chapter  13
25 Pages

Destruire et disperser. Violence and the Fragmented Body in Christine de Pizan’s Prose Letters

In 1407, at the height of Christine de Pizan’s literary career and just three years before she dispatches her prose letter Lamentacion sur les maux de la guerre civile, the Duke of Orléans was brutally assassinated by the Duke of Burgundy. The event plunged France deeper into political turmoil and underscored the great extent to which France as political state was organized into warring factions divided among individual branches of the royal lineage. Various political treatises and sermons of the day attempted to resolve the legal and political morass that the assassination had provoked. These sources have been well studied, but one that has not, and that nevertheless points up the extent to which France of the fifteenth century was not already united by linguistic or political forces but was instead a complex society undergoing the transformation from feudal to early modern state, is Christine de Pizan’s short prose letter entitled Lamentacion sur les maux de la guerre civile. In some ways, this letter attempts far more than contemporaneous fifteenthcentury legal treaties such as Philippe de Mézière’s Songe du vieil pèlerin, or even Jean Gerson’s Vivat rex, for it attempts to unite the French population under the notion of global responsibility to the political state. Indeed, all of Christine de Pizan’s political prose letters are an excellent lens through which to view the multifaceted fragmentation so visible in fifteenth-century French political structure, royal family, geographic territory, and legal practices.1