Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Susan Griffith - Unwrapping the Word: Metaphor in the Augustinian Imagination

In his discussions of figurative language, Augustine distinguishes between sign and signified.  In his preaching, he hints at a deeper connection between the two categories.  At various points in his sermons, he refers to symbolic language and figures as the ‘wrappings’ (involucra) within which divine truth lies waiting to be ‘shaken out,’ like gems from a bag.  Yet he has a higher regard for those wrappings than might be apparent at first glance.  In Sermo 160, for example, he equates the wrappings with the crucified Christ—the humble, humiliated Saviour, too easily rejected and tossed aside.  This type of involucra thus represents the incarnational humility of God:  the accessible Son of Man.  The wrappings of figurative language represent the means by which divine truth is mediated.  The Incarnation transforms this process.  This paper will examine Augustine’s use of imagery of wrapping and unwrapping to describe his perception of the function of metaphor, particularly in his preaching.  

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