Language in the Confessions of Augustine by Philip Burton

By Philip Burton

Philip Burton explores Augustine's therapy of language in his Confessions - an incredible paintings of Western philosophy and literature, with carrying on with highbrow significance. one in every of Augustine's key matters is the tale of his personal encounters with language: from his acquisition of language as a toddler, via his occupation as schoolboy orator then megastar pupil at Carthage, to professor of rhetoric at Carthage and Rome. Having labored his manner as much as the eminence of court docket Orator to the Roman Emperor at Milan, Augustine rediscovered the catholic Christianity of his youth - and determined that this was once incompatible along with his rhetorical career. Over the following ten years, he steadily reinvents himself as a unique kind of language expert: a Christian highbrow, commentating on Scripture and preaching to his flock.

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Humans too share this capacity for rational communication, with both each other and God; though as with all things human, this is likely to be abused or treated as an end in itself rather than a means to expressing truth. All human language 34 Language in the Confessions of Augustine is arbitrary and conventional, but this conventionality is two-edged. Where language is an end in itself, it may lead to mere linguistic snobbery; where language is used as a means to truth, then the coincidental associations that words have arbitrarily acquired over time may themselves turn out to indicate real truths.

Quoniam ecce misericordia tua est . . cui loquor; Confessions 1. 6. 7, recalling Mark 1:34; also quoted at 9. 2. 22). Being a gift of God, language is intrinsically good and pleasurable. It is a sign of life. The Wrst thing the son of the widow of Nain does after being raised from the dead by Jesus is to ‘begin talking’ (Luke 7:22)—a detail noted by Augustine and applied to his mother Monica’s prayer for his own ‘resurrection’ from Manichaeism. As with his citation of John 8:35 (‘The Beginning, since I also speak to you’) the reference to speaking might reasonably have been omitted; but it is not.

17. 27). The fact of his coming to Carthage in Book 3 is recounted in the plainest language—veni Carthaginem—and yet it is diYcult not to remember Aeneas’ arrival in Carthage (3. 1. 1). The Virgilian reminiscences are explicit when he leaves his mother Monica secretly in order to sail to Rome, as Aeneas had done to Queen Dido, a scene to which we will soon return (5. 8. 15). They are explicit too when we are told that Monica alone of all the mothers of Augustine’s African coterie had ‘followed’ her son ‘by land and sea’ to Italy, just as Euryalus’ mother had been the only Trojan woman to accompany Aeneas’ men to the Italian mainland (6.

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