After Augustine

After Augustine: The Meditative Reader and the Text

Brian Stock
Series: Material Texts
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    After Augustine
    Book Description:

    Augustine of Hippo was the most prolific and influential writer on reading between antiquity and the Renaissance, though he left no systematic treatise on the subject. His reluctance to synthesize his views on other important themes such as the sacraments suggests that he would have been skeptical of any attempt to bring his statements on reading into a formal theory. Yet Augustine has remained the point of reference to which all later writers invariably return in their search for the roots of problems concerning reading and interpretation in the West.Using Augustine as the touchstone, Brian Stock considers the evolution of the meditative reader within Western reading practices from classical times to the Renaissance. He looks to the problem of self-knowledge in the reading culture of late antiquity; engages the related question of ethical values and literary experience in the same period; and reconsiders Erich Auerbach's interpretation of ancient literary realism.In subsequent chapters, Stock moves forward to the Middle Ages to explore the attitude of medieval Latin authors toward the genre of autobiography as a model for self-representation and takes up the problem of reading, writing, and the self in Petrarch. He compares the role of the reader in Augustine'sCity of Godand Thomas More'sUtopia, and, in a final important move, reframes the problem of European cultural identity by shifting attention from the continuity and change in spoken language to significant shifts in the practice of spiritual, silent reading in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. A richly rewarding reflection on the history and nature of reading,After Augustinepromises to be a centerpiece of discussions about the discovery of the self through literature.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0304-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    During late antiquity and the Middle Ages, the spiritual exercises that were associated with self-improvement were normally based on extensive periods of reading and meditation. As a consequence, the reshaping of ethical values in these exercises became a part of the subject’s inner experience. The present volume is an exploration of this theme.

    The figure who appears most frequently in these pages is Augustine of Hippo. This is understandable, since he is the most prolific and influential writer on reading between antiquity and the Renaissance. It is clear to all who have studied Augustine that his writings on the topic...

  4. Chapter One Reading and Self-Knowledge
    (pp. 8-23)

    The late ancient and medieval periods inherited a number of techniques for dealing with the classical philosophical problem of self-knowledge. The theme of this chapter is the influence of the culture of reading on the transformation of these techniques.¹

    My major purpose is to address an issue that arises out of the thought of Augustine of Hippo. This is the connection between reading, the search for self-knowledge, and the writing of autobiography. Augustine raised fundamental questions concerning the use of ancient contemplative practices in his treatment of self-knowledge and self-expression. The first part of this chapter takes up these questions...

  5. Chapter Two Ethical Values and the Literary Imagination
    (pp. 24-37)

    Ethics has for some time been a topic of interest in both philosophy and literature. One of the focal points of this interest is the ethical thought of antiquity. Much of the attention has been devoted to Plato, Aristotle, and Hellenistic thinkers down to Plotinus, who died in a.d. 270. Some notice has also been taken of the bridging figures to medieval thought, Augustine and Boethius.¹

    Students in the field are agreed that something new takes place in the late ancient period, but they are not sure what it is or how they should talk about it. The difficulty arises...

  6. Chapter Three Later Ancient Literary Realism
    (pp. 38-51)

    The finest tribute that can be paid to a scholar by those who have the privilege of a historical perspective on his achievement is to renew and develop his thinking. One of the past century’s scholars in the field of Latin and Romance philology who has continually inspired this type of reconsideration is Erich Auerbach.

    This chapter is an attempt to broaden the context of scholarly reflection on some issues that arise out ofMimesis, chapters 2 to 4, andLiterary Language and Its Public, chapters 1 and 2.¹ These chapters, which are devoted to late Latin antiquity, are among...

  7. Chapter Four The Problem of Self-Representation
    (pp. 52-70)

    This chapter, in keeping with the themes of the previous two, is an invitation to reflect on the functions of literary experience in later ancient and medieval authors who deal with the elusive notion of the self.

    I begin with a few words about the attitude toward reading and writing in Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. I then turn to some medieval Latin texts that take up the theme of self-representation, including the works of Peter Abelard, Guibert of Nogent, Hugh of St. Victor, Guigo I, and the biographer of Christina of Markyate. I conclude with a note on Francis of...

  8. Chapter Five Petrarch’s Portrait of Augustine
    (pp. 71-85)

    The development of textually oriented contemplative practices in late antiquity and the Middle Ages meant that the activity of the reader was perceived as a technique for achieving a classical philosophical ideal, the betterment of the person. In this respect, reading was for many centuries looked upon as a means to an end rather than an end in itself, even if it was granted that the reader could derive information, edification, or pleasure from an engagement with the text. Petrarch made a contribution to this way of thinking during the period at the end of the Middle Ages when by...

  9. Chapter Six Two Versions of Utopia
    (pp. 86-100)

    The century that has just finished has been greatly troubled by utopian schemes. Some of these projects have doubtless been a source of social progress, especially in the less developed world, but even their enthusiastic supporters would agree that the cost in human lives has been unacceptably high. As a consequence, most of us nowadays would be skeptical, if not openly hostile, toward global blueprints for changing society. At best, they would be viewed satirically as “dystopias,” as they were by Samuel Butler, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley.

    Serious interest in utopian thinking goes back to Plato’sRepublic, as well...

  10. Chapter Seven Lectio Spiritualis
    (pp. 101-114)

    We live at a time when the classical curriculum is disappearing from primary education in all European countries. We cannot expect classical languages to playas large a role as they have in the past in anchoring the national cultures of Europe in a common heritage. It is worth considering the consequences of this development for the understanding of European identity.

    The most important classical language to take into consideration is of course Latin. The study of European identity by means of the relationship between Latin and the Romance languages has been an important topic in philology and linguistics for about...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 115-128)
  12. Index
    (pp. 129-130)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 131-132)