Just got a very rude comment that I deleted from my moderation feed. Intended to appear below the post immediately below on teacher-student sexual relationships, it was mostly profane and nastily ad hominem. But in between the unpleasantness, the commenter did include a question asking why my wife and I had named our daughter Heloise, given my views on sexual relationships between profs and students.
The most famous Heloise, of course, was the French nun and scholar whose affair with her own teacher, Peter Abelard, became one of the most celebrated love stories of the Middle Ages.
I’ve long loved the name Heloise because of that great abbess and philosopher. When I think of Heloise, I don’t think of a woman made famous for an affair with her tutor; I think of one of the great medieval female intellectuals. As someone trained as a medievalist, and coming from a family where first-born children are often given a name that begins with “H” (Huberts and Heinrichs and other Hugos lie in my genealogical chart), Heloise made lovely sense as a first name for our darling girl. Naturally, we did think about the implications of someone with my reputation having a daughter named after the student in the most famous teacher-student love affair in European history, but we reminded ourselves that the original Heloise was far more than Abelard’s lover.
Hers was a fierce mind, and it was that legacy we bequeathed to our child.
The name, by the way, means “famous warrior.”