Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 9060
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Taylor , Andrew.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: A Second Ajax: Peter Abelard and the Violence of Dialectic [The author focuses on dialectic as a site of masculine aggression; at the same time he notes self-mockery and self-doubt in Abelard's writings].
  • Source: The Tongue of the Fathers: Gender and Ideology in Twelfth-Century Latin.  Edited by David Townsend and Andrew Taylor.  University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.  Pages 14 - 34.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Essay
  • Subject (See Also): Abelard, Peter, Philosopher Dialectic Latin Literature Masculinity Philosophy Scholars Warfare and Warriors, Image of
  • Geographic Area: France
  • Century: 12
  • Related Resources: The opening essay by Andrew Taylor, "A Second Ajax: Peter Abelard and the Violence of Dialectic", sets the tone by explicitly linking the cultural performance of medieval Latin to the cultural performance of academic discourse today. The "dialectic" which Abelard embraced and helped define, Taylor argues, is a form of ritualized male aggression, often described in military metaphors. Unlike the careful, meditative reading practices of earlier generations, the dialectic in vogue in early twelfth- century Paris privileged the quick and brilliant (and young) over the thorough, learned, and experienced. The virtues it encouraged--the technical mastery of a relatively limited field, the suppression of subjectivity and connectedness in favor of competition and aggression--are typical elements of male identity formation and male bonding, then as now. Taylor plays his hand very cleverly. The analogy with modern academic debate--'theory' and its critics--is clearly aimed at from the start and carefully prepared, yet is not explicitly brought up until the very end. Like all analogies, it has its limits, of course. One of the weaknesses of the argument is that 'theory' appears as one homogeneous entity, something one can be either for or against--when clearly Taylor's argument works far better for some branches of 'theory' than for others. But, miraculously, his implied argument is not tendentious--neither for 'theory' nor against 'theory'--and it is both clear enough and subtle enough to be quite enlightening on both sides of the equation, medieval and modern. Several of my female undergraduates, who were making their first acquaintance with the genderedness of modern academic discourse in their Introduction to Literary Theory course, found the essay funny, apt, and even liberating." From the review written by Monika Otter of "The Tongue of the Fathers: Gender and Ideology in Twelfth-Century Latin," "Medieval Review" (TMR ID: 96.12.11). [Reproduced by permission of the "Medieval Review."].
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract:
  • Author's Affiliation: University of Saskatchewan
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1998.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 0812234405
  • Material/Technique :
  • Rights: