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The Letters and Other Writings

Abelard & Heloise
Translated, with Introduction and Notes, by William Levitan
Selected Songs and Poems Translated by Stanley Lombardo and by Barbara Thorburn

2007 - 400 pp.

Format ISBN Price Qty
Cloth 978-0-87220-876-6
Paper 978-0-87220-875-9
Examination 978-0-87220-875-9


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  To her lord, no, her father
     To her husband, no, her brother
     From his handmaid, no, his daughter
     His wife, no, his sister—
     To Abelard from Heloise.



The most comprehensive compilation of the works of Abelard and Heloise ever presented in a single volume in English, The Letters and Other Writings features an accurate and stylistically faithful new translation of both The Calamities of Peter Abelard and the remarkable letters it sparked between the ill-fated twelfth-century philosopher and his brilliant former student and lover—an exchange whose intellectual passion, formal virtuosity, and psychological drama distinguish it as one of the most extraordinary correspondences in European history. Thanks to this edition, Latin-less readers will be better placed than ever to see why this undisputed milestone in the intellectual life of medieval France is also a masterpiece of Western literature.


In addition to the The Calamities and the letters—the first complete English translation of all seven in more than eighty years—this volume includes an Introduction, a map, and a chronology, Abelard's Confession of Faith, letters between Heloise and Peter the Venerable, the Introduction to The Questions of Heloise, and selected songs and poems by Abelard, among them a previously untranslated "shaped" poem, "Open Wide Your Eyes." Extracts of "lost" letters sometimes ascribed to Abelard and Heloise are given in appendixes.



"A welcome bundle of texts, in an English that seeks to recreate in its style the artful elegance of the originals."
     —Jan Ziolkowski, Department of Classics, Harvard University



"This is a wonderful collection, far superior to any prior editions of the works of Abelard and Heloise."
     —Larissa Taylor, Department of History, Colby College



"This text has a tremendous advantage over the Penguin: its introduction is geared to smart undergrads, its notes are precise and helpful, and its translations are really readable.  Plus the book's design is eminently satisfying. This text exemplifies the best combination of deep erudition and user/student-friendly features. I will use it again."
     —Louise M. Bishop, Clark Honors College, University of Oregon



". . . [A] unique contribution to the reconstruction of the complexity and diversity of medieval thought and writing."
     —Emilia Ilieva, Department of Literature, Egerton University



"An excellent translation of the letters into modern prose and superior to other translations of the letters.”
     —Michael Kulikowski, Department of History, University of Tennessee, Knoxville



"A wonderful volume at a good price for students. It recognizes recent scholarly advances and puts them into a useful context."
     —Constance Berman, University of Iowa



"Levitan's fresh translations administer a series of productive shocks to the system. Nothing looks or sounds the same. . . . This will be a marvelous teaching text, and it deserves to enliven the syllabi of many, many courses. But it will also energize scholars."
     —Carol Symes, University of Illinois, in The Medieval Review



"This valuable translation of a major body of Medieval Latin prose and verse with extensive scholarly notes and appendices stands out for its comprehensive coverage of the Abelardian epistolary corpus. It offers the Historia calamitatum, the seven letters (all following the Muckle/McLaughlin edition and following their counting), the Heloisae Problemata, the confession (both from PL clxxviii), the letters of Peter the Venerable from and to Heloise (from Constable's edition), and a selection of the songs and poems (including the laments for the daughter of Jephtha and for Saul and Jonathan). . . . Exactly what is needed for the general reader."
     —Medium Aevum

William Levitan is Associate Professor of Classics, Grand Valley State University and a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome.

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