Augustine's Virgilian Retreat historicizes Augustine's habit of turning to ancient diction through the specific act of quotation, locating this habit in pedagogical and philosophical practices owed to his training. At Cassiciacum, where the goal was the development of a disciplina christiana, both pedagogy and philosophy support the articulation of a three-pronged method by which the pagan auctores represented by Virgil might be made safe for Christianity. This method for quoting the auctores as a means of recuperating them for Christian truth is put forth in the Contra Academicos, and practiced in the De beata vita. In the De doctrina christiana, the specifically bipolar notion of language put forth in the Soliloquia is applied to scripture and more fully developed as a practice beholden to a charitable reader. But there is nothing to separate the reading of Virgil pursued at Cassiciacum from Augustine's charitable reading of scripture, and the more fully developed readerly model articulated in the De doctrina christiana makes possible a recuperative reading of the Confessiones, where quotations from the auctores have been seen to be ornandi causa. On the contrary, the work pursued at Cassiciacum makes it clear that, far from disdaining or rejecting his ancient inheritance, Augustine made his first task at Cassiciacum the articulation of a method that he applies in many of his works in the years leading up to the Confessiones, where the diction of the auctores becomes a means of dramatizing fallenness and redemption as two sides of the same coin.
Augustine's Virgilian Retreat
Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Department of Publications
Reading the Auctores at Cassiciacum
Education & Reference