Augustine's Confessions: Communicative Purpose and Audience

Augustine's Confessions: Communicative Purpose and Audience

Augustine's Confessions: Communicative Purpose and Audience

Augustine's Confessions: Communicative Purpose and Audience

Synopsis

This book is about the communicative purpose and the audience of the Confessions. It illuminates the degree to which the communicative purpose of the work is to convert its readers, i.e. a protreptic purpose, and the degree to which the target audience may be identified as Augustines potential Manichaean readers. A brief survey of possible literary antecedents points to the existence of other works that consist of the same combination of an autobiographical section (a conversion story) with a polemical and exegetical section (an argument that aims to convince the reader of the merits of a specific point of view) that characterizes the Confessions. The book provides a new perspective on the meaning and structure of Augustines often misunderstood masterpiece.

Excerpt

The research for this book, which is the publication of my recendy completed doctoral dissertation, started about six years ago. But this starting point was in fact a return to a first love that had originated during the 1980’s when I read the Confessions with Professor Frans Smuts, the then retired head of the Department of Latin at the University of Stellenbosch. Prof. Smuts’ enthusiasm and Augustine’s lyrical Latin proved an irresistible combination. What I found especially fascinating was the controversy surrounding the unity of the Confessions because of the network of secondary issues involved, issues like trends in research (positivism making way for post-modernism), the limitations of modern readers reading ancient texts, and even religious tolerance and intercultural communication. Thus, when I eventually decided to spend a considerable portion of my time on the writing of a doctoral dissertation I knew that this would be the text and the issues that could prove absorbing enough to justify the effort.

The project received its initial impetus from the enthusiasm with which Sjarlene and Johan Thom, my colleagues and mentors in the Department of Ancient Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, greeted my embryonic ideas. in her capacity as my supervisor for my Masters thesis, Sjarlene had taught me to write, by patiently dissecting my impossible sentences and paring away the many superfluous words. Johan’s academic acumen, for which I have the greatest admiration and respect, provided an invaluable safety net all through the stormy process of planning, structuring and formulating my findings. Every student who shared his or her ideas on the Confessions with me contributed to my insight into the work. Also the practical assistance and advice, the encouragement and moral support of every member of the staff of the Department of Ancient Studies at some stage played a valuable role in enabling me to complete this daunting task.

The first stages of the research were much simplified through the fact that I was able to work in the library of the Augustinian monastery in Heverlee and in the libraries of the Catholic University of Louvain. It was especially through the initiative of my husband, Robert, and the . . .

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