Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation

Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation

by Brian Stock
     
 

Augustine of Hippo, a central figure in the history of Western thought, is also the author of a theory of reading that has had a profound influence on Western letters from the ages of Petrarch, Montaigne, Luther, and Rousseau to those of Freud and our own time. Brian Stock provides the first full account of this theory within the evolution of Augustine's early

Overview

Augustine of Hippo, a central figure in the history of Western thought, is also the author of a theory of reading that has had a profound influence on Western letters from the ages of Petrarch, Montaigne, Luther, and Rousseau to those of Freud and our own time. Brian Stock provides the first full account of this theory within the evolution of Augustine's early dialogues, his Confessions, and his systematic treatises.

Augustine was convinced that words and images play a mediating role in our perceptions of reality. In the union of philosophy, psychology, and literary insights that forms the basis of his theory of reading, the reader emerges as the dominant model of the reflective self. Meditative reading, indeed the meditative act that constitutes reading itself, becomes the portal to inner being. At the same time, Augustine argues that the self-knowledge reading brings is, of necessity, limited, since it is faith rather than interpretive reason that can translate reading into forms of understanding.

In making his theory of reading a central concern, Augustine rethinks ancient doctrines about images, memory, emotion, and cognition. In judging what readers gain and do not gain from the sensory and mental understanding of texts, he takes up questions that have reappeared in contemporary thinking. He prefigures, and in a way he teaches us to recognize, our own preoccupations with the phenomenology of reading, the hermeneutics of tradition, and the ethics of interpretation.

Editorial Reviews

Richard Penaskovic
This is the most insightful and careful reading of Augustine that has been produced in the last decade. Stock is an absolute master of Augustine's texts and [he] offers us a veritable intellectual feast. -- Richard Penaskovic

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674052765
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
03/28/1996
Pages:
475
Product dimensions:
6.67(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.18(d)

Meet the Author

Brian Stock is Professor of History and Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto.

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