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Understanding the Medieval Meditative Ascent

Augustine, Anselm, Boethius and Dante

Robert McMahon

Publication Year: 2011

Understanding the Medieval Meditative Ascent uses literary analysis to discover new philosophical meanings in these works. Clearly written in nontechnical language, its account of their literary structures and of the hidden meanings they generate will inform nonspecialist and specialist alike.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press


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Title Page, Copyright PAge

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xiv

The works treated in these pages—Augustine’s Confessions, Anselm’s Proslogion, Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy, and Dante’s Commedia—are not the preserve of scholars in any single field. They are studied and taught by historians, philosophers, and theologians, as well as by specialists in literature and religious studies. …

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1. The Meditative Ascent: Paradigm and Principles Ascent and Return

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pp. 1-63

The meditative ascent enacts an interior journey: the return of the soul in this life to God, the Origin and End of all things. It is based on the exitus-reditus scheme of Christian-Platonism: just as all things come forth (exitus) from God, so do all things, and especially human beings, return (reditus) to him. …

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2. The Unity of Meditative Structure and Texture in Augustine’s Confessions

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pp. 64-108

Augustine’s Confessions is not only the earliest work treated in this book but also the longest, the richest, and the most complex. The later works derive from it, because each looks back to the Confessions for one or more of its fundamental literary principles. …

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3. A Moving Viewpoint: Augustine’s Meditative Philosophy in the Confessions

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pp. 109-158

The previous chapter explored the deep coherence of Augustine’s Confessions, its unity of texture and structure. This unity lies beyond the ken of Augustine the narrator, for he never remarks on it. According to the premise of the work’s self-presentation, its unity emerges through the dynamism of the narrator’s dialogue with God, …

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4. Meditative Movement in Anselm’s Proslogion

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pp. 159-210

In his preface to the Proslogion, Anselm describes the genesis of the work. After writing the Monologion, “a complex sequence of arguments,” Anselm sought to discover “a single argument” sufficient to show “that God truly is ... and the other things we believe concerning the divine substance” (S 93). …

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5. Recollecting Oneself: Meditative Movement in The Consolation of Philosophy

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pp. 211-266

Unlike the Confessions and the Proslogion, which present themselves as ascents unfolding in the present, Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy presents itself as the recollection of a discursive journey that occurred in the past.1 According to its fiction, Philosophy, a mysterious female figure, appeared to Boethius in prison …


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pp. 267-280


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pp. 281-284

E-ISBN-13: 9780813216287
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813214375

Page Count: 301
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 646786282
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Understanding the Medieval Meditative Ascent

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Subject Headings

  • Devotional literature -- History and criticism.
  • Augustine, Saint, Bishop of Hippo. Confessiones.
  • Anselm, Saint, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1033-1109. Proslogion.
  • Boethius, d. 524. De consolatione philosophiae.
  • Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321. Divina commedia.
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