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Abelard and Heloise - Essay Example

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Abelard and Heloise were both extremely prominent scholars in the middle Ages, and they had a lot to say concerning gender issues. Their writings seem to show that they were exceedingly liberal about the roles of the various genders in many aspects of life. …
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Download file to see previous pages However, they were still people true to their age and perhaps what might be considered liberal may have had a deeper meaning. Both of these scholars were known, from time to time, to deviate from what the norm was concerning gender roles in their societies. Their writings display a characteristic that was particularly common among the writers of that age; they were liberal to a certain extent and their opinions were openly stated. However, when it came to doing something about changing their societies so that they would conform to their liberal views, they took no action. It can, therefore, be said that although Abelard and Heloise, in their writings, showed several instances of being liberal concerning gender roles, they remained remarkably conservative in their actions. Abelard continued to advocate for a male dominated society while Heloise supported the role of a subservient woman, who had to submit to the will of man. The love affair between Abelard and Heloise also shows the gender issues, which were prevalent in their society. Both of them were profoundly influenced by the opinion of their society when it came to gender roles, and this is clearly shown in their writings. Some instances of their opinions on gender shall be considered and analyzed in this paper. In a majority of his letters, Abelard displays a respect for the competence of women, something that is truly surprising for a man of the middle ages. Most of his works concerning women are based on his religious opinion of them. In some of his work, he states that women are much closer to Christ due to the opinion that women are particularly closely tied to the earth than men. Abelard in general shows a strong admiration for women, and he states that their virtue is much more pleasing to God than that displayed by men. Alongside this admiration is also his belief that women are lesser to men; that men are the better part of humanity while women are the lesser. He states that while women are more intimately tied to the earth, men are strongly tied to the spiritual. Because of this, women tend to be more susceptible to sin than men are because they do not have the spiritual capacity to withstand temptation (Ruys 1). Therefore, his reference to women’s virtue being more pleasing to God may imply that they have to overcome their spiritual advantage over men in order to become virtuous. Abelard’s point of view concerning women is not as liberal as one might think, and instead, he shares the opinion concerning them that was prevalent during his time. He barely deviates from the views of his contemporaries, and, in fact, it can be said that he is a leading proponent of a male dominated society while women remain in the background. At first glance, Heloise’s writings are extremely liberal because they push the boundary of what was considered proper at that time. She displays a wide knowledge in her work and her letters to Abelard; she often challenges him and asks his opinions on various issues. However, despite the liberal views, she is still hugely much influenced by the way of thinking that was common at her time. While addressing Abelard in her letters, she acts as a submissive woman and not as his equal (Zollinger 231). One would argue that it is because they had been married that she would address him with such submissiveness. However, this will be found not to be the case because, in their letters, extremely little is ever mentioned of their married life. It can be said that Heloise displays the medieval society’s belief that women are inferior. She accepts the conclusions, which Abelard makes concerning diverse matters, and more often than not, she is seen seeking his approval or opinion on a large number of subjects. Heloise is an intellectual, and this is something that ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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