The Education of Heloise in Twelfth-Century France
Susan Dreyer OSB (Saint John’s University)
Master of Arts in Theology, School of Theology, St. John’s University, Seminary Graduate Papers, Paper 15, June 24, (2006)
The question of how Heloise, the renowned twelfth-century abbess of the Benedictine women’s monastery called the Paraclete, obtained a classical education in the twelfth century French culture is important and not adequately answered at present. The purpose of this paper is to discover a reasonable understanding of how she acquired her high quality education and what conditions made it possible for her to learn three languages, be highly literate, and successful in her role as a religious abbess. Heloise was acclaimed for her intelligence, but this paper shows that she was supported in her educational pursuits by the expectations and advantages of being in a family of power and nobility and by living within and active and well developed culture of female Latinity from which she could be educated and in which she could find meaningful, intellectual and spiritual expression. This paper helps to provide one with a view of the current scholarly opinion about the important issue of Heloise’s education, and points to the need to continue to look for reliable historical understandings of women’s history regarding the Middle Ages.