Confessions

A Rhetorical Paradox College

In Saint Augustine’s Confessions, Augustine displays remarkable rhetoric in his attempt to elucidate his relationship with God. Augustine’s prowess in prose suggests that language is an esteemed value for him and a vital tool that complements the reflection of his spiritual ascent; this is not the case, however, as Augustine’s view of rhetoric works antagonistically with his religious beliefs throughout his conversion. The stronger Augustine’s love for Christianity becomes, the greater his disdain for rhetoric as the “salesmanship” of empty words grows. As Augustine becomes increasingly captivated by Christian theology, he understands his education in language is a mere sign of material accomplishments separating him from God. Yet, despite his renunciation of his career in rhetoric, he still relies on the use of rhetoric as a crutch to evangelize. Throughout the Confessions, Augustine’s ambivalent relationship with rhetoric highlights its role as an explanatory device, a symbol of materialism, and ultimately an opportunity for religious growth.

The primary role of rhetoric in the Confessions is to elucidate Augustine’s preachings and philosophy to his audience. Augustine’s highly trained background in language and literature...

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