I had a lovely, quiet weekend apart from the violent thunderstorms that tore through a few times. Fortunately, the worst consequence in my household was that when the power dipped at one point on Sunday, my router didn't reset itself correctly. I actually had to log into it and reset it that way, which is very unusual. A bit frustrating, but nothing more than an annoyance. We never actually lost power, phones, or Internet service at all. The drive to work was a bit interesting this morning, though, since traffic lights were out on my usual route. Nothing brings out the idiot in drivers like a traffic light outage.
I did a bit more cataloging in Zotero over the weekend. Journal articles and chapters in edited books did indeed turn out to be a bit more of a challenge. The database I use most, the International Medieval Bibliography, isn't supported apparently, so I will perhaps make a suggestion on the support forums that they add it. Could be a bit challenging since IMB is a hugely expensive subscription database, so it's not like any old Joe can just check it out. I'm not sure how many universities subscribe to the thing. I also did successfully add some entries for DVDs, though that turns out to really be a pain. I don't know if there's a better or easier way to do it, but WorldCat entries have worked the best so far. Even so, they still need a lot of hand-editing; the director, cast members, producers, and script writers all get dumped into generic "contributor" fields, so then I have to properly label them, which usually involved looking some of the people up elsewhere. I'll have to check the forums on that one and see if anyone's found an easier way to do it.
I spent a fair chunk of my weekend playing my favorite computer game and tidying up, including doing the sorts of things my ex never imagined to be necessary like cleaning the filter on the vacuum sweeper so that it actually vacuums. I did, however, start reading another book as well. As I mentioned previously, I had been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the scope and seriousness of my own book collection and thought about going to the library to find something relatively light. I actually didn't leave the house all weekend, though, and finally decided to begin at the beginning and just read the very first unread volume on my shelves. Since my books are organized according to the Library of Congress classification system (when you have as many as I do, some rational system of organization becomes essential), the first unread book in my collection was one on philosophy.
The book I started reading, Hypatia's Daughters, has been on my shelves for probably close to ten years and I just haven't gotten round to it yet. (Did I mention I have somewhere in the neighborhood of two thousand books? It will be less when my ex's books are culled out of the collection, but right now that's where it stands.) Anyhow, I'm only partway through the book, but so far I've greatly enjoyed essays on Hypatia herself, Hildegard of Bingen, Heloise, and Christine de Pizan. The essay on Heloise was a particular joy for me to read because its author confirmed a strong impression I had from the letters between Heloise and Abelard that Abelard either willfully or stupidly failed to understand what Heloise was really trying to say. I tried to articulate my feelings on that subject in my recent class on the twelfth century, but I didn't do so very persuasively I'm afraid.
The centerpiece of my argument that Abelard had not understood Heloise was the letter in which, by the conventional interpretation, she requests a rule better adapted for the needs of nuns. Heloise in fact spends a great deal of this letter discussing how Christians should not live by rules at all, and that rules are entirely human superimposition upon a Christian life that should be ordered instead by love of God and fellow human beings. I felt strongly, and said so in class, that the supposed request for a rule was just a pretext; claiming that the Rule of Benedict was unsuitable for women is the opening move in a line of argument that eventually leads to demonstrating the unsuitability of rules generally. Abelard nonetheless takes her request at face value and forwards an extremely lengthy letter outlining his suggested rule for nuns.
The author of the essay in this book, Andrea Nye, agrees with my impression the Heloise did not intend her request to be taken at face value and that Abelard has misunderstood her. Nye argues that this misunderstanding pervades the entire series of letters and is grounded in the fundamental philosophical differences between how Heloise and Abelard view the world and the nature of humanity. Wow. As Nye sees it, Abelard subscribes to a sharply defined binary division of the world into body/soul, pure/impure, white/black, etc. and Heloise emphatically does not. Abelard therefore regards the body and its drives as evil and requiring discipline to control and restrain, while Heloise's view is far more nuanced. She clearly believes that Christian love has the power to elevate human character. Nye argues that this cleavage is the basis for the couple's disagreement on the nature and character of marriage as well. Abelard, she says, regards marriage as motivated by lust and the desire to possess the object of one's lust. Therefore, after he was castrated, Abelard viewed the marriage relationship as over; he could no longer possess Heloise sexually and therefore felt he had no obligation towards her as a husband. Heloise, as I have previously demonstrated, had rather different ideas about marriage, and Nye argues that her first letter is an attempt to persuade Abelard that since marriage is based on love and mutual respect, the marital relationship and marital obligations have not been extinguished by his castration. Heloise feels that Abelard has obligations towards her as a husband and that he has not carried these out. Ultimately, Abelard rejects her arguments and makes it clear that the only relationship he will have with her is as spiritual adviser. His black-and-white conception of the world does not allow him to understand where Heloise is coming from.
I find it telling that the correspondence between the two ends after Abelard responds to her patently rhetorical "request" for a rule with a ridiculously detailed letter outlining his recommendations. His total incomprehension, whether willful or not, of her argument doesn't leave her with many options for a response. I don't think she would waste the parchment to respond, stultus tu es.