image of Heloise

Week 15: Heloisa

Background | Background Quiz | Starting Assumptions | Resources | Extras
Vocabulary | Etymology | Grammar | Perseus Dictionary | Perseus Tool

Reading Overview | Reading Quiz: English
| Reading Quiz: Latin
Discussion Questions | Latin Composition | Weekly Checklist

Discussion Questions

Please choose 3 of the following questions to answer and send your response in an email to the instructor ( Each answer should be a solid paragraph (150-250 words for each English discussion question, 500-750 words for the overall assignment).

You should then post your answers to the class Discussion Board. You need to have sent the email and posted your answers by Friday midnight. At some point you will also be posting at least two replies to comments posted by the other students; you may do that at any time during the week, until Monday midnight.

1. Heloise and the language of emotion. The language of emotion varies tremendously from language to language, and it also varies over the history of a language (the emotional vocabulary of English has changed radically from Shakespeare's time to our own, for example). How would you assess the vocabulary of emotion that Heloise uses in her letter? Find at least five different Latin words having to do with emotions and provide a rough English translation for each of these words (you may need to use an entire phrase in English to suggest what you believe to be the meaning of each of these different terms). What is the overall emotional portrait of Heloise that emerges from her letter?

2. What makes Heloise tick? What does Heloise want? What is she afraid of? What are the things that give Heloise pleasure? What are the things that make Heloise angry? What ideas and principles does Heloise embrace? What ideas and principles does she reject? If you were to choose five Latin adjectives to describe Heloise, what would they be?

3. Lot's wife and the emperor Augustus. Two of the exempla that Heloise uses to explain herself to Abelard in this letter are the wife of Lot (uxor Loth) and the emperor Augustus. For each of these two examples, explain exactly how she is using this Biblical or historical figure in order to make a point. What is the precise point that she wants to make in each case? How do the exemplary figures of Lot's wife and the emperor Augustus allow her to make her point more forcefully? Overall, what kind of impression did you have of Heloise's learning and her rhetorical style from this letter?

4. Mark Twain. Take a look at Mark Twain's account of Heloise and Abelard. How would you describe Twain's general attitude towards this story? (cite some specific quotations from Twain as examples) What do you think Twain is basing his account on? Do you think that Twain has read the letter that you read this week? If you were to write a kind of reply to Twain, based on what you learned from reading some of Heloise in Latin this week, what would you say to him?

5. Stealing Heaven. The 1988 film Stealing Heaven is a dramatization of the lives of Abelard and Heloise. Have you seen this film? You can watch a slideshow of 200 still images from the movie to refresh your memory. What approach did this film take to the character of Heloise? To the character of Abelard? What was the main message that the movie tried to convey? Are there elements of Heloise's letter that you read this week which resonate with the movie? Elements which seem to contradict what you saw in the movie? Overall, what impression did you have of this film version of the lives of Abelard and Heloise?

6. Reflecting on the week. Take a look back at what you wrote as your "starting assumptions" for this week, and look at the starting assumptions of the other students in the class. Did anything you read or studied this week make a big change in your starting assumptions? Did the assignment turn out to be pretty much what you expected? More interesting? Less interesting? What surprised you the most? If you were going to continue with this topic, what kind of research and reading would you want to do? What questions are still left unanswered?

7. Grammar revelations. Did you have a Latin grammar crisis this week? Did you get through it? What did you learn? Is there something you grasped this week that was never really clear to you before? A grammar epiphany? Is there something you are still really struggling with? What do you do when you are having trouble understanding a passage in Latin? Where do you look for help? In general, was the reading this week easier or harder than expected? What are you going to concentrate on in your Latin work in the coming week?

8. Website critique. Pick one of the websites that you visited this week as part of your work for this class (it could be a website about this week's topic, or a website for learning Latin). Provide a link to the site, and a brief desription of its contents. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this website? Who would find this website useful? What did you use this website for? What did you find there? Do you think you will visit this website again?


Modern Languages 4970 / MRS 4903: Medieval Latin. Spring 2003 Online Course at the University of Oklahoma. Visit for more info.
Laura Gibbs, University of Oklahoma - Information Technology © 2003. Last updated: December 29, 2002 7:12 PM