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The Royal Vernacular: Poet and Patron in Christine de Pizan’s Charles V and the Sept psaumes allégorisés

  • Lori J. Walters
Chapter
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

Christine de Pizan’s Sept psaumes allegorises of 1409 (henceforth SPA) is a work whose intellectual import and verbal artistry have up to now gone unnoticed.1 Her commentary on the seven penitential psalms proves to be a carefully executed and commanding ventriloquist performance that was calculated to elicit a powerful moral response in a medieval audience. Christine in effect has the Old Testament patriarch David, the purported author of the psalms, speak French to teach a lesson to her patron, Charles the Noble, and to the entire country. In the SPA, Christine “allegorizes” the seven penitential psalms in conformity with the “translation” campaign launched by King Charles V. As she explains in her Livre des faits et bonnes meurs du sage roi Charles V oî 1404 (henceforth Charles V), 2 Charles V had designated works that he deemed important to the proper function of the monarchy to be “translated” into the Middle French vernacular. Works like Augustine’s City of God and Aristotle’s Ethics and Physics were adapted, and in most cases substantially rewritten, by an impressive team of writers who included Raoul de Presles and Nicole Oresme.3 One way to adapt a work in the vernacular was to “allegorize” it, which to Christine meant using each psalm as the basis for extended moral commentary on the speaker’s vices and virtues (tropology). In “allegorizing” the psalms, Christine applies a lesson drawn from Scripture to her patron Charles the Noble.

Keywords

Female Voice Public Reading Charles Versus Latin Verse Medieval Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    See Claire Richter Sherman, Imaging Aristotle: Verbal and Visual Representation in Fourteenth-Century France (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995).Google Scholar
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    Alastair J. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988), pp. 104–11.Google Scholar
  3. 18.
    Stewart Gregory, ed. The Twelfth-Century Psalter Commentary in French for Laurette à’Alsace, 2 vols. (London: MHRC, 1990).Google Scholar
  4. 34.
    Charity Cannon Willard, Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works (New York: Persea Books, 1984), p. 17Google Scholar
  5. 35.
    Le Goff, Saint Louis (Paris: Gallimard, 1996), p. 598.Google Scholar
  6. 38.
    R. Howard Bloch, Etymologies and Genealogies: A Literary Anthropology of the French Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).Google Scholar
  7. 59.
    Jan R. Veenstra, Magic and Divination at the Courts of Burgundy and France: Text and Context of Laurens Pignon’s ‘Contre les devineurs’ (1411) (Leiden: Brill, 1998), p. 36.Google Scholar
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    R. C. Famiglietti, Royal Intrigue: Crisis at the Court of Charles VI (1392–1420) (New York: AMS Press, 1986), p. 91.Google Scholar
  9. 77.
    Rains, SPA, p. 137, n. 63. Rains also incorporates information from Gabriel Chappuys, L’histoire du royaume de Navarre... (Paris: N. Gilles, 1596), pp. 389–91.Google Scholar
  10. 106.
    See George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Duncan Robertson, and Nancy Bradley Warren 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lori J. Walters

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