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At the Heart of It:

The Medieval Heart within the Page

                        Heloise: “I beg you to restore your presence to me in the way you can - by writing me some word of comfort...

                                        When in the past you sought me out for sinful pleasures your letters came to me thick and fast...”

                                                                                                                                                                                            Clanchy 54

 

       The above quote from the Letters of Abelard and Heloise, transferred between the 12th century’s most notorious lovers, invokes an idea that persists: the words of an individual are a direct representation of that individual, and the substratum it rests on becomes a surrogate for them. Most scholarship glances over or takes for granted that the page and words are representations of the author, but there is not an exploration as to why that line of thought appears and fails to account for the sensuality of the page as body. There is a unique desire for the page in the medieval era as well as now, especially when it comes to letters, and a kind of anticipation that is similar to sensuality, as demonstrated by Heloise above. I use sensuality here in two ways: one, to invoke the rhetorical similarity of sensuality with sensory and senses; two, to allude to the sexual impulses of sensuality as a concept. Yet it is the duality within the page that creates that desire.

       Ideas of inherent duality in medieval Europe exist most especially through the Church and Jesus. Jesus, who was both man and God at once while on Earth, takes on flesh even as He overcomes it. There is also an understanding of Jesus as the Lamb of God and the Word of God at once, and so both the sacrificial page and the saving words on the page, with the  transmission of salvation in both. The page then becomes a possible cradle for multiple dualities, which is why it is taken for granted that the page is a representation of the person with no exploration into what makes up that assumption. The page can be desired by the reader as a kind of fragmental flesh of the writer, a second-skin that is made through the representation of the thinking heart through text. The heart, as a fragment of both mind and body, filters the senses both into and out from individuals. This heart is separate from mind and body but is both at once, just as the page can be both a simple text and a representation of an individual. In this paper I will prove that, in this way, the page, like the letters transferred between Abelard and Heloise, can then become a heart, detached from the writer and yet a representation of them that will connect with the reader, and dual in its properties as both a physical and a metaphysical thing.

       To begin discussing the heart, the space it occupies must first be found and identified, as there is the possibility that there is no space for it at all. In the clerical tradition of medieval Europe, the mind and body exist as separate entities, both morally and ideally. There is an unbalanced scale that these entities rest on, leaving the mind and body in a constant flux of control, creating a hierarchy that can be flipped at any moment of human action or inaction. Stephen G. Nichols discusses the early church father’s beliefs in this hierarchy through Augustine in his essay An Intellectual Anthropology of Marriage in the Middle Ages, saying: “Through the woman...man is confirmed in his fleshliness: ‘Man, who would have been spiritual even in flesh [carne spiritalis] if he had observed the rule, became carnal in mind [mente carnalis] as well” (Augustine qtd. Nichols 78). There is a possibility for the body to be spiritual, but there is also a threat of the mind to turn carnal, throwing these two entities of the individual into a spectrum of constant flux based on action. It is based as well on the religious aspects behind it that hope for spirituality over sensuality, to be more like Jesus than mankind, which includes both male and female.

       This idea is also gender driven in how the hierarchy is stacked: through the woman, who is the seat of earthliness and sin through her treachery in Eden, the man can be driven down to her carnal level. Here, Augustine defines each entity through the ideal hierarchy, including the indication that “man” is the one affected: The mind is spiritual, logical, and salvation driven, male in attribute, while the body is earthly, base, and desire driven, whether that desire is food, warmth, or sex and female in attribute. In order to become spiritual in flesh, the body must submit to the rule of the mind and not be tempted by earthly things, one of which is women, and in this way the individual can become closer to God and his Kingdom.

       Nichols argues that it is the feminine erotic that occupies the space between these two entities of the mind and body and turns one over to the rule of the other, but the senses that interact with each entity are later accessed through Eriugena’s assessment of the senses. These attributes are both male and female in sensibility and each must work together in order to produce anything and be effective in the outside world.  Conventionally, however, there would be a question of if this overlap and constant flux erases the divide between mind and body since one can become controlled by the other, but the hierarchy that is referenced by Augustine and in the letters of Abelard and Heloise does not allow for an equality of these entities and so they rest on their own, though influence each other in numerous ways. There is no dualism or equality here in the separate entities of mind and body, but they mold each other and move along the same spectrum constantly.

       This separation and inequality of mind and body appears in the letters of Abelard and Heloise, specifically as Heloise tries to parse out the past with her lover and their sin: “They consider purity of flesh a virtue, though virtue belongs not to the body but to the soul,” and later says, “for unless the spirit be first corrupted by evil intention, whatever is done outwardly in the body cannot be a sin” (Clanchy 69, 107). Her antecedent of “they” is men, specifically those who believe her to be chaste as she sits in the abbey. The perception of chastity has to do with the body and position as it is impossible to see the stained soul in this way. Heloise definitively separates the mind and body in relationship to sin. The first quote determines what the body and the soul each contain and their attributes. Purity, as something that would elevate the body and mind each and raise them closer to God, Heloise says belongs only to the mind as a virtue at all. As for “purity of flesh,” Heloise does not see it as possible, since it is a virtue that, in her mind, belongs to spirituality and not to a body that cannot live up to theological standards, especially based off of her own experience. The body can be controlled by the mind and vice versa, but the body cannot hold any virtue separate from the mind and the desired hierarchy that can be established.

       The second quote follows the line of thought associated with the Bible verse “But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth” (Matthew 6:3, Douay-Rheims). Though the verse is in reference to giving to the church and those in need while staying humble, it also carries a connotation of purity through lack of knowledge. If the mind does not know why the body does what it does and gives no consent to do so, is it a sin? Heloise argues that no, it is not, “unless the spirit be first corrupted by evil intention.” The body cannot sin of its own volition, as it lies beneath the mind in control of purity. If the mind does consent, only then can it be counted as sin. Here Heloise uses both the hierarchy of mind and body as well as the possibility of influence of one to the other, preferring though to believe that the body remains ineffectual unless the mind is porous enough. Nichols affirms this but moves further with the idea of strength of either entity by discussing that “motivations [like] libido, voluptas, and cupiditas reify the flesh and threaten both the mind-body distinction and the primacy of mind over body on which the patristic anthropology set such a high premium” (Nichols 78-9). The body has possibilities for lust, pleasure, and eager desire that tempt and make the body more concrete and powerful, separating it from the control of the spiritual mind and raising further up the spectrum. Clerically, and for the “patristic anthropology” that Nichols references, it is imperative that the mind stays above the body in order to achieve purity on earth, even if the body can be used to the advance of spirituality.  

      There is an argument of the body being used as a direct way to spirituality that Heloise may have agreed with, if construed a certain way, but Caroline Walker Bynum indicates in her book Fragmentation and Redemption:

                         Medieval images of the body have less to do with sexuality than with fertility and decay. Control, discipline,

                         even torture of flesh is, in medieval devotion, not so much a rejection of physicality as the elevation of it - a

                         horrible yet delicious elevation - into a means of access to the divine.

                                                                                                                                                     Bynum 182

       This understanding of the body, however, does not account for the fact that fertility and decay have a direct correlation to sexuality. Devotion does depend upon mortification of the flesh in this sense, but does not actually deny the sensuality of the body. Sexual actions beget literal children, and so fertility is important within the sensual nature of the body and cannot be ignored completely. Decay is a bit trickier, but the understanding of the body as corporeal is an understanding of the curse given in Eden. By multiplying, the legacy of flesh continues on Earth, so that even as bodies degrade new ones can be made, which is also a reminder of fertility as it is a reminder of the morality of humanity. Heloise would not have argued against the idea of the body being a way to access the divine, but she would have seen it as only a part of the process, as she says “How can it be called repentance for sins, however great the mortification of the flesh, if the mind still retains the will to sin and is on fire with it’s old desires?” (Clanchy 67).

       The entities of mind and body are not of each other but can control each other, yet there is a lack of interpretation when there are two powers in constant flux. There is something needed in order to connect the outside world with the “inner self” that will remain constant enough to provide that interpretation and feeling consistently, though it may influence the hierarchy. This is where the thinking heart, one which feels from the world and reaches out into the world in order to make and receive meaning and represent the person beyond themselves, appears.

       The medieval perception of the thinking heart comes from a few places, but appears in the romance Silence most distinctly: “the human heart is a creature/ that has a strange and peculiar nature:/ it thinks a great deal/ turns the deep though it harbors/ over and over again, far too often,/ and causes itself a great deal of grief” (Roche-Mahdi 125). Regardless of the context, the heart is what is doing the debating, thinking over the complications of outward selfhood and inward interpretation. This suggests then that the heart is what, in the medieval mind, would be feeling, deliberating all information, while the mind logistically thinks for itself and the body acts within the parameters given. Taking the heart out of the equation makes an individual unable to act through feeling or think empathetically and would be governed only by either body or mind, which would be problematic for a compassionate Christian ideology and for recovering the body to the spiritual side. It is about what the heart is able to offer as well as what it can take in that makes it so important to the way Silence, as well as Abelard and Heloise, makes decisions and acts.

       The heart, in medieval thought, was not medically a circulatory organ, one which would take in what had already been expelled, but a respiratory one, which would “circulate” related but different input like breathing air would (Webb 3). This input and output has everything to do with the senses and how the heart interacts with them, both by releasing sensory aspects into the world and recieving them to interpret for the inner self.  In the medieval mindset, Heather Webb says in her book The Medieval Heart, “health depended upon an individual’s ability to push spirit from the heart into the world beyond the skin” as well as being receptive to the world around them (Webb 8). If an individual is incapable of doing this, both their mind and their body suffer. The heart then becomes the pathway between the mind and body, the filter even.

       A conventional assumption may be that the heart does not fit within the hierarchy of mind and body that has been established. Other than interpreting the senses, it has no reason to be between them at all if they can influence each other. Yet, this would create a closed circuit, and one which does not produce anything. Firstly, the heart was a known organ in the medieval era, an actual, physical thing that dwelt inside everyone. That gives it a base function, one of delivering blood to the rest of the body, though the understanding was that this blood was not returned, only generated, since the assumption was that it was non-circulatory. Secondly, there is evidence in the way that the letters between Abelard and Heloise discuss the heart as a thinking, feeling, or desiring thing. This is most prevalent in Heloise’s Letter 6, or the first Letter of Direction, in a paragraph that sums up the ideas of the heart in relationship to the body and mind:

       For nothing is less under our control than the heart – having no power to command it we are forced to obey. And so when its impulses move us, none of us can stop their sudden promptings from easily breaking out, and even more easily overflowing into words which are the every-ready indications of the heart’s emotions:

                         ...as it is written, ‘A man’s words are spoken from the overflowing of the heart.’ I will therefore hold my hand

                        from writing words which I cannot restrain my tongue from speaking; would that a grieving heart would be as

                        ready to obey as a writer’s hand!

                                                                                         Clanchy 93

      Here the image of the heart is a free agent, one which can bend both mind and body to its will while being uncontrollable by either, separate from both mind and body and being a part of each at once. The heart’s dualism, present in the beginning of this discussion, rests in the evidence of the mind and body separation, for if they were equal entities, there would be no space between them for the heart to rest. Heloise’s “ever-ready indications of the heart’s emotions” connote a sense of mindfulness and sensibility to the heart.

       The last portion of this paragraph is the most interesting and the most relevant to this idea of heart as mediator; the body can be controlled by the mind but the mind cannot control the heart. The heart has the ability to move the body to speak and the mind to think as she can keep her hand from writing the words of her heart, but they overflow from her mouth, a producer of sensory sound that the heart can take control of. There is an interesting tone here, one of submission to the rule of a piece of body that is both physical and emotional. A theologically well-educated woman has made the connection of the heart, body, and mind interacting in a hierarchy, so the assumption can be made that others could have felt the same way, especially if she had learned it through study. Her understanding of her own body and how the mind functioned in relation to it is what makes this relationship of the heart so interesting, and the gendering of such emotions useful to the creation of the page and where it falls in the hierarchy.

       In the above passage, Heloise quotes a Bible verse that uses, what she appears to perceive as inclusive, the noun “man.” Earlier, Augustine used this same noun but it did not have the same connotation of inclusion that it does here. Man here seems to indicate something more along the lines of “mankind,” but brings up an interesting complication of whether the hearts of men and women were the same. Heather Webb argues that the heart is made up of both male and female components, and that “just as receptivity is a feminine characteristic essential to hearts of both sexes, the propulsive action of the heart is a masculine quality that is necessary to both women and men” (Webb 8). The “receptivity” described as feminine seems more cerebral while the masculine quality of propulsion of the heart’s feeling out into the world is bodily. Yet, both were needed for the heart to function as a part of the social world. The heart, therefore, just as it is both body and mind at once is both male and female at once, complicating Augustine’s notions of the hierarchy and how it can be changed.

       The alignment with male and female attributes within the heart corresponds with the analysis of the senses by Eriugena, a philosopher and translator in the ninth century, who developed a position beyond that of Augustine’s. Eriugena discussed the senses as containing male and female faculties, which are present in every person. These attributes are sensory and sensual, as Nichols says of Eriugena’s position, “all humans...contain within themselves, as part of their essential makeup, the ‘masculine’ and the ‘feminine’ qualities of sense and intellect” (80). These gendered qualities are nous, which is the masculine and related to intellect, and aisthesis, which is feminine and related to sensuality. Aisthesis is the most interesting of these two because of its assigned function in relationship to the senses. It can be described as the  messenger, shuttling between the outer world, which includes the body, and the inner world, which would have been understood as the self and mind. Nichols says further, “Eriugena shows sensuality to be crucial in mediating between the outer world and the inner, while images of sensual things, fantasies...play an equally crucial role in the human economy, linking sex and intellect” (81). The space between the mind and body that both Eriugena and Nichols seem to give to sexuality, specifically that of the feminine, is where I argue the sensory heart rests as aisthesis and nous together.

       The heart acts in the way Eriugena proposes the quality of aisthesis does, as a messenger between the outer and inner worlds, but it is also able to represent itself intellectually through words, as Heloise has indicated, and interpret the intellectual information it receives. However, just as with the mind and body dichotomy, there is no true balance or equality of aisthesis or nous when interacting, rather they are situated asymmetrically and there is no seek to balance them. Their resolution and interaction with either inner or outer worlds lies in the heart and the space it occupies. Their asymmetry does not erase, however the sensuality of the space the heart lies in and participates with. There is still a sensory aspect that is required of the space and the heart, and this influences the mind and body as they influence each other through carnal or spiritual desires. If the sensory representation of the heart can be supposed as words, as Heloise has talked of, then the assumption follows that words incorporated onto the page are a representation of the individual. In the church tradition, God is the only one who can create without a partner, but in order to make life humanity must have a partner and one of the opposite sex. It can therefore be supposed that in order to create a ‘second skin’ like that of a book or letter, there must be some integration of masculine and feminine qualities as before described. I will touch on how the page is a further extension of the heart in relationship with the reader later on in the paper.

       There still remains a question of how the interpretation of the page as body is performed in a sensory way. It is here that the senses take part in the heart’s messenger chain. Sight, hearing, and touch are the most commonly associated senses with reading and experiencing the page. It is touch, however, that had a great impact on the medieval mindset. C. M. Woolgar states in his book The Senses in Late Medieval England that “if not touch itself, it was something closely akin to it that imprinted the messages of the external senses on the internal ones and within the brain” (Woolgar 29). Closely akin to touch, as well as participating with it, is the heart acting as aisthesis, interpreting the outside world through touch and imprinting it on the brain through the function of messaging. This act of imprinting the external senses on the internal ones moves the external senses further inward, allowing the heart to use them in interpretation, possibly for longer than the immediate reaction would allow, though this is something to be explored in a different paper. The idea of imprinting automatically brings to mind the sense of touch and idea of creating a mark on the page.

       Touch is an interesting sense because it can be both active and passive. Most senses, arguably, have this ability, but the sensations associated with being seen or being heard are much different, and less sensual, than being touched. Touch carries a connotation of both virtue and sensuality that has consequences that other senses do not have to that extreme. In terms of sensuality, Woolgar says that in medieval thought there were two kinds of belief in regards to touching women: “first, that it might lead to sexual incontinence; and secondly that by touching, the very nature of a woman could pollute a man, especially a cleric or one of a holy life” (Woolgar 34). Setting the sexist nature of this aside, as that seems a bit anachronistic to deal with currently, it is evident that touch can carry a sense of uncontrollability, a bit like how Heloise describes the heart’s control and the body’s ability to sin without the consent of the mind. Along these same lines, touch had consequences, even to the point of proximity and basic association, so even not touching could translate into touch and all that it applies to. While there is uncontrollable sensuality associated with touch, there is also uncontrollable virtue associated with it and how that transmits certain attributes. I will continue discussion of this later on in my paper.

       The transmission of thought and virtue through touch is something that is difficult to discuss, as it is present in all the physical parts of the body and interprets many different things, like pressure, temperature, texture, and humidity as well as simply presence. St. Bartholomew also argues that if touch in a person were to be destroyed, so would the individual be. The psychoanalytic theory of skin ego, developed by Didier Anzieu, sheds an interesting light on this idea of thought transfer through the skin and the development of the individual through it. The basic idea of skin ego is that the skin provides an envelope for the psyche and the senses with an outer layer and an inner layer, like Eriugena’s idea of aisthesis, but with no middle messenger. Though the initial ideas behind skin ego rest in the tactile connection between a mother and her child and the child’s development of empathy and desire, these ideas can be extended to the development of other qualities as well, most specifically sexuality and the senses involved.

       The sense of touch is the facilitator of skin ego and transmits thought from skin to skin, as a mother and child would but also as lovers would while in physical contact. Interpretation of this sense, however, is filtered through the heart of the individual in order to assess the intellectual imprint as well as the emotional one. This is where Heloise’s ideas of consent get muddied, as it seems almost impossible for the heart to interpret all that the sense of touch relates to it without there being some kind of reaction in both mind and body, as she says “virtue belongs not to the body but to the soul” (Clanchy 69). This relates again to which of the two would be in control of the other and whether or not that hierarchy has an effect on the heart. I think here it can be definitively said that the heart lies tangentially outside of the spectrum that the mind and body float along, yet still lies between them, as shown:

                                                  The heart does not lie on the spectrum and so is not affected by their flux, but does influence   

                                       and interpret for both, affecting the way they interact with each other. This is how skin ego can

                                       interact with the individual and yet the sensation may not necessarily take over the mind as it does

                                       the body. It must be remembered that the heart is the aisthesis, shuttling between mind and body, not

                                       necessarily acting for them since it is its own entity. Skin ego is a theory of sensation then that the

                                       sense of touch and the sense of that sense intermingle to communicate and create knowledge through

                                       interpretation. Conventionally, however, there is a problem: there are no signs or signifiers to indicate specifics within communication in this way. Nichola Diamond draws on this problem in her book Between Skins: The Body in Psychoanalysis and says:

                         While I shall consider touch as a style of writing, I shall argue that the metaphor of writing, taken literally as a

                         concrete transcription of marks on the skin, a linguistic mode directly mapped onto touch, only leads up to a

                         blind alley and does not bring us any closer to an understanding of how significance is transmitted through

                         touch.

                                                                                                                                                              Diamond 179

       Diamond believes there to be signifiers in touch, but does not believe that touch translates and transmits them the way we would read writing on a page through vision and auditory mechanisms. The connections between skin and books for her are a path to a “blind alley” as they do not further the theory nor facilitate the language, and remain more metaphor than truth.

       However, I want to argue against this. Her connection of touch and writing depends upon touch to transmit sentences, or something of the like, as writing does, but that is an impossible feat to begin with. Touch in relationship to the page is not like that of Helen Keller learning sign language through touch, but rather one of raw pressure on the object as on another person that does not have recognizable signification from an outside view. I would agree that the linguistic modes imposed by written language do not transfer here, but I disagree with the notion that there is no language transferred at all through the act of touch of a page. In the context of the page, touch, as a sense, inputs data that the heart then takes in and interprets for the mind and body. The mind and body take in this interpretation of the input and react, which moves them around the spectrum, however minutely that movement might be. The heart then interprets this reaction from both the mind and body and projects that interpretation out into the world through touch, developing knowledge and the skin ego. The communication happening through touch is done through layers of interpretation, just as words would be interpreted when seen or heard. Now that how it happens has been discussed, what remains to be answered is the kind of input that appears and what exactly is being said through the heart and the page.

       The uncontrollable nature of the heart and the sense of touch intermingle to create possibilities for language through the body and the substratum of self on the page. The best way to understand the kind of language flowing through the senses and the heart is related to C. M. Woolgar’s discussion the duality of touch. There is uncontrollable sensuality associated with touch but there is also uncontrollable virtue that appears as well. These polar opposites function within the sense of touch just as the mind and body do in the heart. Just as proximity could contaminate, it could also heal. Saint’s relics become relics through the proximity or direct touch of the saint, or even by virtue of being a part of the saint associated. Woolgar says, “there was a strong tradition in Christianity...from the miracles of Christ forward that close proximity to the holy, touching it or kissing it, transferred the benefits or virtues of sanctity” (Woolgar 41). The sensory need to fondle or kiss in order to receive benefit or virtue is much too close to sensuality and sexuality to be ignored, so there is an element of body healing and desire involved as well as spiritual. By pure proximity though it could be imbued with the virtue of the saint. If this idea were to be roped into the transfer of language through the physical page, it could be said that letters like the ones traded by Abelard and Heloise were imbued with the sense of the individual through pure proximity and connection, if not content, of the individual. Heloise herself feels close to Abelard through the page:

                         I beg you to restore your presence to me in the way you can -- by writing me some word of comfort so that in

                         this at least I may find increased strength and readiness to serve God. When in the past you sought me out for

                         sinful pleasures your letters came to me thick and fast…

                                                                                                                              Clanchy 54

       The most interesting part of this piece is the beginning, as Heloise directly understands the letters and their words as a way of Abelard presenting himself to her. She longs for the physical Abelard, but she receives the letters instead, a representation of Abelard, a sense of him given to her to interpret through her own senses. So far the connection cannot yet be made between the letters and the heart, but the way to get there is through this passage. His presence is made through the presence of the letters, and Heloise is asking for this physical salve in order that she might better serve God spiritually. If she understands the letters from Abelard to be pieces of him, she must assume then that her letters are a piece of her that she gives him, though she believes her action to be an indicator of her devotion as well. These pieces of him are initially his thoughts on a page, but become more when the heart is considered. If the heart is the interpreter of touch and the letter is the “presence” of the person, then the letter stands in for the physical person, becoming his or her heart made material for the reader to have as their own. The heart contains the filtered ideas and emotions of the outside and inside worlds, so of course it can be assumed that the words it develops are the most fully formed interpretations of self within the world that can be had. The page is a physical representation not of the person but of their heart and all that it contains. But as people change, so do their hearts.

       The letters Heloise receives now are not like the letters she once received when Abelard was more often present physically. When they were engaging in “sinful pleasures,” the letters would be “thick and fast” because Abelard’s desire was so strong. After his shameful castration, he explains to Heloise that he is able now to focus on the spiritual once the seat of all his shame had been eradicated. He therefore does not want to continue the physical and bodily acts, rather those of the more spiritual nature, and his letters, now fewer and further between, show that. Heloise wants both body and spirit, as she begs in the above quote, that a representation of his presence, like the page of a letter, would be enough to give her comfort in serving Christ spiritually. This links directly to the idea of page as body, even if the page is not necessarily made of skin, as Heloise desires the heart/ letter as his second skin in order to heal her body’s ache for Abelard’s presence and become closer to God spiritually as an act of repentance.

       The page persists as a representation of the self, most especially in the letters of Abelard and Heloise. However, there are other avenues that further study could continue with to make this duality of page and self even deeper. One is the differences regarding reactions to the page made of skin versus the page made of rag paper. Skin ego relies upon skin-to-skin contact, so to make a deeper connection to the individual as a being with life, the page made of skin would create better and more understandable transmission of sensual language. However, if the page is regarded as only a representation of self, rag paper will transmit just as well. The differences need to be explored as they do have a bearing on the representations of the heart and the individual in the now lost original letters of Abelard and Heloise.

       There are also questions of the persistence and lasting impact of the senses within the heart, and whether or not the feelings and thoughts the heart produces have more to do with the immediate input or input from an earlier period. The duality of the heart, integration of the mind and body, incline thinking towards both ideas, but what the result is and whether the heart is really clear from the hierarchy is tested in this way.

The heart appears through the page, a physical representation of the author. In this way, the page is also a representation of the person’s body, for if we parse out the metaphorical lines of correlation, the substratum of the page, whether made of skin or rag, is the body of the individual, what holds everything in one place. The words are a representation of the mind interpreted through the heart while writing in relationship to the body, or page. As a whole, it is the heart, a mix of both mind and body, that relies on the interpretation of the reader’s senses through their own heart. The page is both a page made of rag or skin and a representation of the individual, a dual item, that has importance physically any way it is discussed.

       The presence of Abelard is Heloise’s desire. Through desiring the physical body of Abelard she desires any piece of him, and the pieces she receives are in the form of a letter. These letters are representations not only of Abelard’s body but also of his mind and what he feels. The letters are then the detached heart of both Abelard and Heloise in the hopes that their words would be heard by the other, as Abelard begs, “Listen...with the ear of your heart to what you have so often heard with your bodily ear” (59). In the heart, between the mind and body, rests the ability to interpret the spiritual and earthly worlds, the inner and outer senses, and the society of others while also producing something just for them. Without the sensory aspects, like those of female and male aisthesis and nous respectively, the production of the page would not be possible. We know now where the page lies and how the substrate cradles the person, not just the words, which can be as desired as the thoughts themselves and produce a presence stronger than that of the spoken word.

All works cited will be listed in the bibliography under this essay's title heading.

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