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Augustine: The Scattered and Gathered Self [Paperback]

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Item Number 136351  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   278
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 6.25" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   1.15 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 31, 1999
Publisher   Chalice Press
ISBN  0827200242  
EAN  9780827200241  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Dixon constructs a psychoanalytic interpretation of Augustine's life in the context of his own time, uncovering a recurrent theme in his life of tension between "the many and the one" and fulfillment through union with God.

Buy Augustine: The Scattered and Gathered Self by Sandra Lee Dixon from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780827200241 & 0827200242

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Tolle Lege  Apr 23, 2003
In this book we are given a psychobiographical treatment of Augustine's life and work, with a particular emphasis on his early period. The book draws in a good deal of detail and theory about the society surrounding Augustine in the fourth century, and looks at some of the issues with the way moderns approach the investigation of Augustine the man and Augustine the later inventions.

In the first chapter, Dixon takes up the issue of how Augustine is to be viewed.

Even if one disagrees with him, rejects his ideas, or positively excoriates him, one has to admit that he described human life powerfully and inspired many readers with the hope for the participation of humans in the love of God.

Dixon points out that, going beyond the field of religion and history, Augustine's influence extends to other fields in ways subtle and gross. Citing influences through William James and Erik Erikson, she points out that, the influence of Augustine might be lurking in the thought of any scholar of psychology.

She uses the image of a water buffalo listening to a symphony, an old Javanese image, to ask what, in fact, do we hear when we listen? Not all hearings are equal.

She states, I will use the metaphor of the symphony, and its contrast to the tuneless water buffalo, as a reminder of the challenge to bring together hermeneutics, historical studies, literary considerations, and social sciences in the effort to understand how Augustine's Christianity helped him discover and compose, from elements of culture and experience, a meaningful view of his crowded and disparate life.

Dixon looks at society, culture and the person of Augustine as the broad categories of examination. Drawing on the tools of sociology, psychological anthropology and cultural psychology, Augustine is laid bare from the inside out. But this is not meant to be a methodological straightjacket, either.

The categories society, culture and person were always intended as tools of analysis, not definitions of fixed truths.

The primary lens through which this book treats Augustine is through the pivotal work 'Confessions'. A work unique for its time and the first of its kind, the 'Confessions' of Augustine represent in varying degrees the first modern autobiography, the first psychological examination of an individual, and a cutting-edge literary work that helped define both an end to the classical period and the beginnings of medieval thought strands.

The second chapter examines the ideas of person and world, which are in late antiquity quite different from modern ideas. The one and the many are vastly different; the idea of individual liberties and freedoms, the idea of personal ambition and social mobility are foreign concepts for the most part. Only the loftiest of persons could entertain ambitions, and rare indeed was the lower/working class individual who achieved or even aspired to much more. Dixon explores the various modern psychological explanations of how individuals achieve identity, comparing this with the data found in the 'Confessions'. She also draws in some theory of symbolic meaning a la Ricouer to explore hidden and intended meanings throughout his text and society.

The remaining primary chapters deal with Augustine's life period by period, exploring the ideas of culture, society and person in Augustine's childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. These were the formative years for Augustine, and while Augustine's life and product certainly continued to mature throughout his years, he had a remarkable consistency of reflection and consideration of his early influences, many of which he continually held before himself, perhaps out of guilt, perhaps out of a sense of regret, perhaps even as a reminder of what he needed to guard against in his future. The information contained in these chapters is indeed interesting, rather unique in approach among Augustinian scholarship. While bits and pieces are certainly used elsewhere, and are adequately documented and referenced, the collection as a whole is worthwhile.

Perhaps my highest praise goes to the final chapter, 'Reflections on Hearing Music in Life'. Dixon does a good job at tying the strands together and presenting, once again drawing on the metaphor of the water buffalo and the symphony, what scholars and other interested readers should be listening for in the works of Augustine, and those who write about him.

She wrote, One of the most challenging questions about Augustine, given my interpretation of his life and thought, asks whether he remained bound by his childhood experiences and his infantile unconscious dynamics, or whether he moved on to a mature adult redirection of them, perhaps even a transcendence of them.

Dixon finally asks why we need to set up the dichotomy of child versus adulthood that early psychological theory puts forward. Do any of us escape our early influences? Is this even desirable? Quoting Peter Brown's authoritative biographical work on Augustine, that the Confessions are 'the self-portrait of a convalescent', Dixon agrees that there is some element of self-healing going on here, and that in this process, Augustine shows us a very real element of the human condition.

'Having been taught by Augustine, we could do a great deal more for each other'. We could act on love for our neighbours, offer care for their bodies and instruction for their minds, and discover joy in their apprehensions of music in their lives. W could apply our conscious efforts to hearing the music of our own lives, even if we never perceive its unconscious sources. We might even discover in these efforts an approach to God in the company and service of our neighbours: human, animal, inanimate, and those already hallowed beyond this earthly life.

The book contains a worthwhile bibliography of primary and secondary sources (13 pages of such), extensive endnotes (42 pages for a 220-page text), and a good index. It is produced by the Chalice Press, the publishing arm of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), who are the denomination that founded my seminary. The author, Sandra Lee Dixon, is associate professor of religious studies at the University of Denver.

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