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Chapter 7 - Christine de Pizan, Translator and Translation Critic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2020

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Summary

French author, royal adviser, and public intellectual Christine de Pizan (1364– ca. 1430) had extraordinary influence in her lifetime. Her prolific body of work addressed major issues and events of her day, from the Hundred Years War and the Great Schism to the assassination of Louis d’Orléans and the ascendance of Jeanne d’Arc. She openly engaged scholars in debate over the popular but controversial Roman de la Rose, shedding light on the social impact of misogynistic discourse. She memorialized the French king Charles V, and she made herself a mouthpiece for France in poems, treatises, and literary prayers on behalf of the distressed nation, giving voice to the anxieties produced under the protracted crises and conflicts of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Remarkably, despite the misogyny of the learned culture of her time, Christine de Pizan was among the most influential voices in the French court. She wrote for numerous patrons of high standing in and around the French royal family, on both sides of the Burgundian-Armagnac conflict, notably including the Queen of France, Isabeau de Bavière. Literary peers such as Eustache Deschamps wrote favorably of her, and the famed Chancellor of the University of Paris Jean Gerson held her in high esteem.

While not known primarily for her translations, Christine de Pizan did engage with translation directly and indirectly throughout her work, both by translating short texts and excerpts from Latin into French and by recognizing the powerful role of translation in the transmission of knowledge. Christine's portrait of Charles V as a champion of a renewed translatio studii in her Livre des fais et bonnes meurs du sage roy Charles V (1404) is in large part a reflection of how she constructs her own authority as the king's commissioned author and as an advisor to his successor, Charles VI. Not only did Christine avail herself of new translations by Charles V's court translators Raoul de Presles and Nicole Oresme, but her own unique situation as a foreign-born woman in the French court allowed her to position herself as a cultural and linguistic ambassador between Italian and French; between Latin and the vernaculars; and between a male-dominated clerical tradition and a feminized laity.

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Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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