Sarah Kay (emerita, NYU)

Wed May 3rd 2023, 12:00 - 1:15pm

"Astronomy, astrology, and the Problem of Certainty in Christine de Pizan"

An "Embodiment" Paper

Please note that this is a pre-circulated paper. Those with Stanford-affiliated emails can access the paper here. For those outside of the Stanford community, email cmemsinfo [at] (cmemsinfo[at]stanford[dot]edu) to receive a copy of the paper. 

In a tight-knit group of works of the early fifteenth century, Christine de Pizan refers repeatedly to her father’s expertise in astronomy, a prestigious discipline that overlapped with metaphysics in granting certain or secure knowledge. As a woman, Christine was excluded from the advanced study of this science at its most theoretical level; and yet she has also garnered her own sense of its import in its more natural and practical manifestation as astrology. Her particular understanding of the astrological debates of her time enables her to recast traditional arts texts such as The Consolation of Philosophy and Commentary on the Dream of Scipio in ways that both respect their antiquity and bring them up to date. Older concepts of fortune, fate, order, and justice are boldly infused with a contemporary discourse of astral influence, allowing Christine to endow her discussions of history with new gravitas, and so to make her own mark on history as well as re-presenting it.

Responses by Johannes Junge Ruhland and Lorenzo Tunesi