The Rhetoric(s) of St Augustine's Confessions by James Farrell - A Review

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The Rhetoric(s) of St Augustine's Confessions by James Farrell - A Review Empty The Rhetoric(s) of St Augustine's Confessions by James Farrell - A Review

Post by Abby Thatcher on Fri Aug 17, 2018 11:53 pm

In his scholarly article for the University of New Hampshire, James M Farrell examines the ways in which rhetoric is used both within the text and within Augustine's life and career more broadly.

Farrell writes convincingly and thoroughly, providing a comprehensive account of rhetoric as a device as it was used and understood by both Augustine and his contemporaries. This becomes useful in situating the text within the framework of its time, and allows a modern audience to understand what Augustine is referring to when he speaks of turning away from rhetoric and towards God. 

Furthermore, Farrell spends considerable time examining Augustine's own work and writings on rhetoric as a discourse, which - when read alongside Confessions - provides the reader with useful historical and personal context in terms of the author himself. He goes on to examine the ways in which Confessions acts as a work of rhetoric itself, in the ways in which it tries to lay out an argument for Christianity and Christian conversion.

It is at this point that Farrell's article perhaps fails slightly. Writing himself with a clear Christian slant, Farrell assumes that Augustine's audience is entirely Christian, and fails to consider the ways in which Confessions might also operate as rhetoric to the non-believer. That Augustine goes into so much detail about his process of oscillation and internal struggle suggests that a broader audience might exist than those that have already converted. Farrell, at this point, seems to become distracted by his own faith, and displays less of the rigour and thoroughness of the preceding two sections.

Despite this failing, the article is both an enjoyable and fascinating read, and incredibly useful as a tool in understanding the ways in which rhetoric operates within the text, within Augustine's life, and within the world and society into which he originally wrote.

Abby Thatcher

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