Trs 720B: Saint Augustine, The Confessions

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The Catholic University of America

School of Theology and Religious Studies

TRS 720B: Saint Augustine, The Confessions

Spring 2009

Credit Hours: 3
Time and Location: Thursdays 9:35AM - 12:05PM; CALD 451
Instructor contact information:

Tarmo Toom, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Patristic Theology

Caldwell 434; e-mail:

Office Hours: Tuesday, 5.00PM-6.00PM

Course Description:

This course is on one of the most influential writings of Augustine. The Confessions is Augustine’s spiritual, intellectual, and moral autobiography. In fact, it is more than an autobiography—it is a protreptic, a text that attempts to convert. It is a theologian’s assessment of the wonderful activity of God’s grace in his life—sophisticated, polemical, and full of many meanings. One can say that Confessions is the history of the schooling of the author’s heart in the love of God, which is presented simultaneously as a narrative, theological reflection, meditation, and prayer. Augustine tells his story in the form of conversions to the quest of wisdom (Cicero), Manicheism, skepticism, neoplatonic philosophy, and catholic Christianity. The account of his conversions is an interesting mix of neoplatonic, biblical, and personal themes. The soul’s turning away from the Good and finding its way back to the Source through trials is fused with the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) and with Augustine’s own wandering away from his mother’s faith and return to God the Father.

Instructional Methods: Lecture, discussions
Required Texts:

Augustine Confessions, in Oxford World’s Classics, trans. H. Chadwick. Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 1998 (reprint).

Possidius, Vita Augustini (The Western Fathers, trans. and ed. F. R. Hoare [London:

Sheed and Ward], 1980, 191-244). [Blackboard]
Latin Texts of the Confessions:

  • O’Donnell, J. J. (ed.), Augustine: Confessions, vol. 1. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. [] or []

  • PL 32 []

  • CCL 27

  • CSEL 33

  • S. Aureli Augustini, Confessionum, libri XIII in Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana (1934). Edited and corrected, Stutgardiae: B. G. Teubneri, 1981 and 1996.

  • Clark, G. (ed.) Confessions. Books I-IV. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cooper, R. H. et al. (eds.) Concordantia in libros XIII confessionum S. Aurelii Augustini,

2 vols. Hildesheim, Germany: Olms/Weidmann, 1991.
Goals for Student Learning:

Students are expected to know Augustine life, his intellectual development, and the themes that he considers in his Confessions.

Course Requirements and Assessment:

  • Class participation/discussions (20% of the grade)

  • Final exam (each 30% of the grade)

  • A 6-page essay (20% of the grade) on your aversio and conversio written in imitation of Augustine’s Confessions (i.e., as a prayer to God).

  • Research paper (30% of the grade) on one of the following topics:

  • Augustine on gratia

  • Augustine on peccatum originale

  • Augustine on caritas

  • Augustine on voluntas

    • The paper should be no less than 10 pages and no more than 11 pages, point 12, double-space, formatted according to Turabian, A Manual for Writers, 7th ed., 2007 (I mean this!), with a correctly formatted cover-page, footnotes, and bibliography.

    • As a Research Paper, it is supposed to demonstrate your skill in finding good and relevant books/articles (at least seven, dictionary articles will not count), and to show that you know the current research developments in the particular area.

    • Have a thesis! And please make a case for your thesis!

    • Tardiness in submitting the paper will result in a lower grade (A ® B, etc.).

  • The University grading system for graduates is available at

  • Reports of grades in courses are available at the end of each term on

Expectations and policies:

  • Academic honesty is expected of all CUA students.

  • Attendance: more than two excused absences result in a lower class participation grade

  • Policy on Making Up: in the case of an excused absence, students can take their final exam on a time negotiated with the instructor.

Course Outline and Readings:

  1. Jan. 15: Introductory lecture. The occasion and genre of the Confessions.

  2. Jan 22: Possidius, Vita Augustini (Backboard); Introduction (by Chadwick); the structure of the Confessions; Augustine’s life and conversions; the significance of Augustine

  3. Jan. 29: Book I: pride; the notion of “rest”; grace and faith; the spiritual nature of God; the notion of self; original sin; origin and the return of the soul

  4. Feb. 5: Book II: aversio; lust; concupiscence

  5. Feb. 12: Book III: loving the wrong things; wisdom and happiness; Manicheism

  6. Feb. 19: Book IV: “ordering” the love; eternal happiness; use and enjoyment

  7. Feb. 26: Book V: disillusionment with Manicheism; academic skepticism; Ambrose

  8. March 5: No class. Spring recess.

  9. March 12: Book VI: spiritual interpretation; usefulness of belief; friendship

  10. March 19: Book VIIa: Neoplatonism; spiritual and intelligible reality

  11. March 26: Book VIIb: interiority; ascent of the soul; whence evil?

  12. April 2: Book VIII: the writings of Paul; will, habit, and love, conversion to catholic Christianity; continence. The 6-page papers due

  13. April 9: No class. Holy Thursday

  14. April 16: Book IX: Monnica; ascent of the soul; Cassiciacum.

  15. April 23: Book X: memory; illumination.

  16. April 30: Books XI-XIII: Genesis, time.

  17. May 5-9: Final and the 10-page research paper due!

For comprehensive bibliography in Literaturdatenbank, see: Corpus Augustinianum Giessene CD-ROM accompanying Augustinus-Lexikon or [].
The Confessions:

Brachtendorf, J. Augustins “Confessiones.Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2005.

Burton, P. Language in the Confessions of Augustine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Capps, D. and Dittes, J. E. (eds.), The Hunger of the Heart: Reflections on the “Confessions” of Augustine.

In Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Monograph Series 8. West Lafayette, Ind.: Society of Scientific Study of Religion Press, 1990.

Caputo, J. D. and Scanlon, M. J. (eds.), Augustine and Postmodernism: Confessions And Circumfession. In

Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.

Clark, G. Augustine: The Confessions. In Landmarks of World Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 1993.

Courcelle, P. Recherches sur les Confessions de saint Augustin, expanded ed. Paris: E. de Boccard, 1968.

Desch, W. Augustins Confessiones: Beobachtungen zu Motivbestand und Gedankenbewegung. Frankfurt:

Peter Lang, 1988.

Dixon, S. L. Augustine: The Scattered and Gathered Self. St. Louis: Chalice, 1999.

Drecoll, V. H. Die Entstehung der Gnadenlehre Augustins. Beiträge zur Historischen Theologie 109.

Tübingen: Mohn Siebeck,1999.

Fisher, N. and Mayer, C. (eds.), Die Confessiones des Augustinus von Hippo: Einführung und

Interpretationen zu den dreizehn Bühcher. Frieburg: Herder, 1998.

Hockenbery. J. Redeeming Philosophy: Philosophy in Augustine’s ‘Confessions.’ Unpublished Ph.D.

dissertation. Boston University, 1998.

Kenney, J. P. The Mysticism of Saint Augustine: Rereading the Confessions. London: Routledge, 2005.

Kotzé, A. Augustine’s Confessions: Communicative Purpose and Audience. Supplements to Vigiliae

Christianae, vol. 71. Leiden: Brill, 2004.

Mallard, W. Language and Love: Introducing Augustine’s Religious Thought Through the Confessions

Story. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.

Mann, W. E. (ed.), Augustine’s Confessions: Critical Essays. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.

Marion, J.-L. Au lieu de soi : l'approche de saint Augustin. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2008.

McMahon, R. Augustine’s Prayerful Ascent: An Essay on the Literary Form of the Confessions. Athens,

GA: Georgia University Press, 1989.

Miles, M. R. Desire and Delight: A New Reading of Augustine's Confessions. New York: Crossroad, 1992.

O’Connell, R. J. St. Augustine’s Confessions: The Odyssey of Soul. New York: Fordham University Press,

1969 (reprint, 1989).

______. Images of Conversion in Saint Augustine’s Confessions. New York: Fordham University Press,


O’Donnell, J. J. (ed.), Augustine: Confessions, 3 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

O’Meara, J. J. The Young Augustine: An Introduction to the Confessions of St. Augustine, 2d ed. New York:

Alba House, 2001.

Paffenroth, K. & Kennedy, R. P. A Reader’s Companion to Augustine’s Confessions. Philadelphia:

Westminster John Knox, 2003.

Pellegrino, M. Le “Confessioni” di Sant’Agostino: Studio introduttivo. Rome: Studium, 1972.

Pépin, J. Les confessions de Saint Augustin : leurs antécédents et leur influence. Paris: Librairie C.

Klincksieck, 1964.

Pizzolato, L. F. et al. (eds.), “Le Confessioni” di Agostino d’Ippona, 4. vols. Palermo: 1984-1987.

Quinn, J. M. A Companion to the Confessions of St. Augustine. New York: Peter Lang, 2002.

Starnes, C. Augustine’s Conversion: A Guide to the Argument of Confessions I-IX. Waterloo, Ottawa:

Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1990.

Stock, B. Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation. The Belknap

Press of Harvard University Press, 1996.

Troup, C. L. Temporality, Eternity, and Wisdom: The Rhetoric of Augustine’s Confessions. Columbia, SC:

University of South Carolina Press, 1999.

Vaught, C. G. The Journey Toward God in Augustine's Confessions: Books I-VI. Albany: State University

of New York Press, 2003.

_____. Encounters With God in Augustine's Confessions: Books VII-IX. Albany: State University of New

York Press, 2004.

_____. Access to God in Augustine's Confessions: Books X-XIII. Albany: State University of New York

Press, 2004.

Wills, G. Saint Augustine’s Conversion. New York: Viking, 2004.

Augustine’s Biographies:

Brown, P. Augustine of Hippo, 2d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Lancel, S. Saint Augustine. Trans. Antonia Nevill. London: SCM Press, 2002.

O’Donnell, J. J. Augustine: A New Biography. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.
Some More Comprehensive Studies of Augustine’s Theology

Bonner, G. Freedom and Necessity: St. Augustine’s Teaching on Divine Power and Human Freedom.

Washington DC: The Catholic University Press, 2007.

______. St. Augustine of Hippo: Life and Controversies. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963.

Clark, M. T. Augustine. In Outstanding Christian Thinkers. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press,


Harrison, C. Rethinking Augustine's Early Theology: An Argument for Continuity. Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 2006.

______. Augustine: Christian Truth and Fractured Humanity. In Christian Theology in Context. Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 2000.

Ellingsen, M. The Richness of Augustine: His Contextual & Pastoral Theology. Louisville: Westminster

John Knox, 2005.

Kaye, S. M. and Thomson, P. On Augustine. In Wadsworth Philosophers Series. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth,


Matthews, G. B. Augustine. In Blackwell Great Minds. London: Blackwell, 2005.

Rist, J. M. Augustine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Scott, T. K. Augustine: His Thought in Context. New York: Paulist, 1995.

TeSelle, E. Augustine. In Abingdon Pillars of Theology. Nashville: Abington, 2006.

______. Augustine, the Theologian. New York: Herder and Herder, 1970.

Drecoll, V. H. (ed.), Augustin Handbuch. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007.

Fitzgerald, A. D. (ed.), Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.

Mayer C. von (ed.), Augustinus-Lexikon. Basel: Schwabe, 1986-.

Portalié, E. A Guide to the Thought of Saint Augustine. Trans. R. J. Bastian. London: Burns & Oates, 1960.

Stump, E. and Kretzmann, N. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Augustine. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 2001.

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