In two of her major narrative works, the Book of Fortune’s Mutacion and the Book of the City of Ladies, Christine de Pizan revisits the encounter of Ulysses with Circe, who changes his reckless companions into pigs before becoming his lover and ally. Following Homer, Classical and Hellenistic philosophers will focus on Ulysses as a figure of moderation, in contrast with the brutish sailors unable to resist the temptations of the senses. The initiatory features of the Homeric Circe are largely suppressed in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, on which a vast majority of medieval representations are based. Even as she follows the Ovidian narrative, Christine de Pizan recasts the figure of the goddess, emphasizing her magical knowledge and playing down her sensuality. The specificity of Christine de Pizan’s perspective on seduction and wisdom must be read in light of late medieval transformations of the Ovidian narrative, from vernacular adaptations of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, to Boccaccio’s De Claris Mulieribus. This essay identifies common elements across Christine de Pizan’s multiple iterations of the myth from her mythographic ballads to the Book of the City of Ladies to study the ways in which she redirects its exemplarity, attenuating its misogynistic aspects, as transmitted in particular by the fourteenth-century Ovide moralisé.


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pp. 393-405
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