M.I.A. in the Blogosphere 

I must confess that I have been rather in lax in posting of late. So lax, in fact, that I have been listed as missing on the Pax Nortona blog. (Soon, I will also try to make time for another round of Bout Rames.) Briefly stated, my reason for not posting has been the need to devote more time to my continuing studies, and more time to my relationship with a wonderful girlfriend, of whom not enough can be said about how wonderful she is. Had I been just slightly more prepared return here, I would have thought more about what I might say, but as this is a lunchtime blog post, I figure I would talk about my class and our study of rhetoric and rhetorical figures.

We have finished not-Cicero's Rhetorica ad Herennium, blown past his contemporary Longinus, and are now talking discussing the theories of Saint Augustine, Geoffrey of Vinsauf, and Bede, completing our move from classical Greece and Rome to the European middle ages. It is interesting to think about how people have changed their conceptions of the use of language. Unlike the various physical sciences, where the ancients could be ignorant of the electro-chemical mechanism that drives nerve impulses, or not be aware of fractal geometry, they did have complete access and understanding of their own language. Consequently, they could develop as complete or accomplished theory about language as a contemporary person could. I would attribute the differences one sees between modern and ancient scholarship as arising primarily from culture or world view.

The book written by St. Augustine that we have read is called "On Christian Doctrine." For him, since the ultimate Truth has been revealed by God, it is not as necessary to discover truth through the operation of the rhetorical process of making a case, supporting it with evidence, and persuading an audience which of the various arguments that have been made are the best. To crudely essentialize his thesis, the function of understanding Rhetoric is to guide our understanding of the figures in Biblical scripture. After all, God is the greatest rhetorician, the most perfect artist. The other function would be to convert those who were not already Christian, which aligns a little more with the classical conception of rhetoric in that it involves persuasion a bit more. Of course, for St. Augustine, all of this can be over-ridden through the operation of the Holy Spirit. One can be learned in the Bible without knowing figures, or one can be moved to tell non-believers what will make them believe, by the Holy Spirit.

Obviously, religion was a big deal for St. Augustine. It would be nice to know more about him. Although he was made a saint by the church after his death, I wonder what his position was during the time in which he wrote. How would he convert a Roman who believed in the traditional Olympic gods? Did he have any authority over early Christians? I haven't read his more famous "Confessions," and I won't have time to. However, since I asked these very questions in our class this morning, the instructor suggested I should look them up and bring the answers back to the class next Monday. Normally, I would find that sort of research interesting, but it's hard not to think of it as homework on top of the homework I already have--homework that has been partially responsible for my MIA status in the blogosphere, homework which presses even now. Although, the first thing I'll be doing after this post is not homework but grading papers. I enjoy being a grad. student, but sometimes it can be a lot of work. Not that I'm complaining.

19 April 2004
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