Specialiter: A Theological Hermeneutic in the Letters of Heloise

It is possible to read both the love letters and the later correspondence of Heloise and Abelard from a theological and philosophical perspective of the body, particularly the “reasoning female body”, and bodies as articulated by the psychoanalytic perspective of sexual difference and alterity in the writings of French feminist and philosopher, Luce Irigaray. What becomes evident and highly significant, in this reading, could be referred to as Heloise’s distinctively “incarnational form of language”. Heloise’s is a language that refuses to erase the concepts of essential embodiment and sexual difference throughout her dialogue with Abelard. As such, Heloise’s twelfth-century use of, and struggle with language, could be said to be analogous, in many ways, to the modern philosophical critiques of Irigaray:

I am going to argue that Heloise’s language parallels this position of bodily dependency through the persistent use of specific identifying terminology which she appears to highlight especially in her greetings to Abelard. I intend to make a case for suggesting that, in particular, her consistent use of the term, specialiter, in both the early love letters and the later correspondence, is directly and deliberately connected to what will be shown to be her unique position with regard to the significant role of the female body as subject, in contrast to object, in establishing one’s authentic identity and relationship with, and in, other bodies. As such, specialiter can be used as the hermeneutical tool through which the letters of Heloise can be interpreted.



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