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Eloquent Wisdom: The Role of Rhetoric and Delight in the Theology of Saint Augustine of Hippo

CLAVIER, MARK,FORBES,MORETON (2011) Eloquent Wisdom: The Role of Rhetoric and Delight in the Theology of Saint Augustine of Hippo. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This study examines Augustine’s conception of the role of delight (delectatio) in the divine acts of creation and redemption. In the first part of the dissertation, I argue that Augustine, who was trained as a rhetor and taught rhetoric before his conversion, came to conceive of theology as the fulfilment of Cicero’s conviction that wisdom and eloquence ought to be united. His approach to Cicero’s rhetorical theory as found in De inventione, De oratore, and Orator shares many similarities with that of Late Antique rhetors (especially Marius Victorinus) in whose works the orator functions less as a statesman than as a physician of the soul. Accordingly, an orator’s role is not to sway the senate or deliberate in law courts (as in Cicero’s thought) but to inform and persuade people towards a fruitful return to the divine.

In the second part of the dissertation, I demonstrate how this approach influenced Augustine’s understanding of redemption. He conceives of God as Cicero’s ideal orator, in whom wisdom and eloquence are perfectly united. God engages in a rhetorical contest with the devil whom Augustine portrays in terms of the false orators in Cicero’s De inventione. The devil’s rhetoric comprises an illicit delight in actual sin and an inordinate delight in created goods, both of which exert their power over the human will through suggestion, delight and persuasion and result in a bondage to sin and death. By contrast, God ‘utters’ creation as a delightful song and opposes death’s nihilistic rhetoric by pouring his own delight into the hearts of the faithful; this delight persuades the will to move towards a joyful participation in the divine that is the happy life for which all people long. Ultimately, Augustine identifies this spiritual delight most closely with the Holy Spirit who functions as God’s eternal eloquence.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2011
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Mar 2011 12:35

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