chapter  8
14 Pages

Who's a Heroine?

The Example of Christine de Pizan
WithThelma Fenster

The conventional French-language medieval heroine, linked overwhelmingly with the romance, and diversely represented in work by Chretien de Troyes, Thomas d'Angleterre, Jean Renart, and others, is not to be found in Christine de Pizan's courtly poetry. The sibyl Christine knew had been absorbed quite early into Christianity as a prophetess of Christ's coming, and the clarity in her message, as opposed to the obscurity of her utterances in an earlier tradition, naturally became paramount. Christine's own fashioning of the Sibyl figure begins to take on prominence in the Chemin de long estude. The Sibyl appears while Christine sleeps, as Lady Philosophy had appeared to Boethius in the Consolatio philosophiae: "Une dame de grant corsage/Qui moult avoit honneste et sage/Semblant, et pesante maniere". Christine's understanding of right speaking depends upon inherited GrecoRoman concepts and upon avoiding the rather stringent Christian "sins of the tongue".