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Saint Augustine of Hippo


US Publisher:
Oxford University Press

UK Publisher:
Bloomsbury Publishing

From the Publisher:

St. Augustine was undoubtedly one of the great thinkers of the early church. Yet it has long been assumed – and not without reason – that the main lines of his thought have been more or less fixed since his death. That insofar as we should be aware of him in the twenty-first century, he is a figure described, if not circumscribed, by his times.

A major revisionist reading of Augustine’s life and thought, Saint Augustine of Hippo overturns this assumption. In a stimulating and provocative reinterpretation of Augustine’s ideas and their position in the Western intellectual tradition, Miles Hollingworth, though well versed in the latest scholarship, draws his inspiration largely from the actual narrative of Augustine’s life. By this means he reintroduces a cardinal but long-neglected fact to the center of Augustinian studies: that there is a direct line from Augustine’s own early experiences of life to his later commentaries on humanity. Augustine’s new Christianity did not – in blunt assaults of dogma and doctrine – obliterate what had gone before. Instead, it actually caught a subtle and reflective mind at the point when it was despairing of finding the truth. Christianity vindicated a disquiet that Augustine had been feeling all along: he felt that it alone had spoken to his serious rage about man, abandoned to the world and dislocated from all real understanding by haunting glimpses of the Divine.

A significant new treatment of Augustine on all fronts, this superb intellectual biography shines a bright light on a genuinely neglected element in his writings. In so doing it introduces us to Augustine as he emerges from the unique circumstances of his early life, struggling with ironies and inconsistencies that we might just find in our own lives as well.

Recommendation by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

This is a book whose style and feel are really worthy of Augustine himself — humane and probing, full of telling metaphor and seriousness about the strangeness of human experience. It is capable of doing for a new generation a great deal of what Peter Brown’s epochal biography did half a century ago.

Reviews & Publicity

“Hollingworth patiently explains Augustine to the modern reader, imagined as someone in whom a naïve historicism holds sway and in whom Augustine’s claims, such as the damnation of unbaptized infants and the value of virginity, are easily ridiculed. He does so by appeal to the human struggles of a great man. This type of presentation justifies the subtitle, ‘An Intellectual Biography’; it is a study that embeds a person’s ideas within their historical context. One can query this approach and raise issues concerning the historiography, but it brings readers closer to Augustine in all his complexity.” – Jason Freddi, The Heythrop Journal, 57:2 (2016), 376-377.

“The most striking thing is the author’s style which reminded me of Augustine’s view of Scripture as a many layered text and one containing both plain and more obscure passages. There is indeed some refreshing, straightforward narrative in this book when the events of Augustine’s life are related. It is, though, engagement with the denser and more metaphorical passages which is so rewarding and, in some cases, frankly, transformative…

Hollingworth shows why it is that Augustine has such broad appeal; not just because he finds him surprisingly humane and enlightened about our propensity to sin but because of the positive spin that he puts on the absence of God experience and the hope of meaning that his interpretation of the restless heart gives to those who suffer existential angst and radical doubt.

This is therefore a book for all seekers after the Truth: theist and atheist as well as all lovers of Augustine.” – Margaret Lane, Theology, 118(1) 2015, 68-69.