Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Reidar Aasgaard - “What point is there for me in other people hearing my confessions?” Prayer and Christian Identity in Augustine’s Confessiones

As a literary work from Antiquity, the Confessiones of Augustine is in several ways special. One unique feature is its form: the whole work is formulated as a prayer, in which Augustine describes his earlier life and present state in the face of God. At the same time, however, the Confessiones is also very much directed at human beings, both himself and others: the prayer does not take place in privacy but in public, in the presence of an (implied) audience. Thus, prayer in the Confessiones does not only mean conversing with God but also with humans.

The shaping of identity is at the heart of the Confessiones: in the laying open of his own life (as he sees it), Augustine presents a prototype and model for Christian faith and living. His autobiography very much gives expression to an intensely ongoing process identity construction within Christianity at the beginning of the 5th century. In this, the form of the Confessiones serves as a central means for Augustine in shaping such a Christian identity. The way he in his praying describes and positions himself vis-à-vis his conversation partners, i.e. God, himself and others, may tell us much about what such an identity would look like for Augustine.

The presentation will focus on central texts in which Augustine discusses or touches on the role of prayer in relation to his conversation partners (e.g. Conf. 10.1-5). The paper is part of an international project on prayer and identity in Early Christianity.

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