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Autobiography and the Confession HUM 2051: Civilization I Fall 2010 Dr. Perdigao October 27-November 1, 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "Autobiography and the Confession HUM 2051: Civilization I Fall 2010 Dr. Perdigao October 27-November 1, 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 Autobiography and the Confession HUM 2051: Civilization I Fall 2010 Dr. Perdigao October 27-November 1, 2010

2 Constructing Augustine Saint Augustine ( CE) Born in North African province of Numidia Attended school at Carthage Studies, believes in Neoplatonism, later Manichaeism—Eastern philosophy, struggle between light and darkness, good and evil (Perry 187) Inspired by Saint Ambrose ( BCE), bishop of Milan, Italy Conversion to Christianity in 387 CE, made Bishop of Hippo in North Africa in 395 CE Turn of fifth century, Greco-Roman worldview disintegrating, Roman world-state collapsing, writes The City of God (Perry 187)

3 Evolving systems 410 CE—Visigoths sack Rome, Non-Christians blame on Christianity with prediction of end of world and turning against deities of Rome, Christians experience anxiety as well (Perry 187) (Socrates?) Questioning of kingdom of God City of God as response to crisis of Roman Empire, like Plato’s Republic as response to crisis in Athenian polis (Perry 187) Ideal state in heaven “What really mattered in history, Augustine said, was not the coming to be or the passing away of cities and empires, but the individual’s spiritual destiny, his or her entrance into heaven or hell” (Perry 188). City to rise from ruins of Rome to be based on Christian principles (Perry 188) The church stresses that Christ’s sacrifice enabled salvation for all who accept his teachings; Protestant Reformers in 16 th century return to Augustine Changes philosophical model—reason is not enough alone, need faith Faith > Reason

4 Into Christianity The Confessional Autobiography : “Now the confessional autobiography is a literary form which is the record of a profound interior change in the destiny of an individual. For Augustine and Dante, the significant change revealed in their works is an account of Christian conversion” (Paolini, Confessions of Sin and Love in the Middle Ages 19). “Augustine was convinced that words and images play a fundamental role in mediating perceptions of reality. From the spring of 386, when his interest in Christianity was renewed, he attempted to situate his inquiries into such transfers of meaning within a programme of scriptural studies. The subsequent union of philosophical, psychological, and literary insights gave birth to the West’s first developed theory of reading” (Stock, Augustine the Reader i).

5 Using Texts Passion for books = longing to discover meaning in his life The role of The Aeneid, Dido, Juno’s speech ( ); Carthage: Rome Mastery of rhetoric for glory and power Greek philosophy as pursuit of logos (word, speech, revelation, light, intelligence, mind, intelligibility, essence, form), but “restless” because Plato does not converse with God or answer the question of sin Cannot unify his two “conflicting wills,” those of flesh and spirit, through philosophy Pursuit of desires/sexual depravity Use of parables? Focus on his spiritual self, reading the Sacred Scriptures, “shrouded deep in mystery” (1123), turn to spiritual gratification

6 Revising the Garden Book II.i: “I propose now to set down my past wickedness and the carnal corruptions of my soul, not for love of them but that I may love Thee, O my God” (1118). Book II.vi: “The pears were beautiful but it was not pears that my empty soul desired. For I had any number of better pears of my own, and plucked those only that I might steal. For once I had gathered them I threw them away, tasting only my own sin and savouring that with delight; for if I took so much as a bit of any one of those pears, it was the sin that sweetened it” (1120). Gen. 3:6: “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

7 Ideal: Reality Augustine confesses his physical transgressions as well as the theft of the pears Alypius’ role in conversion (1128), fig tree, mother Monica “white light of love” / “fog of lust” “hunger” “… for the want of that spiritual food which is Thyself, my God” Middle Ages intellectual ideal, the means to satisfy the “restless heart” through faith


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