Wednesday, March 6, 2013
The Letters of Abelard and Heloise
Author: Abelard and Heloise, edited by Betty Radice
First copyright date: 1100s, 1974
Type of book: France, forbidden lovers, bitterness, anger, christianity, religion, monk and nun life, forbidden desires
General subject matter: France, christianity in 1000s, a guide for nuns on how to conduct themselves and live their lives
Special features: Maps in the back, various notes, index, and letters from 18-31 that are thought to be written by Abelard and Heloise
"At the same time their dilemma is of timeless interest, created less by circumstances than by the relations between two highly complex personalities." (xiii)
a. Why did the author write on this subject rather than on some other subject?
From reading the letters, I would guess that he was either seeking some sort of attention or perhaps he was saying how out of all the human race he is the most unfortunate human being to have ever lived. From the first letter, I doubt that he was trying to seek a way to come to grips with what happened to him. He happily disparaged women and his emotions towards Heloise.
b. From what point of view is the work written?
This is a collection of letters thus they are written from first person narrative, from both Abelard's and Heloise's point of view.
c. Was the author trying to give information, to explain something technical, to convince the reader of a belief’s validity by dramatizing it in action?
Its hard to say. In many cases I think Abelard took a lot of things too far and tended to dramatize things, such as how he couldn't feel castration. I honestly have a hard time believing that a guy is incapable of feeling his penis being cut off. I also can't reconcile the fact that so many people hated and despised him. Many times though, he explained technical things when it came to philosophy, christianity and so forth. The only letters that was interesting was the first one. He also gave advice to Heloise and the nuns about ways to conduct themselves.
d. What is the general field or genre, and how does the book fit into it? (Use outside sources to familiarize yourself with the field, if necessary.) Knowledge of the genre means understanding the art form. and how it functions.
The field is religion, christianity in particular and proper love and conduct between the genders. It also showed how dependent people were on religion back then.
e. Who is the intended audience?
Certainly not me. I would guess scholars in christianity would be the intended audience as well as the women and men who are planning on leading the life of a monk or a nun, as well as the letters were written to one another instead of outsiders.
f. What is the author's style? Is it formal or informal? Evaluate the quality of the writing style by using some of the following standards: coherence, clarity, originality, forcefulness, correct use of technical words, conciseness, fullness of development, fluidity. Does it suit the intended audience?
The style is long and formal as well as technical, at least for me. Abelard uses millions of sources and quotes from different christian authors on supporting his points and so forth. He is NOT concise and this is not an easy read. I would imagine that it would suit Heloise (at least her intelligence, not her soul,) a lot of stuff went over my head unfortunately and I couldn't understand it at all.
g. Scan the Table of Contents, it can help understand how the book is organized and will aid in determining the author's main ideas and how they are developed - chronologically, topically, etc.
*Preface to the revised edition
*The Letters of Abelard and Heloise in today's scholarship
*Letter I Historia calamitatum: Abelard to a Friend: The Story of His Misfortunes
*Letter 2. Heloise to Abelard
*Letter 3 Abelard to Heloise
*Letter 4. Heloise to Abelard
*Letter 5. Ableard to Heloise
*Letter 6. Heloise to Abelard
*Letter 7. Abelard to Heloise (summarized)
*Letter 8. Abelard to Heloise
*Abelard's Confession of Faith
*Peter the Venerable: Letter (98) to Pope Innocent II
*Peter the Venerable: (Letter (115) to Heloise
*Heloise: Letter (167) to Peter the Venerable
*Peter the Venerable: Letter (168) to Heloise
*The Absolution for Peter Abelard
*Sabbato ad Vesperas
*In Parasceve Domini: III. Nocturno
*Appendix: An Excerpt from the Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard
g. How did the book affect you? Were any previous ideas you had on the subject changed, abandoned, or reinforced due to this book? How is the book related to your own course or personal agenda? What personal experiences you've had relate to the subject?
I was introduced to Abelard and Heloise through a history class I took few years ago by a teacher. Strangely enough I liked reading the chosen parts and felt that perhaps Abelard was bitter and angry at Heloise. I recall some students saying how he was conceited and whatnot, and perhaps that's a main reason as to why everyone hated him the way they did. Re-reading this, I have to admit those students were right: Abelard does have this patronizing tone in the letter: "you think your life sucks? Let me tell you how my life sucks worse than yours."
h. How well has the book achieved its goal?
Besides personally boring me, I'm not really sure. There are some complexities within the characters, at least within Heloise who is begging Abelard to give her love, but Abelard is blind to this love, or refuses to see it and he's very cold with her. I doubt that Abelard is a complex character. There are no tender emotions or feelings towards Heloise.
i. Would you recommend this book or article to others? Why?
I wouldn't, unless you're a monk or a christian scholar. Contrary to the summary on the back of the book, this is a very boring story that puts down sexual relations, women and whatnot. It was not a pleasant read and from my own beliefs I have disagreed with him all the time. I wish he could have written more about his state as a eunuch or emotions as a eunuch instead of praising the christianity and denigrating the planet.
a. Theme: The theme is the subject or topic. It is not necessarily the title, and it is usually not expressed in a complete sentence. It expresses a specific phase of the general subject matter.
Theme: A discussion of christian theology between Abelard, a eunuch, and Heloise an abbess and his former wife.
b. Thesis: The thesis is an author’s generalization about the theme, the author’s beliefs about something important, the book’s philosophical conclusion, or the proposition the author means to prove. Express it without metaphor or other figurative language, in one declarative sentence.
Thesis: Love between god and a christian is higher than a carnal love.
Personal Opinion: (Demanded by my friend Mary)
This was a frustrating and maddening read. I barely remember anything of what I read, and couldn't wait to get it finished. Contrary to the summary on the back, the love story takes up mere pages. The rest is debate and theology and whatnot. Abelard loves to hear himself talk and he cares or sees very little of Heloise's deep emotions. He doesn't understand how its upsetting for her to hear that he will die and so forth. I wanted to like it, but I couldn't. Very sorry.
1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)