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Augustine's Confessions:
a Biography
Garry Wills

Book Description

An Interview with Garry Wills

  1. Has the Confessions always been read as an autobiography?

    Originally, the book was read as autobiography by Pelagians, to launch personal attacks on Augustine, but it did not become the basis for biographical paintings and relief sculptures until the fourteenth century.

  2. Why are its last four chapters rarely read?

    The last chapters are too theological and exegetical to fit easily with what precedes.

  3. Why did the Confessions seem to vanish from the world of letters in Europe during the Middle Ages?

    The Middle Ages were more interested in "hot" doctrinal matters like original sin, grace, free will, predestination, and church-state relations—subjects treated more fully in other works of Augustine.

  4. Was the Confessions a completely unique book in its time?

    It was and it is still a unique book, an extended prayer, a palimpsest of the Book of Genesis and personal salvation.

  5. Where have modern interpretations of this book gone wrong?

    The use of psychobiography is entirely misleading, though often indulged, on this work.

  6. When did you first read this book, and how did it affect you?

    I first read it (in translation) in high school, where it struck me as the greatest prayer I had ever encountered. In a Jesuit seminary, where we could not read “secular” books, I spent a long time reading it in Latin, partly as an exercise and to avoid the inane "pious" books that were foisted on us.

    Return to Book Description

    File created: 10/12/2010

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