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What Is The Attitude Of Christine De Pizan To Antiquity And The Value Of Ancient Sources?

1762 words - 8 pages

Although Christine de Pizan lived from 1364 until 1430, in the City of Ladies about she wrote the power of women and feminine success. Evidently, she was one of the first feminist writers that we know to have existed, but this does not mean she was the first feminist. In Pizan’s City of Ladies, she examines many historical examples of females as rulers of kingdoms, as warriors, and as strong and courageous figures in every aspect of their lives. Pizan uses these women as role models, and strengthens and builds her city on the foundation that they have already set down. Christine demonstrates that throughout antiquity there have been many women who defend both themselves and their gender, and prove that women are able, intelligent and courageous. The value of ancient precedents essentially makes Pizan’s writings viable, and they contribute to the idea of feminism and portrayal of women during the renaissance period.
To understand the City of Ladies and appreciate Christine’s use of ancient sources, we must examine what feminism initially looked like during the renaissance, including the views men had on women and women’s opinions of themselves. Then we must look at how Pizan wanted to change this outlook, and with the help of Reason, Rectitude and Justice, makes women seem more powerful and influential. Then we will consider how ancient sources have helped her in multiple ways: by providing an earlier position on feminism and the treatment of women, by showing that women are equal to men on many levels, and by inspiring and stimulating important questions on a woman’s place in society.
Women played an interesting role in society in the Middle Ages, and although their role in society had evolved from their place in ancient times, women were still seen as weaker, less intelligent and less noble than men. Women were commonly defined by their male counterparts, whether that be a husband, father or brother, and the extent of a woman’s status was due primarily to that of their male family members’. Men were in above women in society at this time because they were more educated and “held the secrets of learning,” (Margolis, 362). Pizan herself has great difficult in claiming her inheritance and maintaining her status in society after the death of her father and husband (Margolis, 362). Women were seen as weaker in both body and mind by all of society, and even saw themselves this way. Pizan writes, “a great unhappiness and sadness welled up in my heart, for I detested myself and the entire feminine sex, as though we were monstrosities in nature,” (Pizan, 1.1.1). She also goes on to say that she wishes the had been born a man (Pizan, 1.1.2) so to better serve God and be more perfect. Christine is very critical of herself and other women throughout the City of Ladies because it was so commonplace. Christine mentions how men were inclined to express “so many devilish and wicked thoughts about women and their behaviour,” (Pizan, 1.1.1). So although Pizan...

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