The Book Of The City Of Ladies Essay

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As such, the book itself performs as a textual sanctuary for vilified women—a feminist fortress in which future readers are invited to dwell.

In order to clear the ground and build this storyworld, it is necessary for Pizan to approach the received wisdom of her age with a suspicious attitude and a speculative imagination.

In defiance of the survivor’s plan to ‘conquer and control’,[20] the narrator (who may or may not be called Elaine) refuses to play her part as a ‘walking womb’.[21] Rejecting this new world order, and resolving instead to die alone, Elaine flees the group; but having been pursued across the deserted alien landscape and cornered in a cave where she has taken refuge, she finally snaps, killing each of the aspiring colonisers before returning to her cave with only her vocoder for company.

For Ahmed, snapping declares: ‘I will not reproduce a world I cannot bear, a world I do not think should be borne’,[22] and in this way affirms a commitment to a different kind of future.

While acknowledging that history has been conceived in a certain way, Pizan defiantly asserts that this story can be re-written.

Her practice of citation—which subjects legal treatises, Biblical tales, ancient myths and the romantic poetry of her male contemporaries to radical revision—anticipates the labours of subsequent feminist writers who have come to understand citation, in the words of Sara Ahmed, as, ‘a rather successful reproductive technology, a way of reproducing the world around certain bodies.’[18] Refusing to reproduce the same stories, Pizan constructs her : polished, embellished, and bound together in a precious manuscript designed to reflect the glories of women back to her readers, this world is built to nurture the possibility of feminist futures that break with the past.Even the murderous figure of Medea is welcomed to the City—generously celebrated for her knowledge of science and art, as well as her enduring love for the undeserving Jason.As Marina Warner notes, the story of Medea is told in this context, ‘without mention of the demented dimension of her despair, with the murder of her children overlooked.’[17] Writing her counter-history, Pizan makes space for female intelligence and achievement in a world that has been historically both ruled and narrated by men.Acts of feminist worldbuilding in SF create the conditions for unknown futures, the evolution of social structures and the emergence of different beings—as demonstrated in stories as diverse as Naomi Mitchison’s (2008), among others.Decentring the dominant narratives of SF also allows other aspects of the genre to be unpacked and re-considered.In the text, she speaks through each of the four characters to question the logic of patriarchal laws and misogynistic rhetoric that embody the assumption of man’s mastery over every dimension of the medieval world—from natural to cultural, material to spiritual.As the character of Christine describes, construction begins by clearing the fertile plains of the ‘Field of Letters’[8] with the help of Reason—excavating the ground of misogynistic discourse and carrying this ‘dirt’ away by the ‘basketful’.[9] Having been instructed by Rectitude to ‘mix the mortar in your ink,’ [10] Christine then proceeds to lay down the stories of the many brave, brilliant and virtuous women of history—from the noble warrior Queen Semiramis to the redeemed sinner Saint Afra [Fig. Tales of women from ancient civilizations form the foundations and stones that fortify the walls and towers, while accounts of various Christian saints adorn the high, gilded roofs above.The representation of time in SF and different interpretations of reality, for example, are central to feminist explorations of the genre.Ursula Le Guin suggests that the speculative, shapeshifting space-time of SF offers a narrative form that can be used to challenge ‘the linear, progressive, time’s-(killing)-arrow mode’[4] in which the history of humanity had been previously conceived.The question of how to break with dominant narratives, and build a world on different terms, is an enduring concern for feminist practice.In her most recent book, (2017), Ahmed evokes the image of ‘feminist snap’ to describe a moment of refusal which is also a worldbuilding event: Snap, snap: the end of the line.

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