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Reviewed by:
  • Christine de Pizan and the Fight for France by Tracy Adams
  • Charlotte E. Cooper
Christine de Pizan and the Fight for France. By Tracy Adams. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014. 220 pp.

Tracy Adams’s monograph sets out to situate Christine de Pizan’s writings within the context of the feud that opposed the Orleanists, or Armagnacs, and the Burgundians. Her study proceeds chronologically through six chapters together encompassing the period from 1393 to 1418. Each chapter begins with a summary of the political events of the period in focus, and turns to Christine’s works in a second part. Throughout, Adams shows that Christine maintained the position of the Orleanist side of the conflict, debunking the myth that she showed Burgundian allegiances in her writings. After a first chapter that introduces the background to the feud and Christine’s family involvement with the royal court, the second sets out the start of the feud between Philip of Burgundy and Louis of Orleans. It continues with a discussion of Christine’s early love poetry, in which Adams shows that the complex situations of the lovers often mirror the complicated loyalties at court. Chapter 3 examines the multiple factors that opposed the dukes of Burgundy and Orleans from 1401 to 1404, and traces Isabeau of Bavaria’s increasing role as mediator and her involvement in politics. The second half of the chapter analyses how a number of Christine’s writings in this period engage with the oppositions between the two dukes, and bolster Isabeau’s authority. (This includes a discussion of the Epistre Othea, which surprisingly makes no mention of BnF fr. 606, a manuscript of this text, composed for Louis of Orleans.) Adams thus controverts the long-held view that over the course of her writerly career Christine moved from composing frivolous poetry to more serious, politically inclined works. Chapter 4 describes the ascendance of Jean of Burgundy, and Isabeau’s central role in negotiating peace between him and Louis. Adams’s reconfiguration of the Livre des fais et bonnes meurs du bon roy Charles V le sage in this chapter is particularly valuable: Christine has been seen as supporting the Burgundian side of the conflict in this text, but Adams shows that, although the work was commissioned by the duke of Burgundy, she in fact warns the readers against Jean, and Burgundian politics are overtly criticized. Chapter 5 then traces the period from the peace treaty to the eve of Louis’s murder. Here, the discussion of several of Christine’s works highlights the underlying tensions reflected therein, and the fact that Christine protected herself by intervening only covertly in the conflict. Finally, Chapter 6 opens with the assassination of Louis, and follows the feud as it widens to become the Armagnac–Burgundian conflict. As Isabeau loses political power, the compilation of the famous British Library manuscript, Harley 4431, is seen as reflecting the queen’s retirement from politics. Adams states in her Introduction that she hopes her study will open further perspectives on Christine’s works. This clear and thorough narrative of Christine’s engagement with the conflict will be of value to historians and literary scholars alike, and will certainly accomplish the author’s aim. [End Page 382]

Charlotte E. Cooper
St Edmund Hall, Oxford


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