The Male and Female Self in European Civilization

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The Middle Ages, for many scholars, evoked notions of a hierarchal structure in which everyone occupied a carefully defined place and status in society. The idea of self and identity was cautiously tied to class, religion, gender or kinship and the functions of women were closely linked to the social standing of their husbands or the men who revolved around them.


Two of these personalities were Heloise and Abelard who became famous for their disastrous affair which shook the church in France during the Middle-Ages. Peter Abelard, a renowned philosopher and priest, fell in love with his beautiful and convent-educated student Heloise who eventually became pregnant. The affair ended in a tragedy when the couple secretly got married. When Heloise's uncle found out about the illicit affair and the marriage, he ordered Abelard castrated. Abelard spent the rest of his life in a monastery and Heloise decided to take vows as an Abbess, both embittered and separated from each other. Heloise's and Abelard's letters, written to each other at the height of their affair, compiled by Constant Mews, in a book called 'The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard,' radically and eloquently described the transcendent nature of their love. These collection of letters found and translated by Mews, only manifested that although men mainly dominated this period, the voices of women in that generation could never be silenced by constraints on gender or the established religious institutions. ...
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