“In Any Corner of Heaven”: Heloise’s Critique of Monastic Life

  • Linda Georgianna
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Traditionally, readers have sought to cast Heloise as a modern romantic heroine, defiant, candid, courageous, tragic, and above all unyielding in her passionate attachment to Abelard. Her modernity has been variously construed; if one admirer associates her achievements with the Italian Renaissance, another views them as a precursor of the Enlightenment.1 But the thrust invariably is to praise Heloise for her precocity in rebelling against the mores of her age. Henry Adams, in Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (1904), turned to Abelard’s works for clues to “the Gothic thought and philosophy” embodied in the famous cathedral; but he excuses Heloise from his study, saying: “Neither art nor thought has a modern equivalent; only Héloïse, like Isolde, unites the ages”2 Much more recently Barbara Newman wrote: “While [Heloise] wages impassioned war with Abelard under the guise of submission, she never ceases to fascinate; but when she actually submits, she dwindles into virtue as a heroine of romance might dwindle into marriage”3


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© Bonnie Wheeler 2000

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  • Linda Georgianna

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