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Feminist Interpretations of Augustine

Edited by Judith Chelius Stark

Publication Year: 2007

Since the establishment of Christianity in the West as a major religious tradition, Augustine (354–430 C.E.) has been considered a principal architect of the ways philosophy can be used for reasoning about faith. In particular, Augustine effected the joining of Platonism with Christian belief for the Middle Ages and beyond. The results of his enterprise continue to be felt, especially with regard to the contested topics of human embodiment, sexuality, and the nature and roles of women. As a result, few thinkers have been as problematic for feminists as he has been. He is the thinker that a number of feminists love to hate. What do feminist thinkers make of this problematic legacy? These lively essays address that question and provide thoughtful arguments for the value of engaging Augustine’s ideas and texts anew by using the well-established methodologies that feminists have developed over the last thirty years. Augustine and his legacy have much to answer for, but these essays show that the body of his work also has much to offer as feminists explore, challenge, and reframe his thinking while forging new paradigms for construing gender, power, and notions of divinity.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Series: Re-Reading the Canon


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

Take into your hands any history of philosophy text. You will find compiled therein the ‘‘classics’’ of modern philosophy. Since these texts are often designed for use in undergraduate classes, the editor is likely to offer an introduction in which the reader is informed that these selections represent the perennial questions of philosophy. ...

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pp. 1-46

Augustine is one of the first writers to speak directly to us across the centuries from the far reaches of the late Roman Empire. We hear his voice especially through his great work the Confessions, a text unique in the literature of the ancient world. Ostensibly, Augustine addressed this work to God, ...

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1 Augustine: Sexuality, Gender, and Women

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pp. 47-68

There are few lives of any historical person that have been so often recounted, analyzed, and psychoanalyzed as that of Augustine. This is largely the result of his work the Confessions, as well as of the accurate perception that much of his teaching on sexuality, sin, grace, and predestination ...

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2 Monica: The Feminine Face of Christ

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pp. 69-96

In ‘‘Beyond Mary and Eve,’’ Margaret Maxey provocatively suggests, ‘‘The theological task of ‘liberating’ women would get underway primarily by rejecting and counteracting an Augustinian inheritance.’’1 Many dimensions of Augustine’s thought suggest that feminists would do well to follow Maxey’s advice.2 ...

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3 Augustine’s Rhetoric of the Feminine in the Confessions: Woman as Mother, Woman as Other

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pp. 97-118

In his Confessions, Saint Augustine refers to the unremembered beginning of his life and its unknown ending in images that parallel each other suggestively. In describing his beginning he says, ‘‘I was given the comfort of woman’s milk. But neither my mother nor my nurses filled their breasts of their own accord, ...

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4 Confessing Monica

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pp. 119-146

It is difficult to force Augustine to confess his mother fixation, partly because he is already so eager to do so. He is, after all, the man who virtually invented the closet, so that he could come out of its hollowed, hallowed interiority again and again, making a subject of his private perversions, ...

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5 O Mother, Where Art Thou? In Search of Saint Monnica

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pp. 147-166

Current feminist examinations of the hagiographies of notable women observe that women serve as the vehicles for delivering male-inspired and male-written messages. In one respect, that is inevitable, since men are writing about women and praising qualities that men find valuable. ...

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6 Not Nameless but Unnamed: The Woman Torn from Augustine’s Side

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pp. 167-188

In his Confessions, Augustine famously grieved for a woman ‘‘torn from his side’’ by what he describes as his mother’s desire that he make an advantageous marriage. She wanted him to marry an heiress, he wrote, ‘‘so that expense would be no burden.’’The notoriously desirous Augustine represents himself ...

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7 Augustine’s Letters to Women

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pp. 189-202

Augustine wrote several letters to women, these making up only a small part of his epistolary corpus. They differ little, if at all, in range of content and tone from those written to men. There are letters of condolence, letters of advice, letters on the religious life, and letters (the majority) covering ...

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8 De cura feminarum: Augustine the Bishop, North African Women, and the Development of a Theology of Female Nature

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pp. 203-214

Because of his enormous profile in the development ofWestern Christian thought, Augustine has often been evaluated and judged more by his legacy, that is, how he has been received, than by what he actually said and did.1 Of course, in some ways this is his own fault, since, even in his own lifetime, ...

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9 Augustine on Women: In God’s Image, but Less So

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pp. 215-242

Does Augustine consider that women, as well as men, are made in the image of God? The number and variety of articles that deal with this vexed and difficult question have increased greatly over the past thirty years. Any consideration of this topic must at the outset acknowledge the very early ...

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10 To Remember Self, to Remember God: Augustine on Sexuality, Relationality, and the Trinity

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pp. 243-280

The general emphasis on relationality and experience in feminist theology has engendered a thorough examination of Christian teachings on two seemingly unrelated topics in recent years: the Trinity and sexuality. In the former instance, Christian feminist theologians have repeatedly turned to the doctrine of God, ...

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11 The Evanescence of Masculinity: Deferral in Saint Augustine’s Confessions and Some Thoughts on Its Bearing on the Sex/Gender Debate

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pp. 281-300

Over the past twenty years, a substantial amount of feminist debate has centered around what has become known as the sex/gender distinction— a distinction originally employed to assert that what is regarded as conventional feminine behavior is not the inevitable result of being a ‘‘biological’’ woman, ...

Poem: To Aurelius Augustine from the Mother of His Son

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pp. 301-302

Select Bibliography

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pp. 303-312


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pp. 313-316


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pp. 317-326

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271053103
E-ISBN-10: 0271053100
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271032580
Print-ISBN-10: 0271032588

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Re-Reading the Canon