Do you think Abelard’s read The Book of Wicked Wives?

OK, so since this is a blog post, and blogs are frequently used to rant, then rant I shall:

After having read Abelard and Heloise’s correspondence, I sincerely hope there is, if not the Christian Heaven, then some sort of conscious after-life wherein the dead are privy to the goings-on of the living solely in the vain hope that he can see these following words:

Abe, if you’re out there, listen carefully: fuck you.

You had me alternately sympathizing and condemning you throughout your absurdly named Historia calamitatum, but your continued obstinacy against Heloise’s emotional pleas throughout your seven letter correspondence sufficiently thwart any compassion I might have had. There is a reason Heloise constantly expresses that she is owed something from you (attention, management of your Paraclete, direction, etc.): you owe her everything. Everything. Her very life, from the moment you slithered into it onwards.

In fact, let’s talk about that for a second. Let’s hear a quote, straight from your own hand:

All on fire with desire for this girl I sought an opportunity of getting to know her through private daily meetings and so more easily winning her over… Fulburt dearly loved money, and was moreover always ambitious to further his neice’s education in letters, two weaknesses which made it easy for me to gain his consent and obtain my desire… This led him to make an urgent request which furthered my love and fell in with my wishes more than I had dared hope; he gave me complete charge over the girl, so that I could devote all the leisure time left to me by my school to teaching her day and night, and if I found her idle I was to punish her severely. I was amazed by his simplicity – if he had entrusted a tender lamb to a ravening wolf it would not have surprised me more. In handing her over to me to punish as well as to teach, what else was he doing but giving me complete freedom to realize my desires, and providing an opportunity, even if I did not make use of it, for me to bend her to my will by threats and blows if persuasion failed? (10-11, emphasis mine)

Abe, this is disgusting. Yes, I know, times have changed, but you must understand that in your lamb/wolf analogy here you are the ravening wolf, the villain. And I also get that this is supposed to be a lamentation of sins, so that maybe aligning yourself with a ravening wolf is a sort of mental flagellation, but that does absolutely nothing to justify your later abdication of responsibility.

So OK, you were sort of a mentally abusive manipulator with rape as a trump card, but you got what you wanted and Heloise seemed fine with it. But then you got her pregnant (Astralabe?!) and you became part of a public scandal, the resolution of which, eventually, led to both of you taking the cloth. Well and good. And hey! When you found out Heloise and her nuns had been evicted you gave her your wilderness philoso-shack, where you abandon her again through a silence of non-correspondence.

And that, right there, is why I hate you. Not because you trashed another person’s life to fulfill your own desires, but that you scurry away from her like a squirrel until she is forced to take matters in her own hands. When she finally reaches out to you, you have this to say: “If since our conversion from the world to God I have not yet written you any word of comfort or advice, it must not be attributed to indifference on my part but to your own good sense, in which I have always had such confidence that I did not think anything was needed” (57). Hey, fuck you buddy. Just… fuck you. Heloise converted from the mortal world to God, making the best of what she had. You spun monasticism into another opportunity to inflate your already bloated ego and reputation. And you have the gall to chastise Heloise for being concerned for you. She’s the goddamn saint here, still loving you after all those years in spite of what you did to her. I would never normally consider castration a light punishment, but I sincerely hope that if you are seeing this, it’s on a virus-plagued Gateway computer stuffed into a particularly uncomfortable section of Hell, where you’re forever only allowed a 56K modem speed.

OK. Rant over. You know what I found really interesting? The discussion in letters 4 and 5 of letter formality concerning whether Abelard or Heloise should be the first name addressed. Let’s talk about that. What do you guys think? Do you buy Abelard’s justification, especially in light of his assertion that women, being the weaker sex, do a worse job of governing the nunnery than a priest of equal rank?

Dead Letters II: If I write, am I heard? If I’m dead, am I read?

[Dead Letters II is a repost of my reblogged blog! My apologies for the confusion and inconvenience. Our ability to discuss the blog has been hindered by the format which it was introduced. Hopefully this will correct the issue.]

Ovid’s Heroides, is full of all the passion and modern day drama one might find on a reality TV show. The human element is captured and repeated throughout, revealing the possible stories of the women who lost everything: their loves, families, pride, passion and their lives! We can relate to these passions having experienced, or by even knowing someone close to us, who has gone through similar experiences in the loss of love. Ovid captures the heartache and gives a voice to these women whose stories have not been told. Their love and they themselves have received a voice and a medium in which their pain is echoed and related to, two-thousand years later.

These women are all about to die at their own hands for the sake of lost love. They are desperately reaching to grasp the one thing that will keep them alive, their love’s return. Death becomes the preferred option, but not before one last message is sent. Through their letters they are preserving their hopes in something potentially more lasting than just their voice and breath, something they are willing to cut short themselves. They have set the stage an ultimatum has been thrown down, “come back or I will kill myself!” Its the Pleasure Principle versus the Reality Principle and its not looking good for reality. We are allowed to connect with these women and can feel their pain, through their words.

And yet its not their words. They are Ovid’s. They have survived! They still speak of passion and allow us to relate with the ancients in a way which connects us as humans. Its commonality that binds us still.

Freud and Derrida connect with us from afar as well. We can analyze Ovid’s characters through their lens’. The power of the PP in its quest has overridden the PR and its will to survive. Analyze it all you want, the power here is in what Ovid has created. The appeal to human drama of is what made his writing successful in his time. That same drama survives today and continues to be successful in the different mediums in which it’s marketed.

Dead Letters: If I write, am I heard? If I’m dead, is it read?

rtstad

Ovid’s Heroides, is full of all the passion and modern day drama one might find on a reality TV show. The human element is captured and repeated throughout, revealing the possible stories of the women who lost everything: their loves, families, pride, passion and their lives! We can relate to these passions having experienced, or by even knowing someone close to us, who has gone through similar experiences in the loss of love. Ovid captures the heartache and gives a voice to these women whose stories have not been told. Their love and they themselves have received a voice and a medium in which their pain is echoed and related to, two-thousand years later.

These women are all about to die at their own hands for the sake of lost love. They are desperately reaching to grasp the one thing that will keep them alive, their love’s return. Death…

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