Friday, 1 May 2015

Marianne Sághy: Monica and the Ascetic Turn

Among its many literary, philosophical and theoretical innovations, Augustine's Confessions has become famous for including the very first biography of a woman: the life of his mother Monica. While Augustine's relations to women as well as his representations of women have been amply scrutinized in recent scholarship, Monica's function in the Confessions remains to be explored. This paper suggests that in Monica's biography Augustine offers a Bildungsroman, sketching the progress of his mother from an ambitiously overwhelming parent into an ascetic philosopher. Monica's is a „parallel life" in the Confessions: instead of a detached registration of the many conversions of his son, she becomes actively engaged in the life-changing transformations promoted by the ascetic revolution. I wish to argue that Monica will be the most perfect, most spiritual product of Augustine's ascetic turn: she will rise to the height of contemplation thanks to her utter estrangement from the world and to her strict rejection of the concerns of the flesh.

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