St. Augustine and Literary Confession (LIT2339.01)

Benjamin Anastas

We live in an age of rampant confession, so it can be difficult to conceive of a world without it. Augustine’s Confessions—which the Bishop of Hippo dictated to a team of scribes between 397 and 400 C.E.—is one of those rare literary works that marks a very clear before and after. In this two-credit course we’ll spend the term reading the whole of the Confessions slowly and with care, examining it within the historical context of Late Antiquity and the Christianization of the Roman Empire. We’ll trace Plato’s ideas about the Soul and Neoplatonic notions of good and evil as Augustine syncretizes them into religious doctrine. We’ll treat the text as a form of ongoing prayer that divides the “I” and the “me” and invents a self that we can only call Modern. “Grant me chastity and continence,” Augustine prays while he is living in sin, “but not yet.” This ambivalence is the real engine of the conversion narrative and memoir as we have come to know it. We will periodically sample literary confession from different periods to get a sense of how literary forms have adapted to the confessional impulse. Students will keep a reading journal, write frequent critical response papers, and devise a final project that is a creative confession of their own.

Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 2
M 3:40-5:30
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years
This course is categorized as All courses, Literature, and tagged , , , , , .