Christine de Pizan (1365-1430). Born in Venice but raised in Paris, France. Father was court astrologer to King Charles V. Married at 15 to court notary Estienne de Castel, who was 25 at the time of the marriage.
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Married at 15 to court notary Estienne de Castel, who was 25 at the time of the marriage.
Christine described her marriage as exceptionally happy, and her husband seemed to have encourage her literary and intellectual pursuits.
Estienne died in 1389 when Christine was 25. She had three children and no inheritance, so she began to write as way to earn a living.
In her lifetime, Christine was recognized as a gifted lyric poet, served as the official biographer of Charles V, and was also the “chief correspondent” in the great Quarrel over the Roman de la rose, in which she attacked the morality and antifeminism of the famous poem.
Wrote several works on commission and is thus often considered to be “the first professional writer” as well as one of the earliest European women writers.
Her prodigious literary output includes eleven major works in prose, of which she is most famous for The Book of the City of Ladies, eight major poems, and numerous shorter lyrics and proverbs.
A universal history of women in which Christine launches a number of feminist arguments. For example, she argues that women are fit to govern in religious as well as secular contexts and that women have an affinity for learning.
A vehicle by which Christine transforms “her own erudition into an emblem of women’s potential for erudition” (Davis, Introduction, xxxii).
Scholar Deborah McGrady points out that, in the illustrations in Harley 4431, Christine has herself pictured often as a teacher, even as a “learned master” before a clerical male audience, but above all as a reader (“Reading for Authority”).
In this manuscript and others, Christine often tried to teach her audience—her royal and noble patrons and patronesses, as well as lesser male and female members of court—careful reading and interpretive strategies through codicological means. For example, in the EpistreOthea, Christine herself added marginal glosses demonstrating alternate modes of interpretation (allegorical vs. anagogical); in other mss, she would embed anagrams in and around the text for the benefit or entertainment of her cleverer readers.