« Seulette suis » : Christine de Pizan’s rhetoric of power through loneliness and poverty

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« Seulette suis » : Christine de Pizan’s rhetoric of power through loneliness and poverty

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  « Seulette suis » : Christine de Pizan’s rhetoric of power through loneliness and  poverty« Seulette suis et seulette veux être/ Seulette ’a on doux ai laissi!e » are the first two verses of Christine de Pizan’s ost faous poe" in which she laents on her condition as a widow# Christine" the daughter of Charles $’s tutor %hoas de Pizan" was indeed widowed in &'() after her hus*and" +tienne du Castel" died" leaving her alone with their two children# Christine had to she had to start writing in order to raise her faily# %his state of eergency and poverty nevertheless ar,ed Christine treendously" and influenced her writing# Sadness and poverty are central toher wor,s" where she oftenties descri*es herself as a -pauvre seulette". a poor lonely woan whose life was torn apart *y the death of her hus*and#  will argue in this presentation that Christine’s relation to poverty and sadness ust *e put in context with her position as a woan" who uses these dire events in order to create a rhetoric of power and union" in which every woan who suffered such hardship is included" creating a counity of strong woen#%he death of +tienne du Castel was for Christine disastrous on two levels# 0is death destroyed her eotionally" since her wedding had *een a 1oyous one and she fondly loved hi# t also shattered her aterially" since she was left in dire straits# n her  Livre de l’advision Christine  2&3)45" Christine clearly relates the harsh life she has *een living ever since +tienne’s death# She was not a*le to *enefit fro her hus*and’s property" which had *een repossessed *y the crown 2-e convenoit paier la rente" et sin’en 1ouissoie. #65 7oney that had *een saved for her children was stolen *y a con artist 2-il fist acroire 8u’il avoit est! desro*ez et si s’a*senta et fui. #65 She owned agreat deal of oney to her and her hus*and’s creditors 2-Ceulz 8ui e devoient ’assailloient affin 8ue ne ’avans9asse de leur riens deander". #65 Christine’s  poverty is real" and as a widowed woan in the 7iddleages" her situation was 1  extreely harsh# n  L’Advision " she uses the description of her terri*le condition in a  plea to ;ady Philosophy" who appeared to her suddenly#%he character of Philosophy is central to Christine’s writings< she had a great adiration for =oethius’ Consolatio Philosophiae  2around 4>3 ?@5" which she uses as an intertext in any of her wor,s# n his *oo," =oethius explains the vision he had" while in prison" of ;ady Philosophy" who appeared to hi# 0e was desperate" sad and fearful" waiting for his execution" *ut the lady" through her words" appeased hi and  prepared hi to accept his condition and his sorrows# %hese thees of fortune and consolation have *een widely used *y Christine in her wor,s" nota*ly in order to explain how she" as a widow torented *y fate" was a*le to overcoe her grief# ?nne Paupert underlines the iportance of =oethius in Christine’s wor,s" and how its use allows Christine to rewrite =oethius to *lend it to her needs: -7êe lors8u’elle le copile AB elle odifie et reorganise selon ses *esoins les at!riaux utilis!s.# Devin =rownlee argues that the *oethian odel developed in her wor,s ena*les -Christine selfrepresentation as an overtly fealegendered author#.  will argue that the selfcreation of Christine as a powerful woan is only the first step towards a wider field of action" in which she uses the *oethian odel as descri*ed *y =rownlee in order to position herself as a sort of guide" or exaple to *e followed *y woen that are struggling# n order to develop this idea" it is iportant to note the nature of poverty# n Christine’s idea" poverty is a dou*lefaceted pro*le# t is iportant" indeed" to see  poverty not only through the aterialistic diension 2lac, of oney" of possession" of titles5 *ut also through its sy*olic diension# %he poverty of feelings" in the sense that it acts as a drought of positive eotions 2love" 1oy" content5 to *e replaced *y negative ones 2sadness" fear" despair5 is as terri*le" in Christine’s ind" as the actual 2  onetary pro*les she went through# n a highly asculine edieval society" woenwere characterized *y their arriage# 7arried woen who were unluc,y enough to  *ecoe widows lost their status in society" having ere possi*ilities to regain it *ut rearry or enter a secluded life in a onastery#  will argue that Christine tries and override this fatality *y using her own exaple to transpose it to a general population of woen suffering of the sae pro*les she did#%he =attle of ?gincourt 2Ecto*er >4 th " &3&45 gave her the perfect opportunity for this# %his *attle was one of the ost terri*le" if not the ost defeat of the 0undred Fears war# =arely twenty years after the *attle of Gi,opolis" in which a lot of ,nights were ,illed" the Hrench aries were annihilated" and ost of their ,nights ,illed or ta,en prisoners" *y a uch saller +nglish ary" ainly due to the superior firepower of +nglish archers# 7ost of all" this disaster too, place during a particularly difficult period for Hrance# En top of facing +nglish attac,s" Hrance was also torn apart *y a civil war opposing the Erl!ans and the =ourguignons for the control of Hrance" since ,ing Charles $ was not capa*le of governing after the crisis of adnessthat struc, hi in &'(># Christine de Pizan wrote her   Epistre de la prison de vie humaine  2&3&I5 in reaction to ?gincourt# %he epistle is addressed priarily to -@ae 7arie de =erry" @uchesse de =our*on et d’?uvergne". and Christine’s o*1ective is to help her to -trouver reede et edicine a la griefve aladie et feret! d’aertue de cuer et tristesse de pens!e" par 8uoy flux de leres AB peust estre restraint#. 2+P$0 >5#   t is interesting to notice the parallel *etween the  Advision  and the  Epistre " andhow Christine’s personality evolved *etween these two *oo,s# %he Christine fro the  Advision  was a griefstric,en widow" whose eotional discourse" as  have deonstrated" was very uch directed towards her own suffering# She is still a -raw. 3  character" whose raw eotions have not *een processed yet" which causes ;ady Philosophy’s ire: -+t pour8uoy te plains tu par ingratitude des *iens 8ue tu as receusJ AB +t 8ue tu es deceue" 1e prouveray par prati8ue de gros exeple: coe l’expert edecin 8ui considere la faculte de la nature et coplexion de son pacient AB lui donne purgatoire et edicine" ainsi useray en toy de regise tenue et legier AB tells ou se*la*les 8ue 1adis 1e donnay a on a! =ouesce#. Christine" then" finally accepts the nuerous pieces of advice that Philosophy gives her in order to *e consoled" and Christine finally feels freed fro her yo,e of sadness: -Si dis 8ue toy" Sainte %heologie et divinit!" es une tres grasse viande 8ui contient en toy toutes delices. #>K# %he cure that she received *ecoes the central point of the  Epistre # %here is a clear parallel" drawn *y Christine herself" *etween 7arie’s sufferings as a widow and her own# n her deonstration" she uses the extree eotions that she felt in order to understand and feel herself the eotions that 7arie is going through< Christine indicates that she is -eu de piti! et de loyale et vraie affection#.  do not consider that pity should *e considered here as a negative feeling" *ut ore as the ac,nowledgeent of the distress that 7arie is going through# Christine understand what 7arie is going through" a terri*le feeling that only woen having lost loved ones can understand# Christine’s self appointed role" in that atter" is to help 7arie find a -reede et edicine. 2-cure and edication.5 for this -griefve aladie. 2-serious disease.5# t is nevertheless very iportant to consider that the cure that Christine is proposing herself to deliver to 7arie is not going to *e a iraculous solution for her sufferings# She always reinds the reader and 7arie of her condition as a widow 2referred to as her -petit estat vesval". her -sall widow condition.5# She herself recognizes that the eotions and sufferings *egotten *y such disappearances are -inrecouvra*le et fort a ou*lier#. %he  Epistre is then conceived   as a edicine" that 4  is going to try and soothe the horror she has *een through" trying to a,e the horror ore accepta*le 2-en donnant reconfort. -*y giving solace.+P$0 35# Hor Christine" the process of acceptation is closely lin,ed to a coplete iersion in Christ" that will help the process of acceptation that  will explain later one# Lenate =luenfeldDosins,i explains that -for an understanding of the  Epistre de la prison de vie humaine  it is iportant to ree*er that" at the end of the  Advision " AB ;ady Philosophy is transfored into ;ady %heology" thus draatizing Christine’s oveent fro intellectual to religious aspect of consolation#.  consider that Christine" who ephasizes the iportance of religion and acceptation in order to *e cured fro sadness through her own experience" transfors herself into a new interation of ;ady Philosophy# She went fro -ignorant. victi in the  Advision  to a woan aware of her sadness" and using it in order to teach her fellow widows how to survive this experience# She is eotionally and intellectually close to 7arie’s suffering# Christine reinforces this lin," and starts instigating what  would define as an effort of proxiity and intiacy# Christine indeed explains that -1e suppli hu*leent ton huaine de*onnairet!" 8ue n’ait a al se en singulier1e parle a toy" c’est assavoir par tu#. %his failiarity that Christine esta*lishes *etween Christine and7arie reinforces the eotional *ond that Christine started to create *etween *oth through a didactic of discourse through which the -natural. distance *etween the  powerful 7arie 2her father was Mean st of =erry" son of Ding Mean the Second of Hrance5 and Christine is erased# Social ran,s do not exist anyore" since they are facing the sae struggles and horrors# %his positioning as an e8ual through suffering is also a way for Christine to explain the universal and unifying character of their affliction# %he eotions that are *egotten *y the death of one’s significant other are universal" in the sense that traditional riches" ran, or class are underined *y the 5
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