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Christine de Pizan

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Christine de Pizan (c1364-1430) who, according to Simone de Beauvoir, was the first woman to 'take up her pen in defence of her sex'.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and works of Christine de Pizan, who wrote at the French Court in the late Middle Ages and was celebrated by Simone de Beauvoir as the first woman to 'take up her pen in defence of her sex.' She wrote across a broad range, and was particularly noted for challenging the depiction of women by famous writers such as Jean de Meun, author of the Romance of the Rose. She has been characterised as an early feminist who argued that women could play a much more important role in society than the one they were allotted, reflected in arguably her most important work, The Book of the City of Ladies, a response to the seemingly endless denigration of women in popular texts of the time.

The image above, of Christine de Pizan lecturing, is (c)The British Library Board. Harley 4431, f.259v.


Helen Swift
Associate Professor of Medieval French at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Hilda's College

Miranda Griffin
Lecturer in French and Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge


Marilynn Desmond
Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Binghamton University

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

50 minutes

Last on

Thu 8 Jun 2017 21:30


Helen Swift at the University of Oxford

Miranda Griffin at the University of Cambridge

Marilynn Desmond at the University of Binghamton, New York

The Making of the Queen’s Manuscript: ‘The Book of the Queen’, the largest extant collected manuscript of Christine de Pizan's works – Edinburgh University Library 

Christine de Pizan, Collected works (‘The Book of the Queen’): Manuscript called Harley MS 4431, presented by Christine to Isabeau of Bavaria, Queen of France – British Library

Christine de Pizan and ‘The Book of the Queen’: Medieval manuscripts blog - British Library

Christine de Pizan - Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum

‘The Song of Joan of Arc’ by Christine de Pizan

‘Women in medieval society’ by Alixe Bovey - British Library

Christine de Pizan – Wikipedia



Tracy Adams, Christine de Pizan and the Fight for France (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014)

Barbara K. Altmann and Deborah L. McGrady (eds.), Christine de Pizan: A Casebook (Routledge, 2003)

Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski & Kevin Brownlee (trans.), The Selected Writings of Christine de Pizan (W. W. Norton & Company, 1997)

Rosalind Brown-Grant, Christine de Pizan and the Moral Defence of Women: Reading Beyond Gender (Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Charity Cannon Willard, Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works (first published 1974; W. W. Norton & Company, 2013)

Christine de Pizan (trans. Rosalind Brown-Grant), The Book of the City of Ladies (Penguin, 1999)

Christine de Pizan (trans. Sarah Lawson), The Treasure of The City of Ladies; or, The Book Of The Three Virtues (Penguin, 2003)



Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Helen Swift
Interviewed Guest Miranda Griffin
Interviewed Guest Marilynn Desmond
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 8 Jun 2017 09:00
  • Thu 8 Jun 2017 21:30

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