Mythographers and Myth-Makers: Classical Mythology in Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris and Christine de Pizan’s Livre de la Cité des Dames
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Although the role and prominence of ancient literature varied throughout the Middle Ages, it was never wholly absent. Myth is shaped by each retelling; medieval expectations for reading, interpreting, and writing affects the retelling and understanding of ancient literature. This thesis analyzes the role of classical mythology in two late-medieval works: Giovanni Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris and Christine de Pizan’s Livre de la Cité des Dames. Boccaccio writes a humanist compendium of ancient women, giving a moralizing assessment of each biography through his euhemerist understanding of his ancient sources. Christine, in turn, uses Boccaccio’s work as one of her primary sources rather than the ancients themselves, and she corrects Boccaccio’s work to recast the women’s biographies in order to aid in the defense of woman-kind. Both authors must mediate their own cultural inheritance and assumptions in order to record and, at times, make mythology.