The History of Literature #44 – The Confessions of St. Augustine

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The journey continues! Host Jacke Wilson takes a look at one of the deepest thinkers in the Western tradition, St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.), and the literary form he pioneered and perfected. Who was Augustine? What led him to produce one of the most influential books ever written? And what can we gain from reading The Confessions today? In this first of a two-part episode, Jacke considers Augustine’s relationship to God, the impact of his studies in rhetoric on his attempts to write an autobiography, and what the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would have made of Augustine’s description of tragedy.

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Works Discussed:

The Confessions of St. Augustine (tr. Maria Boulding)

The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche

Show Notes: 

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Virtutes Vocis” and “Virtutes Instrumenti” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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Augustine and the Art of Not Yet

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“I had been putting off the moment when by spurning earthly happiness I would clear space in my life to search for wisdom; yet even to seek it, let alone find it, would have been more rewarding than discovery of treasure or possession of all the world’s kingdoms, or having every bodily pleasure at my beck and call. I had been extremely miserable in adolescence, miserable from its very onset, and as I prayed to you for the gift of chastity I had even pleaded, “Grant me chastity and self-control, but please not yet.”

Good news! Tomorrow we’ll release our long-awaited podcast episode on St. Augustine and his amazing book, The Confessions. You can prepare by revisiting our episode on The New Testament or our episodes on Greek tragedy.

Greek Tragedy? Yes indeed. It turns out that St. Augustine was a great chronicler of tragedy. He went to see them, wept and mourned, and then agonized over what it all meant.

I have to say, I recalled reading Augustine with interest many years ago, but this time I was simply blown away. His intellectual honesty, his precision in describing his struggle, his humor, his humility…it’s a great, great book.

A fun episode – make sure you subscribe on iTunes (or Stitcher) so you don’t miss a thing!

The History of Literature Episode 41: Reading The New Testament as Literature (with Professor Kyle Keefer)

Charles Dickens called the New Testament “the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world.” Thomas Paine complained that it was a story “most wretchedly told,” and argued that anyone who could tell a story about a ghost or even just a man walking around could have written it better. What are the New Testament’s literary qualities? What can we gain from studying the New Testament as a literary work? Professor Kyle Keefer, author of The New Testament as Literature – A Very Short Introduction, joins host Jacke Wilson to discuss what it means to read the New Testament as literature.

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A Thank You from Jacke…

…to the wonderful listener G, who left me this message:

“…I loved how you managed to make a link between ancient greek authors and a modern philosopher. That’s why I enjoy your podcast so much: you never know which way the episode will go. There’s something about the way you talk about books that I really enjoy.”

Thank you! That’s exactly what I’m hoping will resonate with people. A little bit of literature or philosophy, a few unexpected turns, and above all, sharing some ideas about the greatest books ever written.

You can find Episode 6: Greek Tragedy (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripedes), by following these links:

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Restless Mind Show Episode 9 – Nietzsche’s Children

Continuing the discussion of Greek tragedy, Jacke takes a look at Nietzsche and the impact he has on eager young philosophers. This episode includes the Jacke Wilson story “My Roommate’s Books” from the History of Jacke in 100 Objects series.

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History of Literature Episode 6 – Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides

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Author Jacke Wilson examines the works of three great Greek tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides – and attempts to solve the mystery of why Friedrich Nietzsche admired two of the three and despised the other.

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Sneak Preview: Nietzsche, Francis Ford Coppola, and the Greeks

Thanks to all of you who made last week the biggest one yet in the brief life of The History of Literature podcast. I’m not sure if Burt Reynolds or Aristotle deserves more credit. (Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve written a sentence that no one has ever, ever written? I just had that feeling.)

This week looks like a good one as well! Tomorrow, we’ll continue our journey through Greek tragedy by looking more closely at the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles (again), and Euripides. This time we’ll use the lens of the young Friedrich Nietzsche, writing his first book in his burgeoning philosopher/poet/madman way.

The trip through Nietzsche, Wagner, and the tragedians made me think of this unbelievably good sequence from Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now:

I don’t think Nietzsche would think much of most of our culture – but for what it’s worth, I do think he would have admired that sequence.

Onward and upward!

Quick Links:

 

History of Literature Episode 2 – The Hebrew Bible

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Examining the literary qualities of the most successful religious text in the history of the world.

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