Synopses & Reviews
Augustine, sinner and saint, the celebrated theologian who served as bishop of ... Hippo from 396 C.E.
until his death in ... 430 C.E.
, is widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers in the western world. Augustine: A New Biography
tells the story of Augustine from the vantage point of Hippo, where he spent almost forty years as priest and bishop. During Augustine's post-Confessions years he became prominent as a churchman, politician, and writer, and James J. O'Donnell looks back at the events in the Confessions from this period in Augustine's life.
Much of Augustine's writing consists of sermons and letters rich in vivid primary material about the events of his time. Prosperous men converting to Christianity to get ahead, priests covering up their sexual and financial peccadilloes, generals playing coldly calculated games of Roman barbarian geopolitics -- these are the figures who stand out in Augustine's world and who populate O'Donnell's intriguing portrait set against a background of the battle over the future of Christianity. This book reveals much of what Augustine didn't confess.
"Other than by virtue of its recent publication, does this biography live up to its subtitle? Is it, in any substantial way, really 'new'? The short answer is an emphatic yes. O'Donnell's strategies of reading, his choice and presentation of topics, are admirably innovative. His broad knowledge of the culture and the politics of late antiquity, together with his intimate command of Augustine's own writings, produces a study of enormous range and depth....[H]e provides us with fresh ways to look at Augustine's commitments, his obsessions, and his blind spots, and to appreciate how all these shaped his life and, eventually, his times." Paula Fredriksen, the New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
The first biography to tell the whole story of St. Augustine picks up where the saint's "Confessions" left off.
About the Author
James J. O'Donnell is a distinguished classicist and has published widely on the history and culture of the late antiquities. A longtime professor of classics at the University of Pennsylvania, he has been provost of Georgetown University since 2002, is a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, and served as president of the American Philological Association. He is a graduate of Princeton and received his Ph.D. from Yale. He hails from New Mexico and travels the world in search of traces of the ancient past—and fine dark chocolate.