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Abelard: A Medieval Life [Paperback]

By Clanchy (Author)
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Item description for Abelard: A Medieval Life by Clanchy...

Michael Clancy introduces the reader to medieval life through the experience of Peter Abelard, the master of the Paris school whose career included seducing Heloise (his student), and being castrated, accused of treason, condemned as a heretic (twice) as well as writing his memoirs, 'his story of calamities.' This, the first biography of Abelard for over 30 years, combines the most recent international research with a re-reading of the sources line by line. Original in interpretation, trenchant in judgement and written with pace and wit, Abelard: A Medieval Life is likely to become the standard work on it's subject.

Publishers Description
Michael Clanchy introduces the reader to medieval life through the experience of Peter Abelard, the master of the Paris schools whose career included seducing Heloise (his student), being castrated, accused of treason, condemned as a heretic (twice) as well as writing his memoirs - his story of calamities. Because Abelard touched so many aspects of life, this book is structured naturally around the roles he played. The author describes what it meant in the 12th century to be a famous scientist (the master of Latin, logic and philosophy), then a dedicated monk and pioneer of the discipline of theology - and yet one who was at various times a wandering scholar, courtier and jester. The author's many new findings include the discovery that it was Heloise who inspired many of Abelard's most profound ideas. She educated him: up to now historians have assumed it to be the other way round. This biography of Abelard combines the international research with a re-reading of the sources line by line.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wiley-Blackwell
Pages   416
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.02" Width: 6.02" Height: 1.25"
Weight:   1.39 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 4, 1999
Publisher   Wiley-Blackwell
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0631214445  
ISBN13  9780631214441  

Availability  96 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 26, 2016 12:10.
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More About Clanchy

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! M. T. Clanchy is Professor Emeritus of Medieval History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He taught at the University of Glasgow 1964-85. He is the author of From Memory to Written Record: England 1066-1307 (Blackwell second edition, 1993) and Abelard: A Medieval Life (Blackwell, 1997). He is the editor (with Betty Radice) of The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (Penguin Classics, 2003).

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical > General
3Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Professionals & Academics > Philosophers
4Books > Subjects > History > Europe > France > General
5Books > Subjects > History > World > General
6Books > Subjects > History > World > Medieval

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Reviews - What do customers think about Abelard: A Medieval Life?

Hint to Heloise: He's just not that into you.  Aug 14, 2008
This is the product of a learned, mature historian pouring everything he knows into his writing. Because the book is organized thematically it tends to be repetitive, but it's such a pleasure to read that I couldn't have cared less. You will learn more about the high middle ages from this book than from any half dozen inferior books. One of the more interesting things you may learn from it is that Abelard was just not that into Heloise. The way Clanchy tells it, Heloise was no great beauty, and Abelard seduced her because he could, not because he was madly in love with her. In fact, after he lost his manly parts, he seems to have lost interest in her, although she never ceased demanding his attention for the rest of her life: "You owe me!" Hell hath no fury like a woman ignored.
Enter the Medieval University with One of Its Founders...  Mar 3, 2008
"Abelard: A Medieval Life" is a scholarly, yet ultimately readable, biography of this most fascinating of medieval scholars. With its superb eye for detail, the text, one of the only to be released on abelard in the last decades, is likely to become a new standard of the subject for the foreseeable future. Written with more of an eye for detail and explanation rather than splash and panache, the text is a comprehensive introduction to the life and work of Abelard, including a chronology of the man, the places he lived and the positions he held, and all the well-known issues surrounding his "abrasive" personality. At some 400 pages, the book will take a few days to digest, but the information and insight the work offers is a rare treat, and will more that satisfy the needs of current scholarship when investigating Abelard and the cast of characters (William of Champeaux, Roscelin of Compiègne, Hugh of St Victor, Anselm of Laon, Peter the Venerable, Heloise, and many others) that surround the story.

Clanchy's work is written at the highest level, with an eye towards scholarship rather than popular narrative. As with any such work, this can make for some difficult reading at places. This approach, however, allows for the book to have lasting value as a reference to both Abelard and to the time and issues he worked in, including the rise of the medieval university and some of the issues that were debated at the time (universals, "mysteries," the advent of scholasticism, and so forth).

The book is divided into sections that treat Abelard's life in chronological order, with each focusing on a particular aspect of Abelard's life at each phase (e.g., "Master," "Logician," "Man," "Lover," "Theologian," "Heretic," and so on). A short "Who's Who" of personages is at the rear of the book, which can be helpful to keep track of the numerous individuals at play in the story. From a scholarly viewpoint, perhaps one of the strongest elements of the text is the extensive bibliography which Clanchy has put together to illustrate his subject. This bibliography can serve as the starting point to numerous derivative studies.

Abelard was a man of startling contradictions, yet we recognize the "personality type" right away once we know the narrative well enough. Surely the story of Heloise and Abelard has held the attention of nearly one millennia of readers, and their honorary grave at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris is still regularly decorated with flowers from those who still follow the story with great interest. It is probably not possible to understand Abelard without understanding Heloise, but this book, a truly well-written and fascinating work, allows us to examine this medieval scholar anew, and ponder the loves, goals, and motives that lay behind his now famous place in history.

What Did Heloise Know and When Did She Tell Abelard?  Jun 2, 2002
M. T. Clanchy has written what will surely be regarded as the definitive biography of Abelard in years to come. Clanchy presents us with a portrait of a philosopher/theologian who made enemies with the same ease that he applied to the problems of God and man. Instead of a sterilt, academic look at the man's thought we are instead treated to a panorama of medieval politics and their impact upon both the man and his thought, which was responsible for getting Abelard in hot water on many an occasion, coming as he did under the jaundiced eye of the Inquisition. Along the way Abelard picks up his own personal Inquisitor in the person of St. Bernard, who finds himself at odds with Abelard's writings and Ableard's frequent public defense of his thought.

As if this weren't enough, what separates this work from the rest is its speculation on the role of Heloise in the thought of Abelard. The standard portrait of Heloise through they years has been one of a young woman was was taught, then seduced by her teacher, Peter Abelard. They married, the marriage was annuled by her family and Abelard paid the price by being castrated. Heloise escaped to a monastery where she became a nun and later superior. But history also tells us that Heloise was very respected for her sagacity and intelligence. Clanchy makes the obvious speculation that as their relationship as lovers grew over the years, so did their intellectual partnership. He points to several instances where the thought of Abelard undergoes changes after the relationship with Heloise was well underway. Given the times and the historical portrait of both lovers, this argument comnes across as a refreshing revision in the intellectual development of one of Europe's leading thinkers.

For those interested in the development of medieval philosophy and those interested in a good solid biography, this volume fills both needs without insulting its reader.


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