Saturday, January 29, 2011

For Credit: Understanding Eloisa

Use this post as a way to start getting a sense of who Eloisa is and what she's like. Here's a place to start: According to the information supplied in the poem, what elements of the religious life appeal to Elouisa?  What it is she seeking in religion and why?  She expresses different ideas at different points in the poem; how does her thinking change?  (You can respond by tracking only one of her shifts--you don't have to go through the whole poem!)

Let's see where the conversation goes from there...

Deadline: Monday (1/31), start of class.


Dema said...

As Eloisa struggles throughout the poem with her love for Abelard and piety, she describes religion as something that can temper and perhaps subordinate her passion. In an appeal to Heaven, she asks to have her heart filled “with God alone, for he / Alone can rival, can succeed [Abelard]” (205-6). Eloisa identifies God as the only worthy substitute for her lover, Abelard, but she still cannot entirely embrace this religious duty. She acknowledges her inability to forget about Abelard when she claims that his “image steals between my God and me” (268). Whereas love is portrayed as unruly and impassioned, which is conveyed through imagery of fire/a flame, religion is seen as a source of reason and virtue.

Toward the end of the poem, Eloisa switches her focus to death and explains that it is the only escape from a world of passion and memory. Death offers eternal respite for Eloisa from her struggle because “all is calm in this eternal sleep” (313). She claims that only death can put her passion in proper perspective and relieve Eloisa of her anguish.

SteveL said...

For the most part I agree with Dema. The major shift in the poem comes near the end when Eloisa stops focusing on the past and looks toward the only thing she can in her future - death.
However, there are other shifts in the poem that aren't as pronounced, such as the shift from Eloisa trying to justify her actions, only to show regret for them later.
During the first hundred and fifty (or so) lines of the poem, Eloisa doesn't seem to show too much regret for her relationship with Abelard. She keeps stating that love should trump any law that a man (or an organization) can make (lines 73-86). The first emphasized feelings of regret pop up around line 190 and continues on past line 209. Eloisa shows that she does regret her actions, despite the fact that she is still in love with Abelard. In my opinion, it is this part of the poem that best represents Eloisa's internal struggle between faith and love.

Shaun said...

I think that Eloise, initially, isn't seeking something from the religious life. She recalls the day of taking orders as "When victims at yon altar's foot we lay" (108). She even describes them as "those dread altars" (115).

There is a shift later to the approach that Dema describes. It is at line 179 that she asks, "Assit me, Heav'n! but whence arose that pray'r?" She asks whether this urge comes from piety or despair (180) because she has recognises that she has changed. She is no longer a radical romantic who believes "if I lose thy love, I lose my all" (118), but someone who weeps her "past offence" (187) and "curses [her] innocence." (188)

me-thinks said...

I actually give more slack to Eloisa than prior bloggers. It seems to me it should not be forgotten that Abelard was hired by Eloisa’s father to be her tutor. Nor should it be forgotten that Abelard is thirty-eight years old to Eloisa’s eighteen years old. This changes things. For example, SteveL quotes from lines 73-86 and it is true Eloisa says:

How oft, when press'd to marriage, have I said,
Curse on all laws but those which love has made!
(lines 73-74)

I ask, however, if young, innocent Eloisa can be expected to truly understand the ramifications of what she is saying, or is she just mimicking what has been taught to her by Abelard? After all, one stanza before Eloisa says of her studies with Abelard:

Guiltless I gaz'd; heav'n listen'd while you sung;
And truths divine came mended from that tongue.
From lips like those what precept fail'd to move?
Too soon they taught me 'twas no sin to love.
(lines 65-68)

When I further consider that Eloisa refuses marriage to selflessly protect Abelard’s reputation, I am inclined to think her initial behavior has more to do with infatuation than it has to do with a stance about love trumping Heaven.

Vivian said...

I think she is seeking solace from her emotions through religion; she wants to forget about Abelard because the separation tortures her so she tries to use God as a substitute but another half of her still loves Abelard (as shown in lines 9-16).
In Pope's poem, Eloisa is in anguish over the powerful feelings she still has for Abelard and when she realizes that since he is now a castrated man and could not return her feelings even if he wanted to, she begs for forgetfulness so that she could devote herself to god. Towards the end of the poem she realizes that her passion for Abelard and decides that Death is the only solace she can seek.

Chad Bob said...

I think Eloisa is using religion as a kind of block from thinking about Abelard. She wants to devote herself to her faith to rid her mind of all her feelings she has for him. She realizes that faith takes so much time and commitment that it could help her start a new life without Abelard. She changes when she goes from asking for forgiveness from god to realizing she would rather die than be without Abelard. She is very confused throughout the poem, but then finally figures it out, to her demise, what she really wants.

Gary M said...

As previous bloggers have stated it is clear that Eloisa has turned to religion in order to forget Abelard, but I believe that there is also another reason. Eloisa knows that she has sinned, she speaks of it in lines (100-106) “A naked lover bound and bleeding lies! Where, where was Eloise? her voice, her hand,[...]I can no more; by shame, by rage suppress'd, Let tears and burning blushes speak the rest.” In these lines she describes her first sexual experience with Abelard and her shame at what had occurred. Her innocence and inexperience about the world, allowed Abelard to help her commit a sin and have sexual intercourse before they were married. She not only went to the convent to escape his love, but also so that she may be pardoned by god for the sin that she has committed. She remains confused about her love toward Abelard or her duty towards god. In the lines (191-194) “How shall I lose the sin, yet keep the sense, And love th’ offender yet detest th’ offense? How dear object from the crime remove, Or how distinguish penitence from love? ” Eloisa is unsure of how to deal with the situation. She does not want to lose Abelard. Eloisa wishes to remain with Abelard. She questions how they can remain together and still find a way to be forgiven for their sin. This is when Eloisa transitions from wanting to stay at the convent to repent for her sin to actually considering the possibility that she can be with Abelard.

Haro said...

I believe that Eloisa appeals to every aspect of religious life in general but disregards the areas that forbid her from withholding her relationship with Abelard. As stated, and from the text, Elouisa cursed upon laws( what I also took as religion) that permits her love. She realizes that her choices will only create more issues, but she feels that love seems to be another category that is separate from love. What I believe she is seeking from religion is a sense of understanding. She seems sure about her choice not to marry but when she seeks death as her only other option to help with loving Abelard, that seems a bit off. Religion could give her a bit of guidance and confirmation on her situation but I feel that religion has a minimum part because there are also other factors that come into play that cause restrictions.

JeTara said...

Religion appeals to Eloisa because it is the only thing that she feels will relieve here from the thoughts of Abelard. She is seeking a sense of comfort and security from God from the absentness of Abelard. In the poem, Pope states "all is not heav'n's while Abelard has part" (line 25). This religious life that Pope includes in this poem serves of having the feeling of being in "heaven" or with the sense of being happy with no worries has left an empty space within Eloisa. I notice a change in during the text, "'Tis sure the hardest science to forget!" (line 190) She is now seeing a change in thoughts which seems to be witnessing a change within herself that is regret despite a feeling that is still in love with Abelard. In line 204-206, "Renounce my love, my life, myself--and you. Fill my fond heart with God alone, for he alone can rival, succeed to thee" strong emphasis of religion and this God she keeps speaking of whom she wish be present instead of Abelard himself. Personally, I think that Eloisa emotions are tearing her apart and she is having a personal battle between her love for Abelard and her desire to keep faith and worship her God.

LBee said...

I personally think that Eloisa is infatuated with Abelard and doesn't give much thought to religion at the beginning of the poem, as someone said above. Lines 72-98 show these feelings and the infatuation that has consumed her "Curse on all laws but those which love has made." The beginning of the poem is simply showing her blind "love" for her tutor and how every other aspect of her life seems less important when compared with Abelard.hyyyy
The shift later that many people have mentioned ("Fill my fond heart with God alone,for he alone can rival, can succeed to thee") I think occurs because she is regretful of her actions and is afraid of what will happen to her; I do not believe she is truly turning to God alone to save her. She is young and naive and knows she has sinned, and fears that everyone she knows, even God, will turn their back on her.