, p. 250, my English translation. For an English translation of the full ballad, Corbett (2016).

Christine de Pizan seemed to delight in the thought of administering punishment to men. In her view, men’s crimes ranged even wider than criminalized seduction:

For this reason I conclude with the sentence
that punishment be dealt to the wrongdoers,
those who blame, defame, and accuse women,
and who use false and treacherous appearances
in order to deceive them. So let all of them
from our court be chased out, banished, destroyed,
and prohibited and excommunicated.

{ Pour ce conclus en diffinicion
Que des mauvais soit fait punicion,
Qui les blasment, diffament et accusent
Et qui de faulx desloyaulx semblans usent
Pour decevoir elles. Si soient tuit
De nostre court chacié, bani, destruit,
Et entredis et escommenïé. }

Christine de Pizan, Epistre au Dieu d’Amours vv. 771-7, sourced as previously.

[7] Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies {Le Livre de la Cité des Dames} 1.9.2, Middle French text from Curnow (1975), English translation (modified) from Richards (1982). Cecco d’Ascoli, the popular name for Francesco degli Stabili, was an Italian natural scientist and poet who lived from 1257 to 1327.

[8] Solterer (1995) p. 157.

[9] Solterer (1995) p. 175. For “socially profitable language,” id. p. 169.

[10] Delany (1987) p. 320, citing Christine de Pizan, The Book of the Body Politic {Livre du Corps de Policie}.

[11] Delany (1987) pp. 315-6. The previous quote above is from id. p. 326. On the intellectual history and reception of Delany (1987), see Akbari (2006) pp. 5-9. According to Akbari:

Delany’s reading of Christine de Pizan} is undeniably angry and, I think, deliberately provocative. Responses to the undeniably inflammatory nature of Delany’s essay were, predictably, severe. … Delany’s essay … provided a bracing corrective to the predominant trend in reading that had, for a time, stifled critical enquiry.

Akbari (2006) pp. 7, 8. Denouncing bigotry to a circle of bigots could be called “undeniably inflammatory” and “deliberately provocative.” Such labeling merely supports unwarranted complacency and moral obtuseness. Moreover, I deny that Delany’s scholarly reading, which Akbari labels “undeniably angry,” is in fact “angry.” I find it to be vigorous and courageous. Scholars should respond vigorously and courageously, even angrily, to the stifling of critical enquiry and to self-serving, bigoted scholarly work.

The receptions of Delany (1987) and Solterer (1995) differ starkly. The highly speculative claims about injury to women in Solterer (1995) weren’t called “undeniably inflammatory” or “deliberately provocative.” Without providing any statistical analysis and documentation of direct effects, Solterer claimed, “More often than not, these words {words for men’s genitals} signify damagingly for them {women}.” Is this really a “carefully conceptualized and meticulously argued study,” as a scholarly reviewer characterized it? McCracken (1998) p. 516. Solterer claimed, “Unleashing such language publicly can act as a trigger mechanism for abusive conduct.” Is that really an “elegantly conceived ethical critique,” as another reviewer characterized Solterer’s work? Biddick (1996) p. 1193. Is such a claim “judicious and well supported by the evidence,” as yet another review characterized Solterer’s study? Cusack (1996) p. 290. Despite Solterer viciously charging many medieval masters with broad injury to women, reviewers didn’t describe Solterer as making an angry reading of medieval literature. The starkly differing receptions of Delany (1986) and Solterer (1995) suggest that medieval scholars are more interested in defaming men than in fairly evaluating Christine de Pizan’s works.

[12] Christine de Pizan, The Book of the Transformation of Fortune {Le Livre de la Mutacion de Fortune} vv. 157-338 (her father), 339-67 (her mother), and 372-8 (Christine’s name), English trans. Willard (1993) pp. 113-6. Here’s how Christine presented her name:

Whether or not you truly yearn
To know my name, of which part one
Bears the name of Our Lord’s Son,
The most perfect man there ever was,
Adding to it I N E does
Provide you with my name,
No extra letters does it claim.

Mutacion de Fortune, English translation from Willard (1993) p. 116.

Christine de Pizan identified as a man in her Mutacion de Fortune. See e.g. vv. 142-53, English trans. in Willard (1993) p. 112. On Christine as a transman, Gutt (2020). Gutt described Mutacion de Fortune as “incandescently trans.” Id. p. 453. Christine declared, “it would please me much more to be a woman.” Mutacion de Fortune, vv. 1395ff, trans. Blumenfeld-Kosinski (1997) p. 107. That’s not surprising, given women’s privileges. Nonetheless, transmen have historically experienced less animosity and less adverse discrimination than transwomen have.

Discussing Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the Path of Long Study {Le livre du chemin de long estude}, a scholar working diligently to magnify Christine declared:

The configuration of her learning experience is extremely complex, containing echoes of both Virgil’s Aeneid and Dante’s Commedia: by being guided by the Sibyl, Christine posits herself as another Aeneas and by writing about it as another Virgil. At the same time, her journey to the celestial spheres likens her to Dante who was guided there not by Virgil (as in the Inferno and the Purgatorio), but by Beatric and Saint Bernand. The Sibyl, an extremely important figure throughout Christine’s works, is thus “contaminated” by these two saintly figures, while Christine herself follows in Dante’s footsteps. Her attitude towards her auctores is not exactly modest ….

Blumenfeld-Kosinski (1990) p. 301. In contrast to this extravagant claim of Christine de Pizan’s literary sophistication, there’s no clear evidence that Christine de Pizan could read Latin. She never referred to the great medieval writers Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim and Hildegard of Bingen. She apparently knew Heloise of the Paraclite only though the writings of others. Christine’s only reference to Heloise is Heloise’s declaration that she would prefer to be Peter Abelard’s whore than his wife. See Christine in the debate about the Romance of the Rose in Blumenfeld-Kosinski (1997) p. 43. Perhaps Peter Dronke ended his Women Writers of the Middle Ages at Marguerite Porete to avoid the painfulness of discussing Christine de Pizan.

[13] Wood (1917) p. 176. The subsequent three short quotes are from id. pp. 196, 176. Voluminous medieval literature presents courtly love in which men serve woman as feudal serfs. That literature, according to Wood, suffers from the general medieval assumption that “privileged individuals have the right to bestow happiness on others.” Id. p. 185. She didn’t identify those privileged individuals as women. Like Christine de Pizan, Wood worked within the misandristic tradition of ignoring injustices against men and defaming men’s sexed protests as misogyny.

From her perspective early in the twentieth century, Wood documented leading ninteenth-century French scholarly works trivializing medieval men’s sexed protest and lamenting disparaging representations of women, but not disparaging representations of men. See Wood (1917) pp. 196-7, which supplies the following scholarly quotations. Leading nineteenth-century French scholar Gaston Paris, who stimulated enormous, morally obtuse scholarship on men-abasing medieval courtly love, lamented “the often crude relentlessness with which women are denigrated there {souvent grossier avec lequel les femmes y sont dénigrées}.” A courtly man never sees any evil in a woman. Ferdinand Brunetière, another leading French scholar, declared:

Women in the bourgeois world of the Middle Ages seem to have bowed their heads as low as at any time or place on earth under the law of force and brutality. … Such a conception of woman is the dishonor of a literature.

{ Les femmes dans le monde bourgeois du moyen age semblent avoir courbé la tête aussi bas qu’en aucun temps et qu’en aucun lieu de la terre sous la loi de la force et de la brutalité. … Une telle conception de la femme est le déshonneur d’une littérature. }

That’s Lancelot-like honor posing. Charles-Victor Langlois described women in the fabliaux as “barbaric dolls {poupées barbares}.” He declared, “The women in the fabliaux do not belong to our Western and Christian humanity {Les femmes dans les fableaux n’appartiennent point a notre humanité occidentale et chrétienne}.” The brutish men of the fableaux, in contrast, are apparently what all men are like. Modern philology has a penis problem. In addition to overcoming that failing, scholars should at least tolerate literary representations of women in their full, sometimes despicable, humanity.

[14] Solterer cites mythic Roman history according to the aristocratic, repressive Cicero to support broad punishment for defamation. Solterer (1995) p. 153. However, “poetic/verbal abuse was a well-attested phenomenon in ancient Rome.” Compton (2006) Part III, Chapter 20. Persons in ancient Greece, imperial Rome, and medieval Europe had more extensive freedom of speech in practice than do persons today in many high-income countries with broad European cultural heritage. A scholar poignantly declared:

We can take some comfort in the expectation that truth-seeking poets, novelists, and journalists today will be remembered and honored as they were in archaic Greece, Rome, and Europe; and that the brutality of repressive politicians will continue to contribute to the honor of the men and women they have killed, imprisoned, tortured, or exiled.

Compton (2006) Part IV, Epilogue.

[images] (1) Elite ladies in a castle watch men fighting down below. Illumination in an instance of Christine de Pizan, The Book of the Duke of True Lovers {Le Livre du Duc des vrais amants}. Excerpt from folio 150r of the Book of the Queen, London, British Library, Harley MS 4431. This lavish manuscript of Christine de Pizan’s works was created from 1410 to 1414. Christian presented it Isabel (Isabeau) of Bavaria, Queen Consort of Charles VI of France. Here’s an alternate presentation of Harley MS 4431. (2) Virtue-women pointing at Christine de Pizan’s feet. Illumination on folio 42v of instance of Christine de Pisan, The Book of the Three Virtues {Le livre des trois vertus}, also known as The Treasure of the City of Ladies {Le trésor de la cité des dames}, published in Paris by Antoine Vérard about 1497. Preserved in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek {Austrian National Library}, Vienna, Austria.

References:

Akbari, Suzanne Conklin. 2006. “Making Substantial Connections: A Critical Appreciation of Sheila Delany.” Florilegium. 23 (1): 1-18. Alternate online source.

Biddick, Kathleen. 1996. “Book Review: The Master and Minerva: Disputing Women in French Medieval Culture. Helen Solterer. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995.” The American Historical Review. 101 (4): 1193-1194.

Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Renate. 1990. “Christine de Pizan and the Misogynistic Tradition.” Romanic Review. 81 (3): 297-311. Reprinted in Blumenfeld-Kosinski (1997), to which my page citations refer.

Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Renate, ed. 1997. The Selected Writings of Christine De Pizan: New Translations, Criticism. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton.

Compton, Todd M. 2006. Victim of the Muses: Poet as Scapegoat, Warrior and Hero in Greco-Roman and Indo-European Myth and History. Hellenic Studies Series 11. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Corbett, Maryann. 2016. “Christine de Pizan: Ballade 37 from Other Ballades.” Able Muse: A Review of Poewtry, Prose & Art. 22. Online.

Curnow, Maureen Cheney. 1975. The Livre de la cité des dames of Christine de Pisan: a critical edition. Ph.D. Thesis. Nashville, Tenn: Vanderbilt University. Available via Proquest Dissertations.

Cusack, Carole. 1996. “Book review: The Master and Minerva: Disputing Women in French Medieval Culture. Helen Solterer. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995.Parergon. 13: 288-290.

Delany, Sheila. 1987. ‘”Mothers to Think Back Through”: Who Are They? The Ambiguous Example of Christine de Pizan.” Pp. 177-197 in Laurie A. Finke and Martin B. Shichtman, eds. Medieval Texts and Contemporary Readers. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Reprinted in Blumenfeld-Kosinski (1997), to which my page citations refer.

Erler, Mary Carpenter and Thelma S. Fenster, ed. and trans. 1990. Poems of Cupid, God of Love: Christine de Pizan’s Epistre au dieu d’amours and Dit de la rose, Thomas Hoccleve’s The Letter of Cupid: editions and translations, with George Sewell’s The Proclamation of Cupid. Leiden: Brill.

Freyd, Jennifer J., and J.Q. Johnson. 1998. “Commentary: Domestic Violence, Folk Etymologies, & ‘Rule of Thumb.’” University of Oregon. Online.

Gottlieb, Beatrice. 1985. “The Problem of Feminism in the Fifteenth Century.” Pp. 337-364 in Julius Kirshner and Suzanne F. Wemple, eds. Women of the Medieval World: Essays in Honor of John H. Mundy. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Reprinted in Blumenfeld-Kosinski (1997), to which my page citations refer.

Gutt, Blake. 2020. “Transgender mutation and the canon: Christine de Pizan’s Livre de la Mutacion de Fortune.postmedieval. 11: 451-458.

Kelly, Henry Ansgar. 1994. “‘Rule of Thumb’ and the Folklaw of the Husband’s Stick.” Journal of Legal Education. 44 (3): 341-65.

McCracken, Peggy. 1998. “Book Review: Gender and Genre in Medieval French Literature. Simon Gaunt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. The Master and Minerva: Disputing Women in French Medieval Culture. Helen Solterer. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995.” Modern Philology. 94 (4): 513-19.

Paris, Paulin. 1842. Les Manuscrits François De La Bibliothèque Du Roi: Leur Histoire Et Celle Des Textes Allemands Anglois Hollandois Italiens Espagnols De La Même Collection. Vol. 5. Paris: Techener.

Richards, Earl Jeffrey, trans. 1982. Christine de Pizan. The Book of the City of Ladies. New York: Persea Books.

Roy, Maurice, ed. 1886-96. Œuvres poétiques de Christine de Pisan. Paris: Firmin Didot pour la Société des anciens textes français. Vol. 1. Vol. 2. Vol. 3.

Solente, Suzanne, ed. 1959-66. Christine de Pizan. Le Livre De La Mutacion De Fortune. Paris: A. et J. Picard.

Solterer, Helen. 1995. The Master and Minerva: disputing women in French medieval culture. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

Tyler, Tom. 2010. “The Rule of Thumb.” JAC. 30 (3/4): 435–56.

Willard, Charity Cannon, ed. 1993. The Writings of Christine de Pizan. New York: Persea Books.

Wood, Mary Morton. 1917. The Spirit of Protest in Old French Literature. New York: Columbia University Press.

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