image of Augustine reading

Week 5: Augustinus: Confessiones.

Background | Background Quiz | Starting Assumptions | Resources | Extras
Vocabulary | Etymology | Grammar | Perseus Dictionary | Perseus Tool

Reading Overview | Reading Quiz: English
| Reading Quiz: Latin
Discussion Questions | Latin Composition | Weekly Checklist

Discussion Questions

Please choose 3 of the following questions to answer and send your response in an email to the instructor ( Each answer should be a solid paragraph (150-250 words for each English discussion question, 500-750 words for the overall assignment).

You should then post your answers to the class Discussion Board. You need to have sent the email and posted your answers by Friday midnight. At some point you will also be posting at least two replies to comments posted by the other students; you may do that at any time during the week, until Monday midnight.

1. Augustine and the pear tree. In his confession of the theft of the pears, Augustine seems to suffer from an enormous sense of sin that for some seems out of balance with the actual theft itself. Many scholars have argued that Augustine has modeled his story of the theft of the pears on the story of Adam and Eve and the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What are the similarities that you can find between these two stories? What are the differences between the spare story-telling style in the Bible and the confessional, psychological style used by Augustine in his Confessions? (please make sure you point to some specific Latin words and phrases that you read this week when answering this question)

2. Tolle lege, tolle lege. Augustine describes a voice that he heard telling him to "pick it up and read, pick it up and read". What is your impression of what is happening here, based on how Augustine describes the scene? Where did this voice come from? Where did Augustine believe that the voice came from? How did this voice play a key role in Augustine' conversion? If you were to tell somebody, in your own words, the story of this moment of Augustine's conversion, how would you describe it? (please make sure you point to some specific Latin words and phrases that you read this week when answering this question)

3. Augustine and the body. Augustine was a keen observer of the human body and of the human mind, and he builds an elaborate theory of mental and physical activity in terms of the Christian spiritual life. What can you learn about Augustine's attitude towards these terms in the selections you read this week: cor, anima, vultus, mens, caro, sanguis, pectus, lacrimae.

4. Augustine's style. Obviously, Augustine's style is very different from the Latin you read from the Vulgate for the past few weeks. Augustine is writing in the first person, but that is not the only difference: his style and use of language is very artful and highly rhetorical. This can make him more difficult to read, but once you grasp the meaning of a passage, you can see that the style of the presentation is very powerful, using word repetition, sound repetition, hyperbole and other forms of emphatic speech. Pick a passage from this week's reading that you thought was especially forceful and strong and analyze Augustine's choice of words and word order: how did he put these Latin sentences together? (please make sure you point to some specific Latin words and phrases that you read this week when answering this question)

[For Question #5, make sure you take a look at the Gozzoli fresco cycle, which illustrates the major scenes in Augustine's life; the websource link will take you to a brief description of each image. There are also some other images of Augustine available for you to look at.]

5. Favorite image for the week. Was there one of the images for this week which made a big impression on you? Provide a link to the webpage where that image is found, and give a detailed description of the image. What attracted your attention to this image? What are the details that stick in your mind? Do you think that image fits in well with the words of the text? What makes this image stand out from the other images that we looked at this week?

6. Reflecting on the week. Take a look back at what you wrote as your "starting assumptions" for this week, and look at the starting assumptions of the other students in the class. Did anything you read or studied this week make a big change in your starting assumptions? Did the assignment turn out to be pretty much what you expected? More interesting? Less interesting? What surprised you the most? If you were going to continue with this topic, what kind of research and reading would you want to do? What questions are still left unanswered?

7. Grammar revelations. Did you have a Latin grammar crisis this week? Did you get through it? What did you learn? Is there something you grasped this week that was never really clear to you before? A grammar epiphany? Is there something you are still really struggling with? What do you do when you are having trouble understanding a passage in Latin? Where do you look for help? In general, was the reading this week easier or harder than expected? What are you going to concentrate on in your Latin work in the coming week?

8. Website critique. Pick one of the websites that you visited this week as part of your work for this class (it could be a website about this week's topic, or a website for learning Latin). Provide a link to the site, and a brief desription of its contents. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this website? Who would find this website useful? What did you use this website for? What did you find there? Do you think you will visit this website again?

Modern Languages 4970 / MRS 4903: Medieval Latin. Spring 2003 Online Course at the University of Oklahoma. Visit for more info.
Laura Gibbs, University of Oklahoma - Information Technology © 2003. Last updated: December 29, 2002 7:12 PM