Heloise & Abelard: A New Biography (Insight (Concordia))

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9780060816131: Heloise & Abelard: A New Biography (Insight (Concordia))

New Revelations about One of the Greatest Romances in History

Peter Abelard was arguably the greatest poet, philosopher, and religious teacher in all of twelfth-century Europe. In an age when women were rarely educated, Heloise was his most gifted young student. Their private tutoring sessions inevitably turned to passion, and their moments apart were spent writing love letters. Astoundingly, a few years ago a young scholar identified 113 new love letters between the pair which, combined with the latest scholarship, present us with the richest telling yet of the couple's clandestine passion -- a story that is erotic, poignant, and at times even funny.

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About the Author:

James Burge is a producer and director of documentaries for the BBC and the Discovery Channel. His fascination with the Middle Ages led him to make Strange Landscape, the BBC series about medieval culture, and to create a dramatization of the writings of the eccentric thirteenth-century English friar, Roger Bacon.

From Publishers Weekly:

The romance of Héloïse and Abelard remains one of the greatest love stories of all time—one of forbidden love; the eventual lifelong separation of the lovers, cloistered in a monastery and convent; and the vengeful castration of Abelard by Héloïse's uncle. More tantalizingly, we know of the affair only from eight surviving letters between the couple. But British Sunday Independent columnist Burge draws on 113 recently translated letters that have been attributed to the lovers. Based on all of these letters, Burge analyzes the feelings and states of mind of the correspondents, and he can be a bit pedantic at times. But who can fail to be moved by the passion expressed in the letters? "Even during the celebration of the Mass," Héloïse famously wrote, "when our prayers should be purest, lewd visions of the pleasures we shared take... a hold on my unhappy soul...." Burge relates Abelard's theological struggles with the medieval Church, especially with the powerful Cistercian leader Bernard of Clairvaux. Unlike in previous biographies, Héloïse emerges as a leader, too, in her role as abbess of the Paraclete, which she developed into a substantial institution. A complex woman, she sought a unified sense of self that would incorporate both her sexuality and her religious faith. Readers new to this medieval drama will be drawn to this vivid account. B&w illus., maps.
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