The Book of the City of Ladies Background

The Book of the City of Ladies Background

Published in 1405, Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies is considered a landmark text for feminist rights. Structured as an allegory in which three ladies depicting Reason, Justice, and Rectitude call upon the author while in her study, the work is one of many defenses of women composed by de Pizan.

The trope of an author having a conversation with such allegorical characters was a popular throughout the Renaissance and provided a mechanism by which she could most effectively drawn upon existing literary texts to refute the traditional portrayal of women right up to the time in which she wrote. Even more than that, The Book of the City of Ladies tackles the subject of historical perception of women by upbraiding the historians whose texts have omitted the contribution of her sex to the march of progress, and the consequences upon future events that were effected by women taking up important causes.

For most of its existence, The Book of the City of Ladies was ignored as an important work in the canon of feminist literature because it was often considered to be a rough translation of Boccaccio’s Concerning Famous Women. Closer perusal has revealed this idea to be easily refuted, as Boccaccio introduces women of both admirable and infamous qualities who belong exclusively to pagan literature. For her part, de Pizan expands to include Christian figures and excludes the infamous.

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