Soundings in St. Augustine's Imagination

By Robert J. O'Connell | Go to book overview

4
The Peregrine Prodigal

SOME YEARS AGO, Leo C. Ferrari contributed an article on Augustine's use of the Prodigal Son parable in his Confessions. 1 Ferrari was astute enough to divine the importance of searching other texts for keys to understanding the sometimes cryptic allusions to this parable which Augustine makes in the Confessions. One of the most enlightening of those texts is certainly the one to which he assigns a pivotal role in his overall interpretation: the Libri duo quaestionum Evangeliorum, which Augustine published in the year 400 or thereabouts. The year, as Ferrari observes, is of particular interest: for Augustine would seem to have completed his Confessions either in or about A.D. 400. One would expect, therefore, the interpretation given there to have close bearing on understanding his use of this parable in characterizing his own prodigal peregrinatio.

But instead of taking Augustine's little exegetical essay on the parable as providing the headings for his interpretation of its employment in the Confessions, Ferrari does something closer to the opposite. He starts from what would seem, and has seemed to regiments of scholars before him, an obvious assumption concerning Augustine's intention: he wished to present the reader with the story (albeit "theologized") of his own individual peregrinatio animae, a peregrinatio which must (of course) have begun with his birth into this world. This assumption then encourages Ferrari to select from Augustine's exegetical essay only those elements which serve to illustrate the stages of such a "this-worldly" peregrinatio; this selection, in turn, permits him to leave out of consideration a number of other indications Augustine himself gives about how he understood this parable.

We have seen, however, that Augustine plainly understood the soul's wayfaring, or peregrinatio, as having taken its departure from the supernal "house of God," and as ideally returning there; 2 hence, we would fully expect that same circularity to hold for his understanding of that very model of the Christian peregrinus, the Prodigal. We would be safer in assuming Augustine's own under-

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Soundings in St. Augustine's Imagination
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • I- • Basic Images 19
  • 1- The Omnia- "All Things" 21
  • 2- Peregrinatio Animae 69
  • 3- Fove Precantes, Trinitas 95
  • II- Variations on the Peregrinus Image 141
  • 4- The Peregrine Prodigal 143
  • 5- The Christian Odysseus 174
  • 6- Augustine''s "First Conversion" 197
  • 7- Homecoming to Ithaca 221
  • 8- Deliciosae Lassitudines 246
  • Epilogue- LInes for Future Research 285
  • Notes 291
  • Bibliography 293
  • Indices 297
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