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Salvation and Sin

Augustine, Langland, and Fourteenth-Century Theology

David Aers

Publication Year: 2009

In Salvation and Sin, David Aers continues his study of Christian theology in the later Middle Ages. Working at the nexus of theology and literature, he combines formidable theological learning with finely detailed and insightful close readings to explore a cluster of central issues in Christianity as addressed by Saint Augustine and by four fourteenth-century writers of exceptional power. Salvation and Sin explores various modes of displaying the mysterious relations between divine and human agency, together with different accounts of sin and its consequences. Theologies of grace and versions of Christian identity and community are its pervasive concerns. Augustine becomes a major interlocutor in this book: his vocabulary and grammar of divine and human agency are central to Aers' exploration of later writers and their works. After the opening chapter on Augustine, Aers turns to the exploration of these concerns in the work of two major theologians of fourteenth-century England, William of Ockham and Thomas Bradwardine. From their work, Aers moves to his central text, William Langland's Piers Plowman, a long multigeneric poem contributing profoundly to late medieval conversations concerning theology and ecclesiology. In Langland's poem, Aers finds a theology and ethics shaped by Christology where the poem's modes of writing are intrinsic to its doctrine. His thesis will revise the way in which this canonical text is read. Salvation and Sin concludes with a reading of Julian of Norwich's profound, compassionate, and widely admired theology, a reading which brings her Showings into conversation both with Langland and Augustine.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xv

The epigraph to this preface is a gripping moment in a work that is central to this book, a moment of conversion and summons into the Church. But Piers Plowman unfolds a more complicated account of the processes of conversion than the penitent Wille anticipates. He prays for the divine grace that alone can redeem time ...

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1 Augustinian Prelude: Conversion and Agency

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pp. 1-24

In this chapter I will consider some aspects of Augustine’s writing about conversion as a way of approaching his theology of agency, grace, sin, and salvation. This account will be developed in some later chapters (chapters 4 and 5), but it offers a framework for my explorations of fourteenth-century writing on forms ...

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2 Illustrating “Modern Theology”: Sin and Salvation in Ockham

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pp. 25-54

I will begin this brief account of Ockham on sin and salvation with his commentary on the first book of the Sentences.1 Ockham sets himself the following question: “utrum praeter Spiritum Sanctum necesse sit ponere caritatem absolutam creatam, animam formaliter informanten” ( III.440). He characteristically argues that ...

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3 Thomas Bradwardine: Reflections on De Causa Dei contra Pelagium et de Virtute Causarum

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pp. 55-82

In the previous chapter I discussed aspects of Ockham’s theologizing, which is representative of what was customarily called “modern” theology in the later Middle Ages.1 This customary classification seems to have encouraged some contemporary literary commentators to assume that a theology shaped by ...

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4 Remembering the Samaritan, Remembering Semyuief: Salvation and Sin in Piers Plowman (the C Version)

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pp. 83-132

I now turn to William Langland, someone whose theological investigations are pursued in English and in poetry during the second half of the fourteenth century. His great and lifelong work, Piers Plowman, participates in critical and illuminating conversation with many strands of its culture, but in this chapter ...

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5 Sin, Reconciliation, and Redemption: Augustine and Julian of Norwich

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pp. 133-172

Julian of Norwich is probably the most widely read and admired writer from fourteenth-century England. Not only is she read, taught, and written about in university departments of English, theology, and religion, but she also has a substantial following outside universities among Christians. ...


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pp. 173-230


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pp. 231-252


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pp. 253-284

E-ISBN-13: 9780268074630
E-ISBN-10: 0268074631
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268020330
Print-ISBN-10: 0268020337

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2009