Nuanced Readings: Iconographic Shifts in Manuscripts of Christine de Pizan's "Epistre Othea"


Monday, September 17, 2018, 5:30pm to 6:30pm


Edison and Newman Room, Houghton Library, Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138
image detail of painting: Polyphemus attacking Galatea and AcisHoughton Library Medieval Studies Lecture in Early Book History
with Sylvia Huot, Professor of Medieval French Literature and fellow of Pembroke College, University of Cambridge
More information here.

Christine de Pizan's early-15th-century Epistre Othea presents 100 exemplary figures, drawn from classical mythology and glossed so as to offer a set of moral teachings aimed at a young knight. In manuscripts made under her direct supervision, the iconography reflects, and sometimes expands upon, Christine's ideological agenda.
Later manuscripts, while generally similar in their programs of illumination, often feature subtle shifts in iconographic detail. These may reflect, variously, a different didactic focus, a greater interest in the Ovidian sources, or diminished interest in Christine's teachings about such topics as class and gender.
The lecture will present a comparative survey of four manuscripts, discussing these variations and the different readings they foster.

Sylvia Huot specializes in in medieval French literature. She is the author of From Song to Book (Cornell University Press, 1987); The Romance of the Rose and its Medieval Readers (CUP, 1993); Allegorical Play in the Old French Motet (Stanford University Press, 1997); Madness in Medieval French Literature (OUP, 2003); "Postcolonial Fictions in the Roman de Perceforest" (D.S. Brewer, 2007); Dreams of Lovers and Lies of Poets: Poetry, Knowledge and Desire in the Roman de la Rose (Legenda, 2010) and The Humanity and Inhumanity of Giants in Medieval French Prose Romance (Notre Dame, 2016). She is also the co-editor of Rethinking the Romance of the Rose (University of Pennsylviania Press, 1992). She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2011.