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The use of digital surrogates to study manuscripts has revolutionized the ways in which scholars compare texts. In this paper, I propose that exploring the similarities between modern and medieval publishing practices is a new way to investigate contemporary theories of feminism through textual production. By comparing the publishing output of Christine de Pizan (1365–ca.1430) and Emily Dickinson (1830–1886), scholars are confronted with two authors and publishers, separated by four centuries, who were faced with similar challenges because of their gender. I argue that both Pizan and Dickinson were able to overcome these challenges by producing their own texts, which enabled them, through the use of rhetoric, to build authorial personae, which granted free expression of their feminine power as “creators” and “nurturers” of their art and its social message. Pizan did this most spectacularly in the “Queen’s Manuscript,” a gift to the Queen of France, which allowed Pizan to direct the reigning queen’s patronage to her own advantage within a patriarchal construct. Dickinson, on the other hand, consciously withdrew from traditional publishing practices to maintain an uncorrupted feminine poetic voice. This paper, through historical and textual analysis of each author, contributes a new perspective to the ongoing study of feminism within the field of Text Technologies.
A great deal of research has been published on Christine de Pizan and Emily Dickinson as individual authors and publishers. However, very little has been published about the ways in which these women, separated by four centuries, but facing similar challenges within their patriarchal environments, used textual production as a means to build authorial personae, to exercise a uniquely matriarchal power as the creators and transformers of their art, and to sanction a rhetorically feminine literary voice. Through historical and textual analysis of each author, this essay contributes a new perspective to the subject of feminism within the field of Text Technologies. By exploring the similarities between modern and medieval publishing practices, this essay illustrates that comparing the works and practices of Pizan and Dickinson presents scholars with a new way to investigate contemporary theories of feminism through textual production. These women were able to subvert patriarchal constructs not only because of their ability to produce texts, but also because of the ways in which they were able to control this production and create desired personal/ professional outcomes, and, in some cases, evoke social or political change. This essay offers an important new perspective on these authors because it highlights their control over the production of their texts as a specifically feminist action within the historical framework of Text Technologies, and argues that the texts themselves are material objects that conduct a distinct feminine power.
Voytek Bialkowski, The International Journal of the Book, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.101–106
Adam Riggio, The International Journal of the Book, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.9–16
John W. Warren, The International Journal of the Book, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.83–94