A Medieval Gateway to Feminist Education: Christine de Pizan’s Subversive Revision of Boccaccio
Kivilcim Yavuz (İSTANBUL BİLGİ UNIVERSITY, TURKEY)
Paper given at 2nd INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS’ CONFERENCE, BASKENT UNIVERSITY, 27-29 MARCH (2002)
The Zenobia figure is the mainstay of the defence of women’s education in the transition period from the medieval to the modern. Pivotal in this context is Christine de Pizan’s Le Livre de la cité des dames (The Book of the City of Ladies) written c.1405. The Zenobia legend dates to ancient times, and was transmitted to the Middle Ages in the anonymous Historia Augusta which was written in late 4th century AD. Pizan’s immediate source, however, was the section devoted to Zenobia in Giovanni Boccaccio’s De claris mulieribus (Concerning Famous Women) written c. 1361-1375. It is from Boccaccio’s account that later authors would assimilate and comment on the ancient queen, and Geoffrey Chaucer, in his Monk’s Tale, is one of the earliest examples. However, the reason that Zenobia became the metaphor of the educated woman owes to Pizan’s subversive revision of the queen’s life story in her Cité des dames.