Friday, August 25, 2017

Christine de Pizan: 'The Book of the City of Ladies' (1405 A.D.)

Christine de Pizan (1364-circa 1430), Le Livre de la Cité des Dames / The Book of the City of Ladies (1405 A.D.). In this energetic book first published more than 600 years ago, Christine de Pizan constructs a "City of Ladies" that protects and advocates for women in a man's world. It should be needless to say that such a book is still highly relevant, as well as a remarkable text in its own right.

If "active learning" is all the rage in 2017, Christine de Pizan already has it covered in 1405: "There's nothing like a whole range of different experiences and activities for expanding the mind of any rational creature." (Penguin Classics edition, 1999, translated by Rosalind Brown-Grant, page 57).

Christine argues that women (of all stations) can and should be educated: "learned individuals help others most by sharing their knowledge with them, no matter how much good judgment they might possess. This is because individuals' faculty of judgment only lasts as long as their lifetime: when they die, it does, too. On the other hand, learning which has been acquired endures . . . and they can teach their knowledge to others as well as pass it on in books for future generations to discover. Their learning does not therefore die with them. . ." (Brown-Grant, page 79). 
On the education of woman: "Therefore, it is not all men, especially not the most intelligent, who agree with the view that it is a bad idea to educate women. However, it's true that those who are not very clever come out with this opinion because they don't want women to know more than they do." (Brown-Grant, page 141).  
"So I'm baffled as to why men talk about the inconstancy and fickleness of women. How can men dare to open their mouths when they see that the conduct of those that govern them -- who are certainly not women! -- is marked by instability and hesitation, just like that of children, and that the resolutions and agreements they come up with in their counsels are rarely put into effect." (Brown-Grant, page 155).

". . . it isn't women who are responsible for all the endless crimes and atrocities that are committed in the world . . . To think that men dare say that all women should be virtuous or that those who aren't should be stoned!  I would ask them to take a good look at themselves and then let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Moreover, to what kind of behavior should they themselves aspire? I tell you, the day that all men attain perfection, women will follow their example." (Brown-Grant, page 170). 

More to come. It's the 21st century and we still need plenty of schooling.

Today's Rune: Possessions.  


the walking man said...

As a long time advocate for killing off the world dominating patriarchy I have to agree with everything de Pizan wrote as expressed here. Eliminating the whole barefoot, pregnant, in the kitchen model has finally started to decline in the developed world now to spread it further---that is a fight worth having.

Charles Gramlich said...

Always cool to see someone advocating education.