English 415: Christine de Pizan in Fifteenth-Century England

Rice University, Spring, 1998
Dr. Jane Chance
2-5 W

Course Description:

Christine de Pizan (b. ca. 1364-65-d. ca. 1430?) was a Franco-Italian woman poet well-known and highly regarded in her own day, who, although born in Venice, Italy, spent most of her childhood and all of her adult life primarily in Paris and then the abbey at Poissy and who wrote entirely in her adoptive tongue of 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 protofeminist 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, Christine had a profound influence on fifteenth-century English poetry.

This seminar will examine her most significant writing (in translation) and will suggest how her influence and reception was reflected in several Middle English translations and works of the fifteenth century. Of interest in this seminar is the relationship between gender and reading, gender and literary reception, and the construction of female subjectivity. Within a larger historical context might be explored questions of gender and national identity, given the tension between English and French that provided a backdrop for Christine's writing.


Weekly/biweekly one-two page (double-spaced) ungraded essays (est. 500 words); one long (15-25 pp.) seminar paper. Class attendance is mandatory; class participation and preparation expected. This course satisfies the medieval distribution requirement for graduate students in the English Department and is crosslisted as a WGST course for undergraduates.

Texts (listed in order of first use):


Mar. 2-6 Mid-term Break

Office Hours: 11-12 MWF and by appointment, 301 Rayzor Hall

Phone Numbers: 713-527-8101 x2625; messages to secretary, 527-4846

E-Mail: jchance@ruf.rice.edu

Fax: 713-285-5991; 713-524-3304

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Updated October 20, 1997

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