Letters of Peter Abelard, Beyond the Personal

Letters of Peter Abelard, Beyond the Personal

Translated by Jan M. Ziolkowski
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 285
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt284z8q
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  • Book Info
    Letters of Peter Abelard, Beyond the Personal
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1707-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Map of Abelard’s France
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. GENERAL INTRODUCTION. LIFE AND WORKS
    (pp. xiii-lii)

    The twelfth century has benefited from a disproportionate share of the curiosity, romantic attraction, and even daydreams and fantasies that have been elicited by the extraordinarily vibrant and variegated millennium to which the label the “Middle Ages” has been affixed. Attempts have been made to validate earlier spans of time within this thousand years as having undergone equivalently consequential and productive renewals, so that the terms “Carolingian Renaissance” and “Ottonian Renaissance” have sometimes been bandied about, but the first such formulation, and the most abiding one, remains the “Twelfth-Century Renaissance.”

    This period, often tacitly protracted to a hundred fifty years...

  7. PART I. HELOISE AND THE NUNS OF THE PARACLETE
    • 1 LETTER NINE. TO THE NUNS OF THE PARACLETE
      (pp. 3-33)

      Toward the end of the Historia calamitatum Peter Abelard complains of having been cornered into a “damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t” stance. Specifically, he tells of the criticisms he endured first for not having been more solicitous of Heloise and her nuns and then for having intensified his attentiveness to the spiritual needs of the community.¹ While delivering these ministrations, and at the instigation of Heloise, Abelard generated a large and heterogeneous array of texts for Heloise and the nuns of her convent (or, to give credit where it is richly due, often with Heloise).

      Letter Nine...

    • 2 PREFACES TO THE THREE BOOKS OF THE PARACLETE HYMNAL
      (pp. 34-51)

      Why should a few excerpts from a hymnal by Abelard be accommodated in this volume alongside letters of his? The answer is that Abelard presented many of his nonepistolary works with introductions that are either explicitly letters or else dedications that he and his contemporaries could have readily equated with letters. Although the preface to the second book of the hymnal labels that to the first book explicitly as a “preface,” those two and the one to the third have epistolary qualities, and like most of Abelard’s letters they are directed to Heloise or to the community of nuns that...

    • 3 DEDICATION LETTER TO THE COMMENTARY ON THE SIX DAYS OF CREATION
      (pp. 52-63)

      The Expositio in Hexameron (The Commentary on the Six Days of Creation) delivers an explanation of the opening of Genesis that Abelard wrote at Heloise’s request. It appears to have been composed before at least one of The Sermons (Sermon 29), and it has been dated to the early to mid-1130s, tentatively about 1133, although perhaps with an addition made as late as 1137.¹ In its content and wording it displays a close connection with the hymns in the first book of The Paraclete Hymnal.² In the commentary Abelard examines the structure of the six days of creation (whence the...

    • 4 LETTER SIXTEEN. PROLOGUE TO THE SERMONS
      (pp. 64-72)

      Near the close of the Historia calamitatum Abelard avers that he began frequenting the Paraclete after the neighbors faulted him for not having helped the nuns in the hard times after they took up residence in his former hermitage. He specifies that these unnamed detractors carped at him, since he could have easily given the women counsel “if only through my preaching.”¹ The following text is the preamble to a collection that draws together the preaching Abelard eventually did for the nuns, as well as sermons originally addressed to other audiences.

      The authenticity of this very brief letter is unimpeachable.²...

  8. PART II. BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX
    • 5 LETTER TEN. TO BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX
      (pp. 75-98)

      In the last two years of his life Abelard found himself under mounting criticism from Bernard of Clairvaux and his allies for allegedly heretical writings and teachings. The aspersions escalated rapidly into full-scale attacks. Both of them egged on by their respective camps, Abelard and Bernard engaged in a bitterly polemic campaign of letter writing and political maneuvering. The skirmish between them peaked at the Council of Sens in 1141, which condemned Abelard as a heretic and prompted the pope to place him under a sentence of perpetual silence. The excommunication and ban of silence were not lifted formally until...

    • 6 LETTER FIFTEEN. TO HIS COMRADES, AGAINST ABBOT BERNARD
      (pp. 99-110)

      The present letter relates to the famous collision between Peter Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux at the Council of Sens, which was ostensibly concerned with Abelard’s Theologia but which had motivations and implications that transcended this one treatise and the teachings associated with it. The chronology of this council has been the object of copious analysis.¹ If an opinio communis now builds and holds around a dating of the council in 1141, the sequence of events would take the following shape. (If not, then in most cases a year would need to be subtracted from most of the following dates,...

    • 7 APOLOGIA AGAINST BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX
      (pp. 111-130)

      The work discussed and translated here has been known in Latin both after its intended target as the Apologia contra Bernardum (Apologia against Bernard) and after its opening words as the Apologia “Ne iuxta Boethianum” (Apologia [with the Opening Words] “In Keeping with That Dictum of Boethius”). The Gesta Frederici imperatoris (Deeds of Emperor Frederick), which the Cistercian Otto of Freising (after 1111–1158) composed shortly after Abelard’s death, refers to the text as the Apollogeticum (sic) of Abelard and quotes its opening words.¹ Thomas of Morigny refers to it both as the Apologia and the Apologeticum.² Most emphatically not...

  9. PART III. OTHER CONTROVERSIES
    • 8 LETTER ELEVEN. TO ABBOT ADAM AND THE MONKS OF ST. DENIS
      (pp. 133-146)

      Letter Eleven is addressed to the abbot and monks of St. Denis (whose name in Latin is Dionysius), the royal abbey to which Abelard had withdrawn not long after his defeat at the Council of Soissons in March 1121. It must have been written between then and 19 February 1122, when Abbot Adam of St. Denis, the first-mentioned addressee of the letter, died.¹ This span of time likely coincides with the period when Abelard began to compile the Sic et non, and it offers a nice demonstration in practice of the methods he outlines theoretically in the prologue to his...

    • 9 LETTER TWELVE. TO A REGULAR CANON
      (pp. 147-174)

      The practice of canonical life had taken root long before the twelfth century, but during Abelard’s time it grew up and ramified in directions and fashions that inevitably occasioned tensions between canons and monks. Viewed from afar, the two groups as they were then constituted may seem to resemble each other intimately, and in fact they have for a long time been treated as being nearly synonymous. Nonetheless, they can be differentiated.

      Monachus (monk) was a term that usually designated a man who lived celibate and who was devoted to contemplation and the performance of religious duties, especially song and...

    • 10 LETTER THIRTEEN. TO AN IGNORAMUS IN THE FIELD OF DIALECTIC
      (pp. 175-187)

      The most common and fundamental schema of learning in the Middle Ages was the seven liberal arts, which comprehended the trivium of the verbal or logical arts (grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic or logic) and the quadrivium of the so-called mathematical arts (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music).¹ Grammar enabled correct speech and writing, together with interpretation of poetry; rhetoric was the art of persuasion; and dialectic or logic imparted the skills necessary for distinguishing between truth and falsehood. Although from one period to another the arts within the trivium shifted in relative importance, grammar was always the first to be studied...

    • 11 LETTER FOURTEEN. TO BISHOP G[ILBERT] AND THE CLERGY OF PARIS
      (pp. 188-196)

      Addressed to a bishop who is identified only by the initial G and to the clergy of Paris, Letter Fourteen deals with the rivalry between Abelard and Roscelin of Compiègne, his former teacher, a logician and theologian.¹ Roscelin is not named outright in the letter, but there has never been the shadow of a doubt that he is the heretical antagonist about whom Abelard is quite exercised.² As for the addressee, the most plausible candidate for G is Bishop Gilbert of Paris (1116–25 January 1124).³ In the letter Abelard complains that he has been accused falsely by Roscelin of...

  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 197-218)
  11. GENERAL INDEX
    (pp. 219-230)
  12. INDEX OF SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES
    (pp. 231-232)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-233)