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The Book of the City of Ladies (Revised Edition) Paperback – June 1, 1998

16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0892552306 ISBN-10: 0892552301 Edition: Revised Edition

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A real book event. -- Barbara Tuchman

Astonishing, original....an early chapter in women's revisionary history [that] offers true eloquence resurrected from the silence of the past. -- Maureen Quilligan, New York Times Book Review

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 281 pages
  • Publisher: Persea; Revised Edition edition (June 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892552301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892552306
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By sid1gen on February 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is the third time I write a review for this book. The previous reviews never made it. Here I go again:
From an age when women were expected to play a silent and obedient supporting role, Christine de Pizan demonstrates that intelligence and grace are very useful allies. One of the first women that we know of to write professionally in order to make a living, Christine's life was a mixture of privilege and loss. Her "Book of the City of Ladies" is definitely our net gain, though, since we can appreciate the beauty of well-applied talent. The author set out to write a history of women from the female perspective, giving us a different view of many famous (plenty of them mythical) women who have served as scapegoats for damaging stereotypes that perpetuated misogyny in traditional history, literature, and philosophy. Thus, Pizan deals with Queen Dido in a manner different to that adopted by Virgil, and Lavinia --who does not say a word in "The Aeneid"-- rules as a queen according to this "Book of the City of Ladies." Medea receives some help from Pizan's editing (there is no mention of the princess of Colchis killing her children to punish Jason), Circe gets in just 14 lines far better press than with Homer, and even female characters from Boccaccio's "Decameron," like Ghismonda and Lisabetta, are described from subtly better angles, particularly Lisabetta, who proves to be an intelligent woman who uses deduction to find out what had happened to her lover, and doesn't need a ghost to tell her, as in the "Decameron."
Pizan's book is a pleasure to read.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By The Strife of Love in a Dream VINE VOICE on July 14, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Christine falls asleep while contemplating why women in her society get such a bad rap, and has a long dream about exemplary women and their characteristics.
Did you ever wonder why we just accept that women in the Middle Ages were considered demons in disguise? Christine tells us all about what she thinks of that concept and of those who insist on spreading such maliciousness, all in an engaging story full of examples of brave, courageous, intelligent, pious, beautiful, generous women. The book was written to dispel some of the nastier slanders then current about women, but it's still good reading today.
I confess that during the part about martyrs I wandered off a bit (it is some gruesome stuff in places), but as a period source, it's definitely one every history maven ought to have. Christine is intelligent, observant, and witty; her writing fairly sparkles with indignation over the treatment of women and her sardonic amusement at those men spreading those lies. While hyper-Catholic and in places highly allegorical (and in many places its version of "history" is highly questionable, of course), it is an essential look at a time period where women didn't often make their views known in written form.
This book is distinct from "The Book of the Treasure of the City of Ladies".
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Julie Fifelski on May 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
LA CITE DES DAMES was one of the first medieval books I have read (but I am by no means an expert in the area... yet!), and I recommend it to not only those interested in this period, but also for those interested in what we would call "women's studies," historiography, or similar endeavors.
It is filled with many interesting stories from ancient times to Christine's own time, which also makes the book a pretty entertaining (and sometimes even humorous) account of the historic figures it discusses. Christine herself was an amazing person, so if you buy it, be sure not to skip the introduction - especially if you are unfamiliar with medieval writings: Some of the ideas presented (and how they are presented) are much different than how we would think in modern times, so it is important to familiarize yourself with things like massive over-proving (which may end up being tedious to the unsuspecting reader), Christine's view on marriage, and literary conventions that would perhaps seem very silly to us now, but worked well 600 years ago. Basically, when reading this book, if you keep in mind the context in which it was written, you should be able to appreciate it and like it just as I have.
(by the way -- the book I read was not the Penguin edition, but rather the 1998 English translation by Earl Richards, ISBN 0892552301, so unless you're planning on extensive criticism, you should be okay with this version).
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Stacey M Jones on July 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
THE BOOK OF THE CITY OF LADIES by Christine de Pizan is an allegory written in the early 1400s as an effort to defend womankind from spurious attacks by the male gender. The BOOK itself serves as the city, the protection and community of good women who show that the defamatory collective statements about women (they are greedy, they are inconstant, they are not chaste, etc.) are not true.

De Pizan was born in 1365 in Venice. When she was a small child, the French King Charles V gave her father a position at his court (he served as astrologer). The family's close ties to the court afforded Christine a good education, which was unusual at the time (and opposed by her mother). Though the family's fortunes faded, Christine made a happy marriage and had three children. When her husband died in 1389, de Pizan turned to writing to make her living. She became a highly respected voice on the status of women.

The book is structured around three ladies of heaven coming to visit Christine and charging her with building the City of Ladies. Christine has just been reading a book by Mathéolus, who is deeply critical of womankind, and Christine is upset and discouraged. The women are Reason, Rectitude and Justice. While they help her build and populate the city, Christine asks them to defend womenkind against various charges she hears brought against women, and they do so, each getting her own book of the work. The responses are examples of women in history, some biblical, some historical, some mythological (but these are explained by the Christian Christine as being real women whose fame was so renowned that their societies thought they were goddesses and began to worship them).
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