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  • Susan Stoderl

Christine de Pizan | Biographical Details of a Medieval Woman Writer’s Life and Learning

Christine de Pizan Discussing Religion
Christine de Pizan Discussing Religion (British Library. Harley 4431, f.259v. Picture)

One characteristic of Christine de Pizan’s writing is the number of autobiographi-cal details she included in all of her various genres of writing. This was rare among medieval writers. Among the many personal details, she wrote about her father, her very much loved deceased husband, and the dire straights most women faced after the death of their husbands as they were outcasts of society. She often wrote of her career, her critics, her intellectual evolution, her knowledge of geography, and her life as a wife and mother.

In Christine’s Vision (L’avision-Christine 1405), the principal source of her biography, she addresses Lady Philosophy:

I assure you that my trials were little evident in my demeanor and dress. Under my fur-lined cloak and fine surcoat that was carefully mended but seldom replaced, I was off and shivering, and spent many restless nights in my handsome well-draped bed. But my meals are modest, as befits widows; in any case one must go on living. God knows what torments assailed me when the bailiffs would come to carry off some of my dear possessions. However great the loss, what I feared most was the shame. When I had to borrow money to avoid greater problems, dear God, how I made my request with embarrassment and blushing, even if it was to a friend. And still today, I am not cured of this in disposition, and would rather fall ill with fever than have to borrow again.

(Translated from ex-Phillipps Ms. 128 by Christine M. Reno)


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