Type of Document Thesis Author Smith, Julia Marie URN etd-04112008-214101 Title "Fortify the City with Your Tempered Pen:" Building the "City of Ladies" through Text, Paratext, and Media Degree Master of Arts Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Kristie S. Fleckenstein Committee Chair A.E.B Coldiron Committee Member Michael Neal Committee Member Keywords
- Christine de Pizan
- rhetorical agency
- historical rhetoric
- medieval women writers
Date of Defense 2008-03-27 Availability unrestricted AbstractIn an effort to enhance disciplinary understanding of agency especially for women, recover evidence of women exercising agency historically, and shed light on current debates concerning the interaction between word and image in rhetoric, I explore the extent to which Christine de Pizan, a medieval woman writer, invented and articulated her rhetorical agency. For Christine, the text, the image, and the medium of the manuscript are significant in the development of rhetorical agency; the focus of this thesis is on the nature of that agency, particularly how rhetorical agency is invented within the “City of Ladies” folios from her collected works in Harley Ms. 4431. I frame my study of Christine de Pizan and rhetorical agency with Karlyn Kohrs Campbell’s work on agency, a particularly powerful construct for my project, because it provides space for both text and paratext and it grapples with the postmodern moment while simultaneously retaining its applicability for historical studies.
I begin by examining how Christine’s agency emerged through the dialogic between conventions of textual forms. In particular, I consider Campbell’s definition that rhetorical agency occurs in texts, because “texts have agency” and are “effected through form” (Campbell 3). Rhetorical agency emerges as Christine complies with cultural expectations concerning the different conventions of form and then subsequently subverts those same conventions to create a space of resistance for women.
I explore how Christine reveals her artistry or rhetorical skills when she manipulates the visual aspects of the manuscript page or paratexts, the incidentals and the miniatures, so that they demonstrate her agency. According to Campbell, artistry occurs when “heuristic skills…respond to contingencies…for which there are no precise or universal precepts, although skilled practitioners are alert to recurring patterns” (Campbell 12). Christine complies with the traditional patterns of the paratext, but subverts those patterns, when she repeats traditional paratext with differences. These differences gesture to the text, other elements of the page, and beyond and, in the process, layer new meaning into the manuscript.
I then follow with an examination of the manuscript as a medium, where text and paratext function together to communicate meaning. Though both text and paratext have their own rhetorical agency, Christine invents her agency as the “point[s] of articulation” for the manuscript (Campbell 3). Christine executed a great deal of control over the production of her manuscript, which means her rhetorical agency occurs when she articulates her meaning through her authority and negotiation of the materiality and cultural significance of the medium.
Because Christine’s rhetorical agency emerges from the text, paratext, and manuscript, an examination of Christine’s manuscript, Harley Ms. 4431, provides a new look at postmodern agency and the rhetorical agency of medieval manuscripts. Interestingly, Christine wrote at a significant transitional period for ideology and technology and instead of articulating a traditional historical or humanist theory of agency, she performs a complex agency, which is reminiscent of postmodern agency and raises some questions regarding the nature of agency during the medieval era. In addition, the complicated agency created within medieval manuscripts as the verbal and visual texts came together within the medium will contribute to questions of agency and media.
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