Paper 1: Augustine’s Confessions
Format: Times New Roman, 12 pt font, Double-spaced
Length: 3-4 pages, or 1000-1250 words.
Due Date: Sunday, 13 October, Midnight (TurnitIn)–please also drop a hard copy in my mailbox or bring one to class on Wednesday
Your mission: Write an argumentative paper on some aspect of Augustine’s Confessions that you find fascinating. You will need: 1) an introduction paragraph in which you articulate a question or topic, and an argument about that question or topic (a thesis) 2) at least four paragraphs, which each enact a close reading of the text that in turn exemplifies, helps demonstrate, or elaborates your thesis 3) a conclusion. You will, in addition, need to use quotations properly; this means integrating quotations grammatically into your sentences, giving them enough context so that they make sense, and always always always analyzing and interpreting anything you quote. See the Paper Writing Guide for this and further details, and also see here: How to Integrate Quotations–A Guide
Again, please see the Paper Writing Guide I’ve attached in my email for further details, but I will reiterate here that you do not need to have an argument before you start writing. Start by choosing some aspect of the text that particularly interests you (for example, Augustine’s relationship to gender and sexuality, the notion of “identity” in Augustine, how Augustine conceives of the “secular world” of Rome, or Augustine’s philosophy of the Will). Then, go through the text and choose pertinent/interesting/problematic quotations which cry out for further thinking and analysis. As you work through these quotations by writing about them, you will find an argument. You might, for example, find that Augustine’s rhetoric enacts his tortured relationship to sexuality in one or more specific ways (this is an argument!), or that again that Augustine’s peculiar use of metaphors reveals a buried contradiction in his philosophy of the Will. Go back and revise and restructure your paper in light of this argument. Incidentally this is how virtually all professional scholars of literature, who almost never have an argument “fixed” before they start writing, do it.
As I said in class, the goal of these essays is for you to learn the techniques of making arguments through literary analysis and close reading. The papers in this class are therefore best viewed as “exercises” meant to train you in the fundamentals of writing papers for literature classes.
In other classes, you will be asked to make arguments in other ways–by triangulating your opinions on a text with the opinions of other scholars, by contextualizing a work of literature historically to unlock its meanings, or by drawing on theory and philosophy to pose sophisticated questions to texts. These are all methods indispensable to any scholar, and even in “pure” close readings they are never really absent. Still, for this assignment, no outside research is required or even desired. Again, the goal here is for you to concentrate on the text itself. There is no work cited page required!
That said, if you are feeling very ambitious indeed, you could do some further primary reading–for example, you might look up the story of St. Anthony of the Desert, which Augustine cites in Liber 8 as inspiration for his conversion. You could also take a look at the Latin text, which you can easily find here: https://www.thelatinlibrary.com/august.html; the book and chapter breakdown is the same as in our book, which makes it fairly easy to follow along (with a dictionary handy of course). Do note though again that looking at the Latin or doing any outside reading is by no means required. Your grade on this assignment will be based above all on your close readings of Augustine’s Confessions.