Abelard and Heloise: Conversion and Irreducible Desire
The literary correspondence between Peter Abelard and Heloise is at once a narrative of desire and a sustained debate on whether desire can be transformed. The eight letters traditionally ascribed to them tell differing versions not just of their story but, equally important, of the meaning they construct for it.1 Abelard recounts an Augustinian narrative of conversion in which he moves from Ovidian craft used in the service of lust and pride to the integration of desire within spiritual and religious life. Claiming a position beyond the demands of eros, he urges a similar conversion on Heloise. She, however, asserts the irreducibility of desire. Though veiled and suppressed, desire is, for her, a passionate attachment that can neither be transformed fully into divine love nor reduced to appetite. Heloise rejects both the Augustinian and Ovidian models in favor of a sustained reflection on the place of desire within memory and selfhood.
KeywordsReligious Life Love Affair Modern Reader Love Story Divine Love
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.