Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Christian Tornau: Why and How to Write a Commentary on Augustine’s Letters. The example of the correspondence with Longinianus (ep. 233-235)

Augustine’s epistolary exchange with Longinianus (ep. 233 and 235 from Augustine,ep. 234 from Longinianus) is perhaps the most enigmatic piece among his letters to pagan intellectuals. The date and identity of Longinianus is controversial; and though he speaks of himself as a priest and famously calls himself paganus, it is far from clear what exactly this amounts to. More importantly, the communication is carried on in the indirect manner typical for the majority of late-antique letters, which makes it difficult to determine whether the priest’s exact attitude to the bishop’s attempts to convert him to Christianity. Biblical and classical allusions are almost inextricably intertwined, and their communicative purpose is not always easy to discover.
These and related issues, which mutatis mutandis occur in most of Augustine’s letters, are, it will be argued, best dealt with by means of a commentary that combines historical and prosopographical methods with an analyses of the partners’ dialectical and rhetorical strategies and pays sufficient attention to the peculiarities of late-antique epistolography. Taking the Longinianus correspondence as a test case, a method of commenting on an Augustinian epistolary exchange will be developed that will be applicable to otherLetters as well.

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