Monday, August 28, 2017

Part the Second: Christine de Pizan's '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.). 
London: Penguin Classics edition, 1999, translated by Rosalind Brown-Grant.

Having introduced Christine de Pizan and this particular book in the previous post, herein let's consider additional points made more than 600 years ago, yet still relevant.

"[T]here is no excuse for plain ignorance . . . Condemning all women in order to help some misguided men get over their foolish behaviour is tantamount to denouncing fire, which is a vital and beneficial element, just because some people are burnt by it, or to cursing water just because some people are drowned in it."  (page 17).

On alphabets, texts letters, documents, books and literacy: "Thanks to her [Carmentis], men [people] possess the art of encoding their thoughts and wishes into secret messages which they can send all over the world. They have the means to make their desires known and understood by others, and they have access to knowledge of past and present events as well as to some aspects of the future." (pages 70-71).  How cool is that? Written language is encoded messaging, for sure, something we tend to take for granted, or completely forget.  

And: on certain men's accusation that women bring rape upon themselves, and like it:  "It therefore angers and upsets me when men claim that women want to be raped and that, even though a woman may verbally rebuff a man, she won't in fact mind if he does force himself upon her. I can scarcely believe that it could give women any pleasure to be treated in this way." (page 147).

Next point: "one shouldn't refrain from cultivating things which are good and useful just because some idiots use them unwisely. Everybody should do their duty by acting well, no matter what happens." (page 190).

On intellectual curiosity: "'My friend, say what you like. The pupil who puts questions to his [or her] teacher in the spirit of enquiry shouldn't be reprimanded for touching on any subject whatever.'" (page 171). A sentiment that matches exactly the philosophy of Erik's Choice.

And just for something fun, there's a whole section in which Christine discusses a slew of Catholic saints (being Catholic herself). Some of these are quite imaginative and specific, such as her rendering of the "blessed Theodota:" 

"As she lay in prison, a son of the Devil came to try and seduce her but he immediately came to have a terrible nosebleed. He shouted out that there was a young man in the cell with her who had punched him in the face . . ." (page 231) -- a scene right out of Twin Peaks!

Many of Christine de Pizan's works have survived the centuries. At some point, we'll continue contemplating more of them. 

Today's Rune: Protection.  Top picture: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 606 f. 6. Christine de Pizan. Épître d’Othéa. Paris, circa 1406. "The influence of Venus." Second picture from Wiki Commons.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

that image is a little horrific. A woman collecting hearts. I could do a horror story like that. Actually I pretty much did, called "Thief of Eyes."