Letters of Peter Abelard, Beyond the Personal
The Catholic University of America Press
"The Romantic Tale" of Peter Abelard and Heloise has been widely known for centuries. The legend relates in part to the letters exchanged between the two, years after Abelard had been castrated at the behest of Heloise's vindictive uncle, Fulbert. These "personal" letters form the basis for bestselling compilations of works by Abelard and Heloise in translation, such as the recently revised Penguin "The Letters of Abelard and Heloise" or the new Hackett Abelard and Heloise, "The Letters and Other Writings". They hold fascination for the light they shed on the relationship between the man and woman, as teacher and student, lovers, husband and wife, monk and nun, abbot and mother superior, and much more. The popularity of the "personal" letters has generated considerable fanfare for the publication of another set of correspondence printed under the title "The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard". The authorship of all these letters has been contested repeatedly, with the last-mentioned collection being the center of a present firestorm. Generally ignored have been nearly a dozen other letters or letter-like texts, unassailably the work of Peter Abelard. Jan M. Ziolkowski's comprehensive and learned translation of these texts affords insight into Abelard's thinking over a much longer sweep of time and offers snapshots of the great twelfth-century philosopher and theologian in a variety of contexts. Broadening our panorama of the twelfth-century Renaissance, the picture presented by these texts complements, complicates, and enriches Abelard's autobiographical letter of consolation and his personal letters to Heloise.