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Peter Abelard  ca. 1079 - ca. 1142 

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Abelard : A Medieval Life
coverThe Letters of Abelard and Heloise by Pierre Abailard, Betty Radice.  

Abelard and Heloise are nearly as famous a pair of tragic lovers as the fictional Romeo and Juliet; their shared passion for knowledge, religious faith, and one another sealed their destiny. Abelard was a well-respected, 12th-century Parisian scholar and teacher, and Heloise was his talented young student. The two relate their story through a set of letters to one another and intimate acquaintances. Their ardor is unmistakable; as Abelard writes to his love, "So intense were the fires of lust which bound me to you that I set those wretched, obscene pleasures, which we blush even to name, above God as above myself..." This forbidden lust resulted in a pregnancy and secret marriage, and when their union could no longer withstand the challenges in its path, each lover sought refuge in the church--Abelard became a monk and Heloise an abbess. Their correspondence continued as both achieved success in their new careers but continued to struggle with their feelings for one another; the set of letters powerfully articulates the wide range of emotions they experienced. So timeless is their love story that--after eight centuries--their passion, their devotion, and their struggle still resonate with readers.  

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"The Story of My Misfortunes" Translated by Henry Adams Bellows.

Peter Abelard (1079-1142) was one of the great intellectuals of the 12th century, with especial importance in the field of logic. His tendency to disputation is perhaps best demonstrated by his book Sic et Non, a list of 158 philosophical and theological questions about which there were divided opinions. This dialectical method of intellectual reflection -- also seen in Gratian's approach to canon law -- was to become an important feature of western education and distinguishes it sharply from other world cultures such as Islam and the Confucian world. Abelard's mistake was to leave the questions open for discussion and so he was repeatedly charged with heresy. For a long period all his works were included in the later Index of Forbidden Books. The text here gives a good account of Abelard's pugnaciousness.

Heloise

Heloise was a highly educated young woman when her legendary correspondence with the philosopher Peter Abelard began. Peter the Venerable stated, upon the occasion of Abelard's death, that Heloise was a woman "wholly devoted to philosophy in the true sense," who "left logic for the Gospel, Plato for Christ and the academy for the cloister."

 

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