success stories

Posted March 14, 2003

Book: Saint Augustine’s Memory
Author: Garry Wills
Penguin Putnam, New York, pp. 224

Excerpt from Jacket:

Garry Wills, preeminent thinker and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, has long been fascinated by the work of one of the most rigorous and spiritual philosophers in history: Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo.

Removed by time and place, but not by spiritual relevance, Augustine’s Confessions continues to influence contemporary religious language, and thought. Reading with fresh, keen eyes, Wills has brought his superb gifts of analysis and insight to this ambitious and critically acclaimed series of translations of the original text. Here, in Saint Augustine’ Memory, the second volume, Wills interprets what he calls the hinge chapter in Augustine’s confessional opus and probes the central concept of the work.

In Memory, which corresponds to Book Ten of the Confessions, Augustine pursues his meditation on the self and his intimate testimony to God by moving from his life before baptism to his entrance into a holy life and embrace of the Trinity, the celebration of which will occupy him for the remaining chapters. Augustine contemplates this transition within his own memory, for to him, the “vast treasure store of memory” is where identity is forged, it is the present and future in which we continually relive original experience and refashion everything we remember. Most important, it is the place where we learn, face ourselves, and can forge a relationship with God. By confronting himself deeply through his own memories, Augustine seeks to fathom his own inner life, and emerges as a visionary.

Excerpt from Book:

Memory as Dynamic

The interior that Augustine describes is far from having the air of an office or warehouse. Its “internal scenery” fluctuates as eerily as the landscape Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo comic strips.

“The scope of memory is vast, my God, in some way scary, with its depths, its endless adaptabilities — yet what are they but my own mind, my self? Then what can that self be, my God? What is my makeup? A divided one, shifting, fierce in scale. In memory alone there are uncountable expanses, hallows, caverns uncountably filled with uncountable things of all types.

Table of Contents:

Part I. Introduction: The Book of Memory
1. Memory as dynamic
2. Memory as constructive
3. Memory as the self
4. Memory as guide to conduct
5. Memory as the basis of community
6. The pathos of memory
7. God in memory
8. Memory in Book Ten of The Testimony

Part II. The Testimony, Book Ten
I. Why should others overhear me?
II. The current search for God
III. The contents of memory

1. Representation [imagines]
2. Rules [percepta]
3. Axioms [rationes]
4. Reactions [affectiones]
5. Forgetting [oblivio]
6. Happiness [beata vita]
7. God [Deus]

IV. The flesh urges
1. The five senses: touch
2. The five senses: taste
3. The five senses: smell
4. The five senses: hearing
5. The five senses: sight

V. Transgressive knowledge [curiositas]

VI. Worldly designs

VII. Conclusion

Part III. Commentary

Part IV. Appendix

The Testimony, Book Eleven

Part V. List of Basic terms