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  • Female Authorship, Patronage, and Translation in Late Medieval France: From Christine de Pizan to Louise Labé by Anneliese Pollock Renck
  • Elizabeth L'Estrange
Female Authorship, Patronage, and Translation in Late Medieval France: From Christine de Pizan to Louise Labé. By Anneliese Pollock Renck. (Texts and Transitions, 13.) Turnhout: Brepols, 2018. xix + 251 pp., ill.

The title of Anneliese Pollock Renck's book promises much. As an interdisciplinary study that combines the analysis of texts and images in manuscript and early French printed books with methodological issues such as translation theory and authorship, it is certainly an ambitious undertaking. The author seeks to trace 'the portrayals of female authorship in word and image from Christine de Pizan to Louise Labé, and unpack [. . .] the role of female patronage and book production for and by women during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries' (p. 3). The first chapter is a useful overview of the different conceptions of translation, writing, and authority in the Mddle Ages. The second chapter considers images of women readers and writers in the fifteenth century, although it mainly reiterates well-established scholarship rather than offering new insights. The third and fourth chapters focus specifically on Antoine Dufour's Vie des femmes célèbres and Octovien de Saint-Gelais's translation of Ovid's Héroïdes, the former written for Anne of Brittany and the latter owned in two copies by Louise of Savoy. The discussion offers some interesting comparisons between the original texts and their French 'translations', both textual and visual. Insofar as they form the central part of the book, however, these chapters push the book's focus away from the active role of women suggested by the title, to the appro-priation of female voices and experiences by male authors. In this sense, the patronage of these women is also given short shrift, although, like the theme of men defending women, both topics have been much dealt with by other scholars. Pollock Renck frequently insists [End Page 283] on the ways in which the images in these texts allowed Anne and Louise to 'identify' with these classical heroines, but this is mainly based on sartorial features: in what other ways might they have used these figures to negotiate what we know of their political and social roles at court? Moreover, it might have been useful, and more appropriate given the title, to consider how Christine de Pizan's 'translations' of women such as Semiramis also compared to Boccaccio and Dufour's versions and thus fed into the kinds of texts informing later women's writings. The final chapter focuses on Anne de Graville, Pernette Du Guillet, Margaret of Navarre, and Louise Labé, and how their writings were influenced by the male-authored querelle writings from the previous century. There is an interesting discussion of the way in which Margaret of Navarre in her letters to Francis I, and Louise Labé in her Euvres, used the language of Saint-Gelais 's Héroïdes to assert their feminine voices. The section on Anne de Graville, however, states that she 'translated [. . .] male-authored Latin works', when in fact Anne's two surviving works (only one of which is mentioned here) were remaniements of a French mise-en-prose of Boccaccio's Teseida and Alain Chartier's Belle dame sans mercy through which Anne engaged closely with querelle debates, as several scholars have shown. Had the women and their works in the final chapter been given much fuller consideration as the focus of the entire book, it might have made for a more original study. Moreover, the volume would have benefited from a more thorough copy-editing process: there are a number of typographical errors (not least, 1406 for the date of Dufour's text on the first page), abundant footnotes that often repeat material in the main text, and the prose itself, though keen to signpost for the reader, is often repetitive and somewhat unclear. Overall, the topic is an exciting one and some salient points are made, but the book lacks the interpretative sophistication and integrity of works by scholars such as Cynthia Brown, Helen Swift, and Kathleen Wilson-Chevalier on which...


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pp. 283-284
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