Allegory and Moral Philosophy in Christine de Pisan’s
An examination and interpretation of The Book of the City of Ladies, a work by the medieval French writer Christine de Pisan, can demonstrate the way the form a work takes can be vital to the interpretation of the philosophical content of that work. In The Book of the City of Ladies, her best known work, Christine argues against misogynist theological and popular literature. To counter these written works she builds an allegorical city from stories of virtuous women, in the process rewriting the history of women. It is not just that a neglect of this allegorical form of Christine’s work means that we shall lose part of its content or meaning, nor that study of its form is simply an aid to meaning; rather the relationship cuts far deeper. As we shall see, its particular form—the allegory of a city—is in a sense part of its philosophical meaning, that is to say it is part of the moral argument itself.