For those of you not familiar with the Augustine seminar, some of what I say may be telegraphic in brevity or surprising in form. To see the archives of the seminar, the syllabi, etc., take a world-wide web tour to http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/augustine.html or else a gopher tour to ccat.sas.upenn.edu, under "Course Materials" then "Classical Studies" then "Latin 566".
Good, so what about Augustine's influence? I agreed to do this seminar mainly because I wanted to hear what other people knew and thought, to bring out of the woodwork things we don't all know, or things we all know but don't realize we know. Let me briefly state my global interest.
Augustine had a powerful influence on the western middle ages. We all know that. Says so in all the books. What is our evidence for this belief? Well, it says so in all the books. Now this is a case of something that is universally known, true, and woefully under-documented. Scholarship has been so content to accept the obvious that it has failed to address questions of nature, extent, and mechanism. How did Aug. get his reputation? How did he work his influence? Once you ask those questions, all sorts of things pop up.
--Augustine wasn't anti-semitic enough to suit medieval prejudices; so ps.-Aug. works were cooked up to make him more acceptable; *those* works won their credit because they had Aug.'s name on them. It was *his* influence -- and it wasn't.
--Similarly, the first printed work of "Augustine" was in fact ps.-Aug. "de vita Christiana".
--In late medieval schooling, "Augustine" was best known from the excerpts from his teaching made by Prosper of Aquitaine to begin the process of making his views on predestination palatable in monastic circles in Gaul -- *this* was undoubtedly at that period the most ubiquitous form of Augustine's influence (see Paul Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy, for handy access to details)
--at the other end of the middle ages, we have the fifth and sixth century. After a generation of important work in which we've learned that the Pelagians weren't always quite what Aug. made them out to be, now Tom Smith of Loyola (New Orleans) has written an important book on Faustus of Riez, who is in all the books as a "semi-Pelagian", but in which Smith shows that in fact F. was much closer to Augustine and that the debate in Gaul was far more collaborative and constructive than early moderns, expecting controversy and opposition, might have expected. I had said something like that, only much less clearly and well, in an article on "Salvian and Augustine" in Augustinian Studies ten years ago.
--in the sixth century, Cassiodorus found Pelagius' commentary on Paul and thought it valuable but flawed by his heresy, and so sat down to "purge the poison" of it. We know he got through Romans on his own, then left the rest to be cleaned up by his disciples at Vivarium. Now David Johnson, in a doctoral thesis at Princeton Theological Seminary, has done a careful study of the results. It turns out that, after all, knowing what Augustine thought about Paul is a tricky question; looking at Pelagius' commentary and figuring out which parts are penally different from Augustine is hard, but they made a go at it, mainly striking out the most obviously "Pelagian" slogans and inserting the odd quotation from Augustine here and there; but the underlying "anthropology" and all the assumptions of the commentary are thoroughly Pelagian, but Cassiodorus and even more his disciples missed all that and left it in. The result is that Pelagius' own commentary on Paul was given the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval (the inserted quotations from Augustine alone were enough to do that) and sent off in the middle ages to be a purportedly anti-Pelagian Paul when in fact they were just the opposite.
My point is this: once asked in a rigorous scholarly way, the "influence" of "Augustine" turns into a veritable labyrinth of historical and cultural questions. Under the sign of the Georgetown Labyrinth, I'd like to see us explore some of those byways for the next month or so, and I propose to proceed in a very simple way: by asking readers to talk back to the list. Simple question: tell us where you've run in to Augustine lately. Don't be shy, and don't assume that others will all know of one or another familiar chestnut. The value of this discussion will be if we all go rummage around in our memories and bring out *all* the Augustine we've run into lately (let's put a lower chronological limit on it of the Council of Trent), and then all listen hard for a pattern (or patterns, if any) to emerge. A net seminar like this can be a fruitful kind of collaborative bricolage. I've given you a few rummaged bits of my own here. Where have you seen Augustine lately? What's he been up to? Were friends or foes doing anything odd with him?
Classics, U. of Penn
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