Friday, January 02, 2015

Christine de Pizan.

Christine de Pizan was an admirable author of the late 14th and early 15th c. Born in Venice in 1364, her father moved his family to Paris in 1368 where he served as royal astrologer. She wrote in French, as a French patriot. Widowed when her husband died in 1390, she was the sole support of her mother, niece and two children. She turned to writing to support them, a remarkable choice in an age when Geoffrey Chaucer was careful to retain his day job as a govenrment bureaucrat. She was probably the first woman to make a living as a professional author.

She was industrious, prolific and influential. She wrote poems about love and deeds of arms, works on the proper role of women in society, and a cruel but fair criticism of Jean de Meun’s misogyny in the Romance of the Rose. She also wrote on politics, wrote a biography of Charles V and a profoundly unromantic and subversive romance, The Book of the Duke of True Lovers, presenting the argument that most of what male courtly lovers say about serving their ladies is self serving "since the honor and profit remains with them and not at all with the lady!"

She also wrote an influential treatise on war, Les faits d'armes et de chevalerie, in part based on the late Roman author Vegetius, in part on the slightly earlier Honoré Bonet, and the rest based on contemporary advice from experienced soldiers on how to carry out or repel a siege or carry out a campaign.

One measure of her influence is that one of the earliest books printed in English is a translation of her work: The Book of the Order of Chivalry, and her The Epistle of Othea was also translated into English in the middle of the 15th century.

Although she signed herself Christine de Pizan, later authors and editions of her work overwhelmingly gave her name as Christine de Pisan, The original spelling of her name only returned  to predominance in the 1980s in English in the 1990s in French. It seems likely that there was a wide assumption that her family originally came from Pisa, rather than the town of Pizzano near Bologna.

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