Christine de Pizan

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Christine de Pisan (also seen as de Pizan) (1364 – c. 1430) was a Venetian-born woman of the medieval era who strongly challenged misogyny and stereotypes prevalent in the male-dominated realm of the arts. As a poet, she was well known and highly regarded in her own day.

She spent most of her childhood and all of her adult life primarily in Paris and then the abbey at Poissy, and 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. Christine completed forty-one pieces during her thirty-year career (1399–1429). She earned her accolade as Europe’s first professional woman writer.[1] Her success stems from a wide range of innovative writing and rhetorical techniques that critically challenged renowned male writers, such as Jean de Meun who, to Christine’s dismay, incorporated misogynist beliefs within their literary works. 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 for herself and her three children.

In recent decades, Christine'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 claim either that it is an anachronistic use of the word, or that her beliefs were not progressive enough to merit such a designation. [2]



16th century · 17th century
18th century · 19th century
20th century · Contemporary

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