Chapter Nine: Assignments and Readings

The level of complexity ranges from Assignment 1 to Assignment 4. Recommended articles follow.

Christine de Pizan presents her book to Isabeau of Bavaria, Queen of France.

Chrstine de Pizan lived during the middle ages in France although she was born in the region of Florence in 1364. She is the first woman to become a professional writer in Europe and her literary production reflects an exegesis of the misrepresentation of women in classical and medieval literature. She wrote allegories in prose and verse and didactic treatises. Christine de Pizan’s revisionist narratives and poems uplift the status of female figures in the Western canon in the Book of the City of Ladies (1405) and The Book of the Duke and the True Lovers (1405). She reclaims Christian morality through her female allegorical figures, as her form of feminism at a time when the concept is not yet officially recognized. Pizan also critiqued Roman writer Ovid’s limitations of representing women and contemporary writers, like satirist Jean de Meun’s. He wrote the second part of The Romance of the Rose, a well-known popular medieval ‘lover’s complaint’ in European literature. Meun’s allegory represents women through misogynist characterizations that erase both their voices and humanity and themes on ‘conquering love’. Additional sources: OER on Christine de Pizan & Rhetoric

Assignment 1

GOAL:  Build familiarity with close-reading poetry, with emerging themes like love and heterosexual love in a passage from Lorris’ The Romance of the Rose.

INSTRUCTIONS: The passage below is from Lorris’ original version of The Romance of the Rose, Book XIV. The God of Love is the narrator. He addresses the male lover. Explain the role of imagery, word choice, and identify associations to the Rose, a metaphor that is a stand in for women in this allegory.

Address two of the following questions: How is  ‘love’ defined? What is being surrendered? What do you learn about heterosexuality? What do you learn about women & gender inequality?

The God of Love addresses the male lover:

“Vassal, you are taken. There is no chance for escape or struggle. Surrender without making any resistance. The more willingly you surrender the sooner you will receive mercy…You cannot struggle against me, and I want to teach you that you can gain nothing through folly or pride. Rather submit yourself as a prisoner, as I wish, in peace and with a good will.”

Assignment 2

GOAL: Continue to build familiarity with close-reading poetry, but now work with Meun’s continuation of The Romance of the Rose to identify emerging themes: heterosexual love in a ‘dream vision’.

INSTRUCTIONS: The passage below is Meun’s ending of The Romance of the Rose. The male lover is the narrator. He describes taking the Rose,, a metaphor that is a stand in for the woman of desire in this allegory. Explain through imagery and word choice associations of the Rose, as conquered.

Address two of the following questions: What are the characteristics of the male lover? What do you learn from his triumph? How is the Rose described? Does she have a voice in this heterosexual love affair? What do you learn about heterosexuality? What do you learn about gender inequality?

Both Bush and Rose; leaf and flower.

Now, exalted to such high degree,

An estate I had gained so nobly,

My method in no way suspect

Since I’d proved loyal, and direct

And open, with each benefactor,

As so ought every good debtor,

For I was much obliged to them,

Since it was purely through them

That I was now so rich; indeed,

No other wealth could this exceed,

I rendered thanks, ten or twenty

Times, to Amor and Venus gladly,

Who had aided me most of all,

Then to the host before the wall,

Whose help I pray God will never

Remove from the true lover;

Speaking twixt each fragrant kiss,

Yet Reason included not in this,

She who’d granted me naught but pain;

And cursed vile Wealth who, again,

Had shown me not the least pity,

When she had refused me entry

To the path that she guarded there.

For this path she’d failed to care,

By which I had struggled within,

For all secretly had I entered in;

Cursed too each mortal enemy,

Especially vile Jealousy

Who had so obstructed me,

With her chaplet of anxiety,

Who doth from Lovers guard the Roses,

And even now great danger poses.

Ere I removed from that fair place

(A garden that I yet would grace)

With great delight, I did gather,

From that leafy bush, the flower,

And so the crimson Rose I won;

Day broke, I woke; my dream was done.

Assignment 3

GOAL:  A close-reading activity on Christine de Pizan’s work on gender inequality. This short writing activity builds on critical reading and thinking skills to succeed in the learning process of ‘interpreting’ a piece of literature with theoretical approaches.

INSTRUCTIONS:  To familiarize yourselves with ‘gender fluidity’ in Roman and Medieval European literature, go to an explanation of Ovid’s use of transgender mythological figure “Iphis” in Book IX of Metamorphosis: Pressbook on Transgender Tale “Iphis” by Ovid.

Then, compare Ovid’s representation of Iphis, a ‘gender neutral’ figure, with Pizan in the passage below from The Book of Mutability of Fortune (1403).

Address two of the following questions: How does Pizan present aspects of gender fluidity through the transformation of the female main narrator? What are the options of genders in this passage? What do you learn about heterosexuality? What do you learn about gender inequality? What are the underpinning influences or forces of transgender identities?

[The main narrator informs readers that the Fortune, a female allegorical figure announces her gender-transitioning process]

Then my mistress (Fortune) came toward me, Who takes joy from many.

And touched me all over my body. I felt changed all over.

My limbs were much stronger than before, Which felt strange,

And the crying had stopped. I felt most astonished

And my appearance was changed and strengthened,

And my voice become deeper,

And my body, harder and more agile.

But the ring that Hymen had given me

Fell from my finger,

Which troubled me, as indeed it should.

For I loved it dearly.

Now I will prove that I became a real man.


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