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Heloise & Abelard

The letters of Heloise and Abelard reveal the profound love and romance of two medieval individuals, the former a daughter of an important church official and eventually a nun and the latter a priest and eventually a monk. Their letters are significant from both of their perspectives. This is because Abelard argued against prevailing church doctrine inspired by Anselm and St. Augustine by arguing that Christ was not sacrificed for man’s sins, but by teaching and example he inspired men to love, conciliation and forgiveness. He also argued for a personal or individualist perspective on sexual ethics as opposed to the conventional legal or juridical interpretation. Heloise also believed in free love and her viewpoint on marriage is significant because she finds it an impediment to free love, a legal binding that can add no significance whatsoever to real love except to imprison free physical love. We will see that while these viewpoints caused the vilification of Abelard and were responsible for driving Heloise to a nunnery in the medieval era, today these views are more tolerated within the Roman Catholic Church.

In the letters of Heloise to Abelard, we discover a self-view of a female who exists solely to fulfill the wishes and desires of her lover. We see in Abelard a lover who Heloise loves selflessly without regard for her own needs. We also see a woman who would rather be a mistress or a whore than enter into a marriage-bond. This is not because, as feminists might argue, women were oppressed in this era or because Heloise was brainwashed by the ideology of her time though both are true. It is because Heloise viewed Abelard as a philosopher, the highest ideal for a human being. She felt that his ideal character would be diminished if she were responsible for him marrying, though he was willing to abandon his role to do so. She knew that the philosopher was to remain above typical and petty human concerns in order to...

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Heloise & Abelard. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:47, August 06, 2020, from