Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature Nhora Lucía Serrano presented a paper at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America (RSA) in Boston on April 2.
“Visually Re-Framing Political Legitimacy: The Medieval Female Curator and Christine de Pizan’s Harley MS 4431” was part of an interdisciplinary panel on “Visual and Festive Culture in the late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance.”
The paper centered on late medieval author Christine de Pizan and her illuminated The Book of the Queen (Harley MS 4431), one volume in which de Pizan amassed her collected works for Queen Isabeau of Bavaria. Serrano argued that The Book of the Queen must be first read within the socio-political historical moment of the Hundred Years’ War, a dispute over political legitimacy, and whether succession rights were transferable through a female bloodline.
For the French, who invoked terra Salica, women were not perceived as legislative agents in the transfer of rule; they were on the periphery of the political milieu. In 1414, however, de Pizan amassed her collected works into The Book of the Queen, whose overall organization and illumination suggest, according to Serrano, that medieval women were rather the epicenter of France’s socio-political scopic regime.
Serrano discussed the importance of the myth of Ceres in this archival volume, and how through this myth de Pizan curates a visual-textual exhibition for Queen Isabeau—one that proffers a different portrait of legitimacy and envisions women as political porters.
Serrano concluded that much like today’s museum curator and catalogue, de Pizan re-framed and curated both history and literature via a curatorial lens of narrative so as to accentuate the overlooked feminist scopic regime. She noted that de Pizan was a visual historiographer, a medieval curator who was concerned with how history and women were seen together.