A medieval instruction book for women of all classes—from peasant to princess—it provides a firsthand glimpse into how women of the Middle Ages lived. This is the sequel to the classic Book of the City of Ladies. Introductions, 20 black and white illustrations, glossary, suggested readings.
The extraordinary Book of the City of Ladies (Persea 1982) by the 15th-century French widow and professional writer is a didactic exchange between de Pizan and the virtues Reason, Rectitude and Justice, who urge her to construct a utopia for worthy women. This City of Ladies serves as a literary device for a revisionist history of Western civilization from the female perspective. In this companion classic--a pedagogical treatise that advises women on their role in society--the three allegorical interlocutors reappear, impelling the prefeminist de Pizan to explain to her contemporaries how they might develop those qualities that would qualify them for the visionary locale. As she addresses royalty, nobility, commoners, nuns, servants and prostitutes, de Pizan opens a rare window on medieval women's culture. She has harsh words for lazy, ostentatious clotheshorses but recommends ``justifiable hypocrisy'' to prevail over schemers; she demonstrates that while their position in society was a precarious one due to lack of civil rights for women and political instability, it was not unusual for women to responsibly rule large estates in males' absence or control their own vast inheritances. Cosman directs the Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at City University of New York. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Aug.)
This is a sequel and companion to de Pizan's better-known The Book of the City of Ladies (LJ 5/1/82). These 15th-century classics in women's studies were unavailable in English until recently. Written in response to men's vilification of women, the earlier work, using the device of peopling an imaginary city, told the life stories of women of virtue and achievement. The Mirror of Honor , on the other hand, is a manual of behavior; de Pizan offers moral and practical advice, not only to noble women, but to women of all classes. A rare glimpse of daily life and household management, accompanied in this edition with two illuminating introductions and an extensive glossary, this book will be welcomed by medievalists and historians of women.-- Mary Drake McFeely, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Athens