Jean Gerson’s Writings to His Sisters and Christine de Pizan’s Livre des trois vertus: An Intellectual Dialogue Culminating in Friendship

Part of the The New Synthese Historical Library book series (SYNL, volume 69)


In this paper I will briefly examine four key intellectual differences between Jean Gerson and Christine de Pizan which attest to their ongoing dialogue: first, Gerson’s position that all teaching of women must be considered suspect (“omnis doctrina mulierum […] reputanda est suspecta”); second, competing metaphors of the fowler in their writings; third, their respective positions on the queenship of Mary; and fourth, a comparison between their two writings on the Passion. This analysis will shift attention away from the frequent discussion of Gerson’s position on women visionaries. In these comparisons it is a question both of thematic and textual parallels. Taken in the larger context of the established points of contact between the two, many of which will require additional scrutiny, these new parallels suggest first that Gerson’s teaching to his sisters focused on an intensification of the contemplative life, whereas Christine’s reflections were directed at women in the active life; and second that Christine incorporates considerable erudition in her writings addressed to women (and men) on those topics where Gerson had presented for his sisters a stripped down and simplified theology, and that she followed this tack to demonstrate her overarching argument of the affinity of women for learning. Finally, the most striking aspect of the exchange between Gerson and Christine is the fact that it created a special friendship between the two which Gerson was somewhat at a loss to describe.


Royal Court Meditatione Passionis Contemplative Life Spiritual Friendship Free Moral Agency 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universität WuppertalWuppertalGermany

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