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A Macat Analysis of Augustine's Confessions

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Originally written as 13 individual books around 397 c.e., Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions is one of the most referenced works in the Western literary tradition. Augustine lived from 354–430 c.e., and the work is in part an autobiography. But it also tells us much about the period in which he lived. The first nine books draw a compelling narrative of the first 43 years of Augustine’s life, which were spent in North Africa and Italy. In the tenth book, Augustine uses these experiences as a meditation on the nature of memory. Finally, he ranges more widely, using the last three books to comment on the Bible’s book of Genesis. It is a measure of his immense intellectual range that he can switch from the personal to the philosophical and finally to the contemplative in this great work.

Augustine’s title expresses something of the double meaning of the work itself. In a seminal article from 1957, Joseph Ratzinger (eventually Pope Benedict XVI) showed that the title functions to express the work both as a “confession” of past sins and as a “confession” of praise for God.

Confessions is an intricate work of literature, long recognized for its poetic prose and penetrating psychological insight into the trials and satisfactions to be found in the act of confession. Augustine’s work has stood the test of time and continues to be taught and read all over the world.

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