The Example Of A Woman Essay Research — страница 2

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toacknowledge the ascetic implications of the vow ofAugustine’s first concubine, but the matter was made torest there.> An oversight of another kind shows up in FrederickVan Fleteren’s essay on “Augustine’s Theory ofConversion.”> He counts at least twelve conversionstories or retellings of conversions in the Confessions.But the experience of the mother of Adeodatus is notincluded among them, even though there are clearindications that some kind of conversion may have takenplace. Since Augustine weaves his own story around theother conversion narratives, the absence of hisconcubine from the circle of those individuals whoseconversions may have affected Augustine’s means that herpossible influence is all but precluded. In this study I will attempt three things.

First Iwill try to show that the equation of sexualrenunciation with Christian conversion is essential fora proper understanding of the nature of Augustine’sconversion. Second, that Augustine came to make the linkbetween conversion and continence through a belatedresponse to the vow of sexual renunciation made by themother of Adeodatus. And third, the nature of hisconcubine’s vow and Augustine’s description of it in theConfessions constitutes a muted conversion narrative –perhaps the most pivotal conversion story in the wholetext, because it established the terms in whichAugustine came to understand his possible conversion toChristianity. As I have already indicated Augustine describes thefinal phase of his conversion to Christianity in highlypersonal terms, relegating to

the background the way inwhich the scholarly debate over the past century hasbeen shaped. Since Alfaric> much of the discussion aboutAugustine’s conversion has centered on whether he wasconverted to something less authentically Christian in386. Alfaric put the matter bluntly by saying that theconversion in 386 was to Neo-Platonism and that theconversion to Christianity actually came years later, in396. Not the least of the reasons given for thisunderstanding of Augustine’s conversions are theapparent differences between the early works (especiallythe so-called Cassiciacum dialogues written between hisconversion and baptism) and the works coming out of theperiod following his De diversus queastionibus VII adSimplicianum. However much others have sought over theyears to

defend the putatively Christian basis ofAugustine’s conversion in 386 the literary record tendedto get in the way, or was perceived to get in the way. The view that now holds the field is the carefullynuanced argument of P. Courcelle> who maintains that theChristianity vs. Neo-Platonism polarity is a tadmisleading when it comes to the Milanese background ofAugustine’s conversion experience. Rather than seeingtwo distinct episodic conversions, one Neo-Platonic andthe other Christian, Courcelle describes a Milaneseenvironment that is at once Christian and Neo-Platonic.In which case, Augustine would have encountered Neo-Platonism in Christian dress and vice-versa, and did nothave the opportunity to encounter one without the other.From Ambrose, Simplicianus, Manlius Theodorus

andothers, he would have breathed a Christian Neo-Platonismwithout any perceptual sense that this was an odd way ofreceiving one’s Christianity. By removing the antithesis between Christianity andNeo-Platonism in the Milan of the 380s Courcelle allowsfor the kind of simultaneous influence which seems to beevident in the early writings. The emphasis throughoutCourcelle’s analysis is on the intellectual side ofAugustine’s experience over and against the moralaspects of his conversion.> Courcelle all but overlooksthe terms in which Augustine described and understoodhis conversion. Even if one is inclined to accept themuch later theological re-interpretation of hisexperience found in the Confessions with some amount ofskepticism, it must still be recognized that forAugustine

the conversion in 386 was something veryintensely personal. For him the important thing was thatat that time he was able to turn his back on the worldin two very specific ways: he was prepared to give uphis ambitions for a public career and was willing toresign himself to a life of sexual renunciation.Some Early Accounts of Augustine’s ConversionSome of the earliest literary accounts of Augustine’sconversion deserve mention at this point because theytend to support the intellectual side of his conversionto the possible exclusion of the dramatic moral crisisthat he appears to have gone through. The preface to Debeata vita contains one such account. In a dedication toManlius Theodorus, Augustine presents De beata vita as aphilosophical exercise that had long been overdue.