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Augustine's Confessions, X-XIII
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Whereas the first nine books of Augustine's Confessions were devoted to the narration (Lat. narratio) of his life, the final four are devoted to enarratio, or exegesis--a lesson in how to read rightly. What is "confessional" about this exercise, or to put it another way, what do these four books have to do with the preceding nine? As a budding literary exegete yourself, do you feel that Books X-XIII form an aesthetic unity with Books I-IX? Why or why not? Why do we need these additional four books, when the events of Books I-VIII have apparently been sufficient to effect Augustine's conversion (...or have they? Is there any danger of backsliding?) ?

Book X

  1. How does the mind know sensory images? facts? principles and laws of numbers and dimensions? emotions? God?
  2. What is implied by the images that Augustine uses for the memory (e.g. filed, cloisters, palace, stomach for the mind)? What is the role of memory in the life of the mind? of the soul?
  3. How does Augustine define forgetting?
  4. How does Augustine define happiness?
  5. How does he define truth, and what is the effect of truth on the mind?
  6. How does Augustine fit sense perception into his model of apprehension? Note both his use of sensory imagery for the soul's apprehension of God (e.g. X.27), and the way he talks about the senses themselves. What danger(s) is inherent in sense perception, for Augustine, and which sense is the most dangerous? Why?
  7. What ought to be the status of the created world?

Book XI

  1. What is the point of Augustine's literal questions on pp. 224-5 ("What machine did you use? How did you speak? etc.) ?
  2. What is the nature of God's creating Word (sections 5-8)?
  3. Pay particular attention to Augustine's investigation of time. What is his "beef" with time? What are his questions about it? How does he resolve them? Why is time so important? How do we get our awareness of time, how do we measure it, and how does God experience it? What are the roles of memory, perception, and expectation in this investigation?

Book XII

  • According to Augustine, what is the proper goal of reading? How does it differ from the kind of reading he was doing back in Book I (p. 15...)? What (p.259) is the danger in conflicting interpretations of a text by different readers? Is it ever possible for a misreading to be correct? What special issues are involved in reading Scripture?


  • How do you rate Augustine's interpretation of Genesis 1 alongside, say, ours? How is it exemplary of the kind of reading Augustine is hoping to teach us? Can we use this technique to read the Confessions?


Overall--and perhaps this is a bit of a trick question--what is/are Augustine's purpose(s) in writing the Confessions? Does he succeed? What new ground has he broken? What have we learned?


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