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Christine de Pizan

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Etienne du Castel

University of Bologna

1430, Poissy, France


Christine Pizan

Christine de Pizan Christine de Pizan Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

11 September 1364

Daughter Jean du Castel

Tommaso di Benvenuto da Pizzano

The Book of the City of Ladies, The Book of Peace, The Treasure of the City of, The Treasure of the City of, Oeuvres Poetiques

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Christine de pizan

Christine de Pizan (also seen as de Pisan ; [kʁistin də pizɑ̃] ; 1364 – c. 1430) was an Italian French late medieval author. 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 and books containing practical advice for women. She completed forty-one works during her 30-year career from 1399 to 1429. 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.


Christine de Pizan Christine de Pizan Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

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. Her success stems 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.

Christine de Pizan Christine de Pizan Take Back Halloween

In recent decades, Christine de 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.

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Christine de pizan


Christine de Pizan Dore39 Ripley wwwripleyonlinecom Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan was born in 1364 in Venice, Italy. She was the daughter of Tommaso di Benvenuto da Pizzano (Thomas de Pizan, named for the family's origins in the town of Pizzano, south east of Bologna), a physician, court astrologer, and Councillor of the Republic of Venice. Following her birth, Thomas de Pizan accepted an appointment to the court of Charles V of France, as the king's astrologer, alchemist, and physician. In this atmosphere, Christine was able to pursue her intellectual interests. She successfully educated herself by immersing herself in languages, in the rediscovered classics and humanism of the early Renaissance, and in Charles V's royal archive that housed a vast number of manuscripts. But she did not assert her intellectual abilities, or establish her authority as a writer until she was widowed at the age of 25.

At the age of 15 she married Etienne du Castel, a royal secretary to the court. She had three children, a daughter (who became a nun at the Dominican Abbey in Poissy in 1397 as a companion to the king's daughter, Marie), a son Jean, and another child who died in childhood. Christine lost her husband in 1387 when he suddenly died in an epidemic while in Beauvais on a mission with the king. Following Castel's death, she was left to support her mother, a niece, and her two children. When she tried to collect money from her husband's estate, she faced complicated lawsuits regarding the recovery of salary due her husband. On 4 June 1389, in a judgment concerning a lawsuit filed against her by the archbishop of Sens and François Chanteprime, councillors of the king, Christine was styled "damoiselle" and widow of "Estienne du Castel." Note that in letters he signed as secretary of the king in 1381 and 1382 the signature of Etienne was "Ste de Castel." The abbreviation of his first name could be read both as a phonetic abbreviation of Estienne and as the first letters of his name in Latin: Stephanus.

In order to support herself and her family, Christine turned to writing. By 1393, she was writing love ballads, which caught the attention of wealthy patrons within the court. These patrons were intrigued by the novelty of a female writer and had her compose texts about their romantic exploits. Her output during this period was prolific. Between 1393 and 1412, she composed over 300 ballads, and many more shorter poems.

Christine's participation in a literary debate, in 1401–1402, allowed her to move beyond the courtly circles, and ultimately to establish her status as a writer concerned with the position of women in society. During these years, she involved herself in a renowned literary controversy, the "Querelle du Roman de la Rose". She helped to instigate this debate by beginning to question the literary merits of Jean de Meun's the Romance of the Rose. Written in the 13th century, the Romance of the Rose satirizes the conventions of courtly love while critically depicting women as nothing more than seducers. Christine specifically objected to the use of vulgar terms in Jean de Meun's allegorical poem. She argued that these terms denigrated the proper and natural function of sexuality, and that such language was inappropriate for female characters such as Madame Raison. According to her, noble women did not use such language. Her critique primarily stems from her belief that Jean de Meun was purposely slandering women through the debated text.

The debate itself was extensive and at its end, the principal issue was no longer Jean de Meun’s literary capabilities. The principal issue had shifted to the unjust slander of women within literary texts. This dispute helped to establish Christine's reputation as a female intellectual who could assert herself effectively and defend her claims in the male-dominated literary realm. She continued to counter abusive literary treatments of women.


Christine produced a large number of vernacular works, in both prose and verse. Her works include political treatises, mirrors for princes, epistles, and poetry.

By 1405, Christine had completed her most famous literary works, The Book of the City of Ladies and The Treasure of the City of Ladies. The first of these shows the importance of women's past contributions to society, and the second strives to teach women of all estates how to cultivate useful qualities. For example, one section of the book tells wives: "If she wants to act prudently and have the praise of both the world and her husband, she will be cheerful to him all the time"

In The Book of the City of Ladies Christine created a symbolic city in which women are appreciated and defended. She constructed three allegorical figures – Reason, Justice, and Rectitude – in the common pattern of literature in that era, when many books and poetry utilized stock allegorical figures to express ideas or emotions. She enters into a dialogue, a movement between question and answer, with these allegorical figures that is from a completely female perspective. Together, they create a forum to speak on issues of consequence to all women. Only female voices, examples and opinions provide evidence within this text. Christine, through Lady Reason in particular, argues that stereotypes of women can be sustained only if women are prevented from entering into the conversation. Overall, she hoped to establish truths about women that contradicted the negative stereotypes that she had identified in previous literature.

In The Treasure of the City of Ladies, she highlights the persuasive effect of women’s speech and actions in everyday life. In this particular text, Christine argues that women must recognize and promote their ability to make peace between people. This ability will allow women to mediate between husband and subjects. She also argues that slanderous speech erodes one’s honor and threatens the sisterly bond among women. Christine then argues that "skill in discourse should be a part of every woman’s moral repertoire". She believed that a woman’s influence is realized when her speech accords value to chastity, virtue, and restraint. She argued that rhetoric is a powerful tool that women could employ to settle differences and to assert themselves. The Treasure of the City of Ladies provides glimpses into women's lives in 1400, from the great lady in the castle down to the merchant's wife, the servant, and the peasant. She offers advice to governesses, widows, and even prostitutes.

De Pizan was greatly interested in history, ranging from the Matter of Troy to the "founding of the royal house of France" (for her the latter was a consequence of the former). She obtained her knowledge of Troy from the Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César, and chose an anti-Trojan position. Hector especially served as a model and a measure of masculinity for her.

In the "Querelle du Roman de la Rose," she responded to Jean de Montreuil, who had sent her a treatise defending the sentiments expressed in the Romance of the Rose. She begins by styling her opponent as an "expert in rhetoric" in contrast to herself, "a woman ignorant of subtle understanding and agile sentiment." In this particular apologetic response, de Pizan belittles her own style. She is employing a rhetorical strategy by writing against the grain of her meaning, also known as antiphrasis. Her ability to employ rhetorical strategies continued when Christine began to compose literary texts following the "Querelle du Roman de la Rose."

Her final work was a poem eulogizing Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who said God had commanded her to secure the French throne for Charles VII. Written in 1429, The Poem of Joan of Arc ("Ditie de Jehanne dArc") celebrates the appearance of a woman whom Christine describes in the poem as "a simple shepherdess" while commenting: "It is a fact well worth remembering That God should now have wished (and this is the truth!) to bestow such great blessings on France, through a young virgin", adding "For there will be a King of France called Charles [VII], son of Charles [VI], who will be supreme ruler over all Kings." After completing this particular poem, it seems that Christine de Pizan, at the age of 65, decided to end her literary career.

Christine specifically sought out other women to collaborate in the creation of her work. She makes special mention of a manuscript illustrator we know only as Anastasia, whom she described as the most talented of her day.


In her own day, Christine de Pizan was primarily a court writer who wrote commissioned works for aristocratic families, as well as addressing literary debates of the era. In modern times, she has been labeled a poetic mediator who engaged with historical texts to interpolate her royal readers and encourage ethical and judicious conduct. Some rhetorical scholars have concluded, from studying her persuasive strategies, that she forged a rhetorical identity for herself and encouraged women to embrace this identity. Some have argued that Christine de Pizan "began her literary career by singing, alone in her room, and she finished by shouting in the public square." She left an influential footprint in the field of rhetorical discourse in an otherwise male-dominated literary field. She left forty-one surviving poetic works and a number of prose books. Simone de Beauvoir wrote in 1949 that Épître au Dieu d'Amour was "the first time we see a woman take up her pen in defence of her sex".

Translations and contemporary scholarship

  • The Book of the City of Ladies was brought to greater attention by Earl Jeffrey Richards's translation, published in 1982 by Persea Press. Richards is also the co-editor of an edited collection on de Pizan, Reinterpreting Christine de Pizan. The first English translation of Christine de Pizan's The Treasure of the City of Ladies: or The Book of the Three Virtues is Sarah Lawson’s (1985).
  • The standard biography about Christine de Pizan is Charity Cannon Willard’s Christine de Pisan: Her Life and Works (1984).
  • List of works

  • L'Épistre au Dieu d'amours (1399)
  • L'Épistre de Othéa a Hector (1399–1400)
  • Dit de la Rose (1402)
  • Cent Ballades d'Amant et de Dame, Virelays, Rondeaux (1402)
  • Le Chemin de long estude (1403)
  • Livre de la mutation de fortune (1403)
  • La Pastoure (1403)
  • Le Livre des fais et bonnes meurs du sage roy Charles V (1404)
  • Le Livre de la cité des dames (1405)
  • Le Livre des trois vertus (1405)
  • L'Avision de Christine (1405)
  • Livre du corps de policie (1407)
  • The Book of Deeds of Arms and Chivalry (1410) (ISBN 0271018801)
  • Livre de paix (1413)
  • Epistre de la prison de vie humaine (1418)
  • Ditié de Jehanne d'Arc (1429)
  • Tributes

    The artwork The Dinner Party features a place setting for Christine de Pizan.


    Christine de Pizan Wikipedia

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