Sunday, April 19, 2009

just a short note on proto-feminism

So this isn't exactly about poetry, but i feel the need to say that Christine de Pizan was an awesome lady. i'm reading The Book of the City of Ladies (1405) for my Medieval Women's Writing course, and it is a nice change from earlier writers who always apologize for being female. Christine, while a woman of her time, believed very firmly that women should be educated and deserved recognition for their work. By "a woman of her time" i mean that she still adhered to notions of women's physical frailty and emphasized virginity as the ideal state of women, closely followed by marriage.

It is this line that really stood out:
... God formed the body of woman from one of [Adam's] ribs, signifying that she should stand at his side as a companion and never lie at his feet like a slave ...
That's a pretty advanced notion for the early 15th century. i'm still reading the first part of the book, but her project thus far has been refuting philosophers and writers who have insisted on women's inherent vice, stupidity, and subordinate position to man. Although she claims a visionary experience, one interesting feature of her writing is that as a woman, she feels she has the authority to write about women (other women writers tended to rely on "heavenly authority" as justification for their texts). She makes no excuse or apology for her knowledge and ability.

It is not always easy to study medieval women writers because of the humility topos; actually i find some of them rather infuriating (i realize that it's unfair of me to feel this way). Christine is refreshing, and i am enjoying her much more than say, Hildegard of Bingen - another very smart lady who was a Christian visionary and wrote as such.

Back to the books.

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