Academic journal article Medium Aevum

After Augustine: The Meditative Reader and the Text

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

After Augustine: The Meditative Reader and the Text

Article excerpt

Brian Stock, After Augustine: The Meditative Reader and the Text (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001). 132 pp. ISBN 0-8122-3602-5. L23.00.

This collection of essays by Brian Stock on the relationship of the 'self' and its literary representation in the European tradition is, perhaps not entirely inappropriately, more in the nature of a gathering of the author's meditative pensees on his chosen subject(s) than an academic monograph (reflected too in the paucity of notes and in the absence of a bibliography). Beginning, more or less, with Augustine's self-representation in the Confessions (with occasional glances backwards at Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, among others), Stock proceeds to examine the resonances of Augustinian notions of the relationship of self-knowledge, reading, and writing in later European thinkers such as Abelard, Guibert of Nogent, Christina of Markyate, Petrarch, More, and others. The end-product is a somewhat bewildering collage of apercus, some supported by the author's massive erudition and formidable synthetic abilities, others merely provocative and frustrating in their generality.

Following a short introduction to the major themes of the essays, Stock embarks on a study of the Confessions. A turning point in the European engagement with the self, the Confessions, Stock argues, posits that 'questions of self-knowledge and self-representation cannot be separated' (p. 13). The second chapter examines the relationship of the literary and the ethical, ethics being, in Stock's words, 'a living narrative' (p. 26), and therefore vulnerable to the subjective vicissitudes of all that is conveyed by words: 'we are "narratizing" beings because we think through words' (p. …

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