Christine de Pizan and Jean Gerson on the Body Politic: The Limits of Intellectual Influence?
Nederman, Cary J. Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University
Paper given at the Medieval Studies Working Group, France-Chicago Center, and Department of Political Science, University of Chicago, October (2007)
There is a large and established body of scholarly literature that demonstrates the existence of an intellectual relationship between the influential churchman and theologian Jean Gerson and the poet-courtier Christine de Pizan. As
virtual contemporaries who both moved in the courtly circles of Charles VI, it should hardly be surprising that they had mutual friends (such as the older Philippe de Mèziéres) and overlapping political interests (especially, a shared concern about the precarious political stability of France). Somewhat more startling is their shared opposition to the misogyny of Jean de Meun’s Roman de la Rose; when Christine produced her refutation of that poem (entitled Epistre au dieu d’amours) that sparked a wide-ranging controversy among many leading fin-de-siècle French intellectuals, Gerson sided definitively with her. A series of studies have begun to marshal evidence in support of sustained intellectual ties between the two, culminating in Earl Jeffrey Richard’s recent conclusion that their relationship should be classified as “a close intellectual friendship.”