Abelard and Heloise Between Voice and Silence

  • Babette S. Hellemans
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


This chapter studies both the letters of Heloise and Abelard and elements of their still-controversial reception. Its aim is to consider voice and silence as types or expressions of rhetorical individuality. I begin with a stance against what I see as a persistent idea about the famous letters exchanged between Abelard and Heloise: namely, that they are actually true letters, written between a couple in a consecutive order and revealing to the reader a sense of growing insight into their existence, both as a couple and as two individuals. My approach in this chapter draws on certain aspects of the debate that surrounds these letters in European scholarly tradition, and especially in Germany, where the tendency is arguably to emphasize the historical context of a source, as opposed to what might be described as the more politically engaged, gender-focused scholarship predominant in North America.1 My aim on these pages is a modest one, namely, to consider a particular historiographical approach to a body of commonly discussed sources.


Letter Exchange Diffi Culty Spiritual Exercise Divine Love Moral Certainty 
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© Irit Ruth Kleiman 2015

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  • Babette S. Hellemans

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