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Conclusion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 February 2024

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Summary

Or sus, fille, sans plus attendre, alons ou Champ des Escriptures. La sera fondee la Cité des Dames en pays plain et fertile … Pren la pioche de ton entendement et foys fort et fais grant fosse tout partout ou tu verras les trasses de ma ligne et je t’ayderay a porter hors la terre a mes propres espaules.

(Stand up now, daughter, and without further delay let us make our way to the Field of Letters. There we will build the City of Ladies on flat, fertile ground … Take the spade of your intelligence and dig deep to make a great trench all around where you see the line I have traced [and] I’ll help to carry away the hods of earth on my shoulders.)

ON ITS OWN, the idea that the empowerment of women is a key theme of Christine's works is far from novel. In the above passage, taken from La Cité des dames – arguably the work in which it is most central – that aim is explicitly rendered: Dame Raison, who speaks these words to the protagonist Cristine, tells her that she is taking her protegée into a “Champ des Escriptures” from which she will actively learn of examples of good women from history. The effects of this entreaty on Cristine are almost immediate: “pour obeir a son commandement me dreçay appartement, me sentant par la vertu d’elles trop plus forte et plus legiere que devant n’estoye” (“Obeying her instructions, I jumped to my feet: thanks to the three ladies, my body felt much stronger and lighter than before”). From the mere suggestion of embarking on the enterprise that she goes on to conduct with Raison, Droiture, and Justice, Cristine is rendered physically stronger, enabling her to take on the arduous enterprise. By the end of the work, the protagonist will have also been empowered to defend women by acquiring knowledge that equips her to do so.

The topic of female empowerment may therefore not be new, but this study has demonstrated that there is more to be said about how it is achieved in Christine's works. For instance, the necessity for women to work together to achieve this goal is highlighted in the above passage, in which Raison says she will help the protagonist in terms that emphasize the physicality of their endeavour: “t’ayderay a porter hors la terre a mes propres espaules.”

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Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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