'Nee en Ytale': Christine de Pizan's migrant didactic voice



Publication Details

D'Arcens, L. 2008, ''Nee en Ytale': Christine de Pizan's migrant didactic voice', in J. F. Ruys (eds), What Nature Does Not Teach: Didactic Literature in the Medieval and Early-Modern Periods, 1 edn, Brepols Publishers, Turnhout, Belgium. pp. 81


Over the past three decades Christine de Pizan (c. 1364-c. 1431)has come to be regarded as one of the most distinctive voices of late-medieval French literature. Alongside her renowned advocacy of women, she is increasingly widely recognized for her abiding dedication to analysing, and proposing solutions to, the struggles of war-torn France. For a quarter of a century she devoted herself to offering advice to members of the beleaguered royal family, whose unstable fortunes at the hands of civil war and the Hundred Years' War very directly affected her own condition and that of her family. Her political writings clearly reveal the extent to which she regarded her own fate as intertwined with, and reflected in, that of the French kingdom. Her repeated evocations of France as a grieving widow, for instance, fuse a long-established image of civic desolation derived from the widowed Jerusalem of Lamentations with one of Christine's best-known self-portraits, the seulette, or solitary widow. There is, however, an intriguing detail in these writings that has gone relatively undiscussed: despite Christine's ingenious self-identification with France, she was born in Italy, and frequently reminded her readers of this fact, even going so far as to call herself a 'femme ytalienne'. Even amongst those critics who do acknowledge her Italianness, there is a tendency to subsume it into her adopted Frenchness. Through an examination of how Christine represents her geographical and ethnic origins in her early political writings, I wish to argue that her Italianness, far from being an incidental biographical detail, or a skin she needed to shed in order to identify with France, infuses the persona she constructs in these texts, and figures significantly in her development of what can be called a migrant advisory voice - a voice in which distance and intimacy, foreignness and belonging, and learning and experience are held in subtle yet forceful balance.

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