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The correspondence of Abelard and Heloise

Benton, John F. (1987) The correspondence of Abelard and Heloise. Humanities Working Paper, 124. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA.

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This paper approaches the question of the authenticity and the authorship of the Historia calami tatum and the letters supposedly exchanged between Heloise and Abelard, through an investigation of word frequencies, phrases, and other stylistic issues, making use of computer-assisted counting and a concordance of the Historia and Letters Two to Seven. Recently Tore Janson studied the cursus patterns used in the correspondence, and concluded that on the basis of that evidence, the correspondence had either one author or one editor who imprinted his or her style on all the letters. A study by the present author of the means and standard deviations of 24 words shows that on the basis of these words the letters attributed to Heloise cannot be differentiated from those attributed to Abelard; the style of the Historia calami tatum is close to that of the letters, but Letters Three, Five and Seven ("Abelard") are more similar to Letters TWo, Four and Six ("Heloise") than they are to the Historia. The use of quotations is also consistent with the hypothesis that Abelard was the single author of the entire correspondence, and some of the concepts which appear in the letters attributed to Heloise are strikingly Abelardian. Moreover, Letters TWO, Four and Six contain a number of phrases, more or less unusual, which appear in the letters attributed to Abelard and in other works surely written by him. The author challenges the explanation that as Abelard's student and wife, Heloise wrote in the same style, and points out that according to the correspondence, contact between the two was minimal after their conversion to monastic life. The more contact one hypothesizes in order to explain the style of the letters attributed to Heloise, the more difficult it is to explain their content. The paper was presented orally at the International Congress of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica on Falschungen im Mittelalter on September 18, 1986 and is to be published substantially in the form which follows in the Proceedings of that Congress.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Group:Humanities Working Papers
Series Name:Humanities Working Paper
Issue or Number:124
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20111031-141718876
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Official Citation:Benton, John F. The correspondence of Abelard and Heloise. Pasadena, CA: California Institute of Technology, 1987. Humanities Working Paper, No. 124.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:27529
Deposited By: Lindsay Cleary
Deposited On:04 Nov 2011 18:01
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 03:24

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