A World of One’s Own: Comparing Speculative Women’s Spaces in Giovanni Boccaccio’s "Decameron" and Christine de Pizan’s "The Book of the City of Ladies" College
Numerous scholars have examined Christine de Pizan’s seminal The Book of the City of Ladies, finished circa 1405, as a conscious “reappropriation” of earlier texts by men – most notably as a formal response to Jean de Meun’s popular additions to the Romance of the Rose circa 1275, and additionally as a text that utilizes Giovanni Boccaccio’s 1374 biographical catalogue On Famous Women as a more contemporary source. Yet considerably less attention has been devoted to examining points of contact between The Book of the City of Ladies and Boccaccio’s Decameron, written roughly 50 years prior.
While both works profess their dedication to “the ladies” as a collective audience and prominently feature women as speakers in both their overarching narratives and constituent anecdotes, the ways in which Christine creates narrative space for women in The Book of the City of Ladies remain unambiguously and deliberately distinct from Boccaccio’s rhetorical methods in the Decameron. These differences in authorial intent and technique can only be illuminated by bringing their works in closer dialogue with one another – specifically by comparing the characteristics of women that each writer claims as their audience, the construction of the ...
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