English 415: Christine de Pizan in Fifteenth-Century England
Rice University, Spring, 1998
Dr. Jane Chance
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.
Requirements: 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):
- Christine de Pizan, The Writings of Christine de Pizan, sel. and ed. Charity Cannon Willard, Persea, 1994, pb.
- Charity Cannon Willard, Christine de Pizan, Her Life and Works: A Biography, Persea, 1984.
- Thelma Fenster et al, ed. and trans. 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, Brill, 1990.
- Alcuin Blamires, ed. Woman Defamed and Woman Defended: An Anthology of Medieval Texts, 2nd ed., 1997, pb.
- Christine de Pizan, Letter of Othea to Hector, trans. Jane Chance, Boydell & Brewer, 1990, pb.
- Boccaccio, Forty-Six Lives, trans. into Middle English, Henry Parker, Lord Morley, ed. Herbert G. Wright, EETS no. 214, Humphrey Milford/Oxford University Press, 1943.
- Derek Pearsall, ed., The Floure and the Leafe, The Isle of Ladies, and the Assembly of Ladies, TEAMS/Medieval Institute Publications, 1992, pb.
- Christine de Pizan, The Book of the Duke of True Lovers, trans. Thelma Fenster and Nadia Margolis, Persea, 1991, pb.
- _________________, The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards, Persea, 1982, pb.
- _______________, The Treasure of the City of Ladies, or The Book of the Three Virtues, trans. Sarah Lawton, Penguin, 1985, pb.
- Melusine, compiled 1382-1394 by Jean d'Arras, trans. into Middle English about 1500, ed. A. K. Donald (Part 1), EETS no. 68, Boydell & Brewer, 1895
Week 1 Jan. 14 W Introduction: Christine de Pizan in the Fifteenth Century
- Christine's Life
- Read: From Christine's Vision, in Christine, Writings, pp. 3-26
- From the Book of the Mutacion of Fortune, in Christine, Writings, pp. 109-136
- Ballades, Rondeaux, Virelays, in Christine, Writings, pp. 27-60
- From the Tale of Poissy, in Christine, Writings, pp. 61-69
- Willard, Christine de Pizan, Her Life and Works, Chapters 1-2, pp. 15-49
Week 2 Jan. 21 W Courtly Love and the Female Voice: The Letters of Cupido
- Read: Cupid's Letter (May 1, 1399), in Fenster, Poems of Cupid, pp.
- Thomas Hoccleve, Letter of Cupid, in Fenster, Poems of Cupid, pp.
- Willard, Christine de Pizan, Her Life and Works, Chapter 3, pp. 50-71
Week 3 Jan. 28 W Christine's Scholarship: Ovid and the Letter of Othea to Hector (1399-1400)
- Read: Ovid, Selections from Ars Amatoria, De amore, and Remedia Amoris, in Blamires, Woman Defamed, pp. 17-25
- Christine's Letter of Othea to Hector
- Willard, Christine de Pizan, Her Life and Works, Chapter 5, pp. 90-113
Week 4 Feb. 4 W Christine's Scholarship, Part 2: Translator of Boccaccio's Concerning Famous Women (1401)?
- Read: Boccaccio, Forty-Six Lives
Week 5 Feb. 11 W The Quarrel of the Rose (1401-2)
- Read: Selections from Jean de Meun, Romance of the Rose, Blamires, Woman Defamed, pp. 148-166
- Letters by Christine from The Quarrel, in Christine, Writings, pp. 151-61; Blamires, Woman Defamed, pp. 286-89
- Tale of the Rose (Feb. 14, 1402), in Fenster, Poems of Cupid, pp.
- Willard, Christine de Pizan, Her Life and Works, Chapter 4, pp. 72-89.
- Floure and the Leafe, ed. Pearsall, pp.
Week 6: Feb. 18 W Courtly Love and the Female Voice, Part 2: The Book of the Duke of True Lovers (1405)
- Read: Christine, Book of the Duke of True Lovers
Week 7: Feb. 25 W Christine's Illustrations: A Feminine Utopia (Slide Presentation)
- Read: Willard, Christine de Pizan, Her Life and Works, Chapter 7, pp. 135-53
Mar. 2-6 Mid-term Break
Week 8: Mar. 11 W Christine's City of Ladies: The Defense of Women
- Read: Jean Le Fèvre, from The Lamentations of Matheolus, in Blamires, Woman Defamed, pp. 177-97
- Christine, Book of the City of Ladies, Book 1
Week 9: Mar. 18 W Christine's City of Ladies, part 2
- Read: Christine, Book of the City of Ladies, Books 2-3
Week 10: Mar. 25 W The Education of Women: Christine's Treasure of Ladies
- Read: Christine, Treasure of the City of Ladies, trans. Lawton
Week 11: Apr. 1 W Christine's Melusine and Jean Arras, Melusine, The Romance of Lusignans, in Middle English
- Read: Jean Arras, Melusine, trans. Henry, Lord Morley
Week 12: Apr. 8 W Melusine (cont.); Christine's Feminine Utopia and The Isle of Ladies
- Read: The Isle of Ladies, in Pearsall, ed. Floure and the Leafe, pp.
Week 13: Apr. 15 W Christine's Feminine Utopia and The Assembly of Ladies
- Read: The Assembly of Ladies, in Pearsall, ed. Floure and the Leafe, pp.
Week 14: Apr. 22 W Presentations; Conclusion
- Student Presentations of their Long Paper (Summaries)
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