Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

G is for Marie le Jars de Gournay

Marie de Gournay (6 October 1565, Paris – 13 July 1645) was a French writer who wrote a novel, Le Promenoir de M. de Montaigne qui traite de l’amour dans l’œuvre de Plutarque, and several other literary works. In her novel she explored the dangers women face when they become dependent on men. She advocated for women’s education in two treatises, Égalité des Hommes et des Femmes (The Equality of Men and Women), published in 1622, and Grief des Dames (The Ladies’ Grievance), published in 1626. De Gournay argued that men and women were equal because “the virtue of men and virtue of women are the same thing, since God bestowed on them the same creation and the same honor.”  

In The Equality of Men and Women de Gournay has structured her argument much as Christine de Pizan did in her Cité des Dames, by profiling great women of the past to demonstrate the ability of women to learn. She avoided the discussion on superiority of one sex over the other by stressing the equality of men and women. But she attacked the notion that great women simply resembled great men. She argued that it was no surprise that women were perceived as incompetent, ignorant, and focused on their bodies, given that women received little education. De Gournay argued that given the same opportunities, privileges, and education as men, women could equal men’s accomplishments. In The Ladies’ Grievance, de Gournay complained that women did not own property, have access to public office, or the ability to exercise freedom. She argued that educated women had the right to be heard, just as educated men do. Like René Descartes, she separated the mind from the body, and argued that women were as capable as men.

De Gourney read the works of Michel de Montaigne as a young woman, and travelled to meet him. They became close, and Montaigne called Marie his “fille d’alliance,” his adopted daughter. After Montaigne’s death, Gournay edited Montaigne’s Essays in 1595, and it is for this work that she is best known

De Gournay, Marie le Jars. Apology for the Woman Writing and Other Works. University of Chicago Press, 2007.




Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

A is for Agrippa von Nettesheim

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim was born in Cologne on September 14th, 1486. After several years as a mercenary in Spain and France, Agrippa received the patronage of Margaret of Austria, among others, and became a lecturer at the University of Dôle. His interest in Jewish theology led to his giving a course on Johann Reuchlin’s De verbo mirifico, one sign of his interest in Christian cabalistic texts. These lectures led to his receiving a doctorate in Theology.

For this series, which concentrates on women writers, but includes a handful of entries of men who wrote on women, my interest in Agrippa’s academic career concentrates on a book he wrote while at Dôle. De nobilitate et praecellentia foeminae sexus (On the Nobility and Excellence of the Feminine Sex), is a work that tried to prove the theological and moral superiority of women using Christian cabalistic ideas, many based on Reuchlin’s work.

For further reading:

Agrippa von Nettesheim, Heinrich Cornelius, 1486?-1536. Declamation on the nobility and preeminence of the female sex, translated and edited with an introduction by Albert Rabil, Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.