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The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse
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The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  2,633 ratings  ·  158 reviews
The story of the relationship between Abélard and Héloïse is one of the world’s most celebrated and tragic love affairs. It is told through the letters of Peter Abélard, a French philosopher and one of the greatest logicians of the twelfth century, and of his gifted pupil Héloïse. Through their impassioned writings unfolds the story of a romance, from its reckless, ecstati ...more
Paperback, Revised Edition, 383 pages
Published 2003 by Penguin Books (first published 1133)
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Ah, Peter Abelard. The only person in history to have become more of a dick because he lost his dick. (Though something tells me he was a pretty narcissistic jackass even before then.) As aware as I am that these letters are a wonderful historical source, rereading them only fills me with the urge to go back in time and punch Abelard in the neck. And then to take Heloise to one side, explain the concept of 'internalised misogyny' to her, fix her a strong drink and then talk her through why emoti ...more
Residents of the 21st century might best know Abelard & Heloise from sultry references in The Sopranos. Don't let the power of Edie Falco's acting fool you - there is no pleasure or wisdom in this book, which should only be considered for its historical significance. Today, the letters of Abelard and Heloise would be fodder for an episode of To Catch a Predator.

Peter Abelard was a terrible narcissist and an abusive boyfriend, one whose actions and writings are best understood in that context
Viji Sarath (Bookish endeavors)
What is it about human love that makes it despicable in the sights of religion.?! I started reading this book thinking I'll see love in its pure form in these letters. But all I saw was hypocrisy and selfishness.
Heloise expressed her feelings truly in the first letter. But in the next one,she seems much irked by Abelard's letter and her decision to wholeheartedly give herself to God doesn't seem a honest one. I felt it as a lover's attempt to get some sort of communication from her beloved. She
It's hard for me to say "loved it" about these letters, because it's hard to peel the love story away from knowledge of Abélard's "misfortunes" (told with great pious self-pity in his "Historia calamitatum") and his subsequent spiritual domination, and then abandonment, of Héloïse. Also, I happen to like Héloïse a whole lot better, and so the preference makes for a lopsided reading. Still, the progression of affection between the two writers/lovers - from eros to caritas, to borrow papal termino ...more
Heidi Nemo
I hate Abelard, all his self-congratualtory narcissistic bemoaning of his persecution, his admission that he beat and raped Heloise, his vastly younger pupil, until she slept with him willingly, his intellectual arrogance, his cruelty and refusal to take responsibility for his own words or actions.

Also the fact that he himself published Heloise's letters makes the version we have highly suspect. But...still, what those letters reveal is a style of writing in Latin superior to Abelard's own, and
L'amour comme un devoir ou comme une tache a deux. L'amour comme une union des ames compatibles. Des amants. des amis et comme individu d'une communaute. L'amour parfait epanoui, accompli. Un des premiers amours en Occident, qui le marque
La theologie dont l'oeuvre est impregnee est la valeur de cette societe ou appartiennent les deux amants et amis comme poetes inspires
I am almost finished with this one, and I have loved it. What a fascinating look into the middle ages and into one of the most interesting couples in history. I am biased toward Heloise and champion her ability to speak her mind to the man she loved, married, and became an abbess to please.
A revelation. Amazed that I haven't read these years ago.

There is something shocking about Heloise's passion so many years after their affair and equally something sad about the way in which Abelard evades it in his responses.

But perhaps this is a literary correspondence? Is my reaction the deliberate intent of Heloise who very probably was writing here not private correspondence for Abelard to read but letters and a correspondence designed to be hear by an audience and designed to have a partic
The only reason I made it through this book was because it was required reading for my middle ages history course. The lecturer gave the impression that it was going to be a juicy medieval version of Romeo and Juliet, so needless to say I was kind of excited. By ten pages in I could already tell it was going to be a massive let down. The book is comprised of a number of original letters written by Peter Abelard, a 12th Century theologian/monk/total jerk, and Heloise, his long-suffering pupil/lov ...more
These letters, both dour and deeply sexual, austerely theological and yet deeply spiritual, are like nothing I've ever read and I doubt I'll ever encounter anything quite like them again. These letters are in a sense the "morning after" correspondence, the morning after an intense romantic partnership was separated by the medieval Catholic Church. I never thought I would read anything quite this sensual from a nun! The relationship between the Abelard, who after all was a great philosopher and B ...more
Abelard is a dick and you cannot convince me otherwise.
Sep 07, 2009 Michael rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History Teachers, Western Civ Students
Recommended to Michael by: Brandon Hunziker
Shelves: feminism, memoirs
This is a series of letters between two lovers of the early twelfth century. There are several aspects of these letter which are remarkable. First is that they exist at all - most written material of this period is long-since lost. The second thing is that Heloise was a woman who was well-educated enough to write, and indeed to engage in rather heavy intellectual discourse at this time. The third is that the tale of their star-crossed love ended in the emasculation of Abelard by Heloise's family ...more
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I can read these letters over and over and always find something new. To really appreciate them, it's best if you spend some time learning the history of the period as well as the relationship between Heloise and Peter Abelard. The letters can and do stand alone as provocative and emotional epistolary exchanges, but understanding the sexual restrictions of 12th century upper-class women lend more to the understanding and appreciation of the thwarted passions expressed in each letter.

It's also im
This is a great edition. Michael Clanchy's introduction is excellent, with good background of Heloise and Abelard's extraordinary story and their letters, in addition to scrupulous angles on various theories about authorship, exposition of some interesting feminism, notes on translations, and so forth.

As for the letters themselves, they were significantly more religious than I thought they would be, and there remained much to offend my feminism, but it is an interesting slice of a different tim
I loved this book when I read it the first time back in the 90s, still do today.

What baffles me are all the incompetent and unsympathetic reviews that love to bash Abelard. Apparently the don't get what goes on with the male mind after the male in question has been castrated against his will. That's bound to leave physical and emotional scarring!
J'ai beaucoup aimé. L'histoire d'amour est édifiante et les considérations théologiques sont instructives.
In fact, I had read years ago somewhere on this unimaginable couple whose eternal love amazed me and thus I longed to read their letters. Fortunately, I found this second-hand paperback one Wednesday morning in the UQ compound next to the Central Library some 7+ years ago.

If you don't know them, it's cool to know that Abelard used to teach Heloise in class (?) and, romantically dictated by Fate, they fell in love and they're so serious that they managed to meet each other. As for the rest, pleas
Both Abelard and Heloise are good at expressing themselves (and the translation I am reading seems to be a good one -- it has many interesting explanatory footnotes).

I know I should not be so surprised, but I am finding Abelard to be nothing more than a total self-centered jerk and I find myself getting cross at Heloise for taking it from him. Admittedly I have only read his narration of his "troubles", which tells of their meeting, their romance, their secret marriage, his sudden castration by
A fascinating insight into Medieval life, "The Letters" are the real-life correspondences between Peter Abelard, an arrogant (and apparently handsome) monk and writer, and the beautiful young lady, Heloise, whom he seduced. Her subsequent pregnancy caused a scandal for them both, leading to her becoming the Abbess of a convent.

In truth, the story of these people is more interesting than the letters. Heloise is the more fascinating, as she clearly still has feelings, yet has begun to question th
I wish we could give half-stars because three is a bit too generous and two would be too harsh.

The narrative was interesting, although not exactly riveting. Abelard's simultaneous bemoaning of his plights and talking himself up are an odd--and somewhat confusing--combination. The differences between the Historia Calamitatum and the personal letters between himself and Heloise add to this. Abelard is presenting himself three different ways so it's hard to get the feel for what he's really about h
Rating a correspondance between two historical figures is difficult. Character development and unity of theme with the corresondance as a whole can hardly be on the mind of a scholar defending his reputation or satiating a lover. Yet these are exactly the criteria I default to in rating anything that tells a story.

Yet the Letters of Abelard and Heloise earned four stars from me precisely because they made me forget that they are a historical correspondance. Abelard is a scholar before he is a th
Pierre E. Loignon
On ne pourra jamais voyager aussi loin de chez soi en parcourant l’espace qu’en remontant le temps grâce aux précieux artéfacts du passé que sont les livres.
Je me demande en effet ce que je peux trouver de plus éloigné de mon horizon culturel actuel que cette histoire d’amour se déroulant au début du XIIème siècle entre l’un des philosophes les plus brillants de l’époque avec une jeune fille dont il est le précepteur.
Par rapport à la nouvelle Héloïse qui sortira du génie rousseauiste, l’ancienn
I find the idea of this being so old fascinating, The struggle of this affair though.

Abelard was really not a nice guy and maybe even a selfish hypocrite when it comes to Heloise, even though this is not love at it's finest, it was a good read *at least for me* and my thirst for old stuff.

It's hard sometimes for me to wrap my head around the fact that this did happen.
I was waffling between 3 or 4 stars; three stars mostly due to Abelard's extremely long and eye-glazing letter to Heloise directing her how to live like a nun. Not helping matters is that Abelard is (to me) clearly the worse writer of the two. Even Peter the Venerable, who only guest stars in this book with a few short letters, seems to be a better writer.

In fact, I blame Abelard for preventing me from reaching my goal of reading 30 books in 2012. Reading that particular letter/novella was like
Oh, man. For a relationship that is supposed to be one of the greatest love stories of all time, this is pretty dysfunctional. Both writers were highly educated and intelligent, so their writing is a treat to read (there's nothing like passive-aggression delivered with supporting detail from the Bible AND the ancient Greeks!), but it quickly becomes apparent that both writers are also deeply in love with Abelard. Poor Heloise. She needed a friend to take her aside and talk her out of this awful ...more
Sarah Holz
This is a near-five, but Abelard can always use being taken down a peg. Stealth five to Heloise for her honesty and her eloquent depiction of her moral and spiritual doubts.
So, I like the story, you can't get much more high tragedy than this, and I like Heloise, but this is a somewhat painful translation, and, well let's not sugar coat it, Abelard is a total dick, despite having lost his. Still, a fascinating look into a time and mindset that seems more remote to this modern reader than sci if novels. I could sooner imagine myself aboard a Death Star space ship than in her convent.
Caitlin Marineau
Read this book if only for Heloise. Her letters are lyrical, intelligent, and passionate. Despite the years that have gone by since their tragic affair, and how much Abelard attempts to distance himself from their past, Heloise will not be denied, and her voice rings through the middle ages in a way that almost no other woman's has from that time period.
Frida Polished
I found this book quite shocking and revealing because I was able to find Heloise's pain for an extinct lover (physically and emotionally speaking), in that sense Heloise sorrowful words are universal. I also enjoyed her prose, it is very elegant and philosophical even when she mentions love experiences or her battle agains her desires as a nun. This book is an example of how terrible, how evil "love" is, just as Slavoj Zizek says, love is a disaster for Heloise. Her two letters are wonderfully ...more
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Peter Abelard was the preeminent philosopher of the twelfth century and perhaps the greatest logician of the middle ages. During his life he was equally famous as a poet and a composer, and might also have ranked as the preeminent theologian of his day had his ideas earned more converts and less condemnation. In all areas Abelard was brilliant, innovative, and controversial. He was a genius. He kn ...more
More about Pierre Abélard...
The Story of My Misfortunes Forbidden Fruit: From The Letters of Abelard and Heloise Ethical Writings: Ethics/Dialogue Between a Philosopher, a Jew and a Christian Abelard & Heloise: The Letters and Other Writings Sic Et Non: A Critical Edition

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“If the portraits of our absent friends are pleasant to us, which renew our memory of them and relieve our regret for their absence by a false and empty consolation, how much more pleasant are letters which bring us the written characters of the absent friend.” 77 likes
“Against the disease of writing one must take special precautions, since it is a dangerous and contagious disease.” 23 likes
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