Christine de Pizan’s City of Ladies: A Monumental (Re)construction of, by, and for Women ofAll Time
Wagner, Jill E.
Medieval Feminist Forum, 44, no. 1 (2008)
Christine de Pizan’s Book of the City of Ladies, written over six centuries ago, is neither simple nor simplistic. As the first known history of women in Western civilization from a female point of view, it embraces all virtuous women even beyond those specifically mentioned. Fashioned as an allegorical city, it should be considered a potential textual buttress for contemporary feminist consciousness.
Christine constructs her history as both an allegory and a city of ladies for several possible reasons. First, Christine can “speak” to readers by channeling her own persona into her main character. Further, the form of authorial conversation with allegorical figures was a popular didactic medieval convention, and this textual structure remains accessible today. When Judith L. Kellogg writes, “the space in which the city [of ladies] is built must be within each woman,” she bridges the six-hundred years since the writing of with a few strokes of her pen. In other words, Christine urges individual women to take the first step toward realizing a feminist hereafter.