Augustine: A New Biography

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9780060535377: Augustine: A New Biography

Augustine, sinner and saint, the celebrated theologian who served as bishop of ... Hippo from 396 C.E. until his death in ... 430 C.E., is widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers in the western world. Augustine: A New Biography tells the story of Augustine from the vantage point of Hippo, where he spent almost forty years as priest and bishop. During Augustine's post-Confessions years he became prominent as a churchman, politician, and writer, and James J. O'Donnell looks back at the events in the Confessions from this period in Augustine's life.

Much of Augustine's writing consists of sermons and letters rich in vivid primary material about the events of his time. Prosperous men converting to Christianity to get ahead, priests covering up their sexual and financial peccadilloes, generals playing coldly calculated games of Roman barbarian geopolitics -- these are the figures who stand out in Augustine's world and who populate O'Donnell's intriguing portrait set against a background of the battle over the future of Christianity. This book reveals much of what Augustine didn't confess.

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About the Author:

James J. O'donnell is a classicist who served for ten years as Provost of Georgetown University and is now University Librarian at Arizona State University. He is the author of several books including Augustine, The Ruin of the Roman Empire, and Avatars of the Word. He is the former president of the American Philological Association, a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, and the chair of the Board of Directors of the American Council of Learned Societies. He is seen here at an ancient monastery on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, in Syria.

From Booklist:

*Starred Review* In a compelling new biography of the great north African bishop, O'Donnell sets out to read between the lines of the Confessiones, a book he knows superlatively well, since he edited the definitive edition. His interest here isn't in what Augustine reveals in that autobiographical classic but in what he did not mention, either because it would have been obvious to his readers or because he wished to distract attention from it. Among the obviousnesses are the conflicting Christianities of the period--Donatist, Arian, and Caecilian, which became Catholicism--of which Augustine's own, Caecilian, was a distinctly minority version helped into prominence by Augustine himself. And Augustine's language: although we may think nothing of his writing in Latin, his use of that language and his dialect of it spoke volumes to his typically polylingual readers. Augustine's contemporaries read him differently than we read him, and O'Donnell provides the theological, historical, and linguistic context in which those earlier readers functioned. As to what Augustine wishes us to not notice, O'Donnell is less expansive, looking for the "darker thread" in the great man's psychology but curiously not addressing such lapses as Augustine's failing to mention how his only son died. Despite such brevity on the personal front, this will become a classic on its subject. Patricia Monaghan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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