E240 Augustine Questions

Assigned: from Confessions (1221-49).

Book 1. Early Years.

1. On 1222-23, what are Augustine's initial concerns as he begins his autobiography? How does he answer them, and how do his responses relate to the task of writing he has begun?

2. On 1223-24, what seems to be Augustine's view of a child's first days and months? How do children first learn to speak? To what extent does he suggest that children are similar to adults? How are they different?

3. On 1224-26, what does Augustine say about his earliest education -- was it good for him, or bad for him? Why did he disobey his parents and teachers?

4. On 1225-26, why did the young Augustine come to dislike Greek so intensely, and to enjoy his Latin studies so much? What concerns does he express about the relationship between speech and morality, and about the experience of the senses?

Book 2. Adolescence.

5. On 1226-27, what problem begins to plague Augustine when he reaches adolescence? What picture of his parents does he give us at this point -- how do they deal with his unruliness, and what hopes do they harbor for him?

6. On 1227-29, how does Augustine use his account of a youthful theft (stealing pears) as a vehicle for explaining the nature of sin at its most basic level -- aside from the desire for worldly gain and similar "utilitarian" motives? Why does it matter whether one sins alone or in company with others?

Book 3. Student at Carthage.

7. On 1229-31, how does Augustine use his early love of the theater to explore the tendencies of passion? And what seems to be the purpose of art (including rhetoric), as far as he is concerned? Why does he resolve to begin studying the scriptures?

Book 5. Carthage, Rome, and Milan.

8. Augustine says that God drew him on towards Rome from Carthage, and describes how his mother Monica took the news of his departure. How are the move to Rome and the interaction with Monica related to the overall pattern of Augustine's movement towards conversion?

Book 6. Secular Ambitions and Conflicts.

9. On 1231-36 even after he meets Ambrose, what still keeps Augustine from becoming a full Christian? What thoughts does he offer regarding this hindrance? What plans does he form?

Book 8. The Birthpangs of Conversion.

10. In this book, Augustine writes about the manner in which he was at last enabled to move beyond his obsession with sexual desire. How does he explain his progress or liberation? How does Lady Continence help him?

Book 9. Cassiciacum: to Monica's Death.

11. Augustine decides to leave behind his position as Professor of Rhetoric, and is baptized. Not long thereafter, his mother Monica dies. How does Augustine assess his mother's virtues and her faults? How does he represent his own thoughts and emotions concerning the passing of his mother?

12. In writing of his mother's last days, Augustine dwells upon a moment of spiritual insight he shared with her – what is the nature of that insight? What does it suggest about the relationship between language and spiritual truth? Moreover, what does the passage suggest about the difficulty of maintaining a state of high spiritual awareness?

Edition: Lawall, Sarah, ed. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 2nd edition. Volumes 1ABC. New York: Norton, 2002. ISBN A = 0-393-97755-2, B = 0-393-97756-0, C = 0-393-97757-9.