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ENG 6018
Criticism and Theory I

Class 9: Boccaccio and Christine de Pizan

Reading Assignment:

    Boccaccio, Christine de Pizan (NATC 253-270)
    Report: Eward-Mangione, Lane, King
    Post #8; MIDTERM DUE

Class Objectives:

  • Analyze excerpts from Boccaccio's Genealogy of the Gentile Gods;
  • Analyze excerpts from Christine's City of the Ladies;
  • Discuss three reports.

Boccacio and Christine are often included in surveys of Medieval literature, but for our purposes we will consider them in the Renaissance grouping. Interestingly both authors write defences and both employ the form of allegory to frame their defences. Both texts are clearly influenced by Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy. How do these similarities mark these texts in time and context? In what other ways are they similar? As you read these texts, consider how they introduce ideas that would come to dominance in the Renaissance.

Notes and Discussion Questions:

Giovanni Boccaccio

Examine the details of Boccaccio's scene around Philosophy's throne. What role do poets play? How does this represent a change in attitudes toward poetry?

What are the charges against poetry that Boccaccio answers? What role does Plato play in this representation?

What is Boccaccio's definition of poetry, its effects and the optimal conditions for its creation?

How might this translate into a theory of literature and how does this theory compare to earlier concepts of art and creativity, such as that in Aristotle, Horace, Longinus?

What is the relationship between rhetoric and poetry in Boccaccio's writing? How is this different from the medieval theorists?

What is Boccaccio's answer to those who argue that the obscurity of poetry cannot be understood?

What is the effect of applying the methods and ideals of scriptural analysis to a defence of poetry?

Christine de Pizan

Examine the details of Christine's allegorical frame. What is the significance of the figure of REASON?

The editor suggests that the opening of City of Ladies anticipates the anxiety of female authorship identified by Gilbert and Gubar (264). How does the opening experience of the narrator suggest the conditions of a female reader within the patriarchy?

Analyze the allegory of the city itself. What are some of the precursors for this allegory? What are the implications of her adapting it for learned and virtuous ladies?

How is the excavation and digging done by Christine and Reason in the field of letters an appropriate image for feminist recovery?

What are some of the arguments posed for explaining the universal misogyny that Christine encounters?

Evaluate the examples of the learned ladies Christine provides. What do these suggest about the value of female education? What point does Christine hope to illustrate by them?

The editor suggests that it would be a mistake to see Christine as a feminist precursor. To what extent do you agree?

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