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Augustine: The Confessions$
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Gillian Clark

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9781904675402

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781904675402.001.0001

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date: 21 August 2018

Describing a life

Describing a life

Chapter:
(p.35) Part 2 Describing a life
Source:
Augustine: The Confessions
Author(s):

Gillian Clark

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781904675402.003.0002

This chapter begins with questions which puzzle readers of Confessions: what kind of book is it, why does Augustine's life story stop after nine books with the death of his mother and his return to Africa, and why did he then follow two books on memory and time with two more of exegesis, interpreting the Creation narrative in Genesis? Why did he write Confessions in the midst of his many other commitments? The answer offered here is that Confessions is a book about what Augustine thought important in a life: that is, what God has done to rescue him from sin and error. His brief accounts of his friend Alypius and his mother Monnica have the same purpose. Philosophical self-examination offers the closest parallel, but shows more confidence in the power of reason to assess and improve character. The chapter considers twentieth-century arguments that Confessions reveals Augustine's fear of sexuality. It discusses ways of ordering a life as a narrative, the range of style and allusions, and some later responses to Confessions. A Guide to Further Reading follows.

Keywords:   Autobiography, Asceticism, Narrative, Rhetoric, Reception

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