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Augustine and poetic exegesis

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Chapter Summary

When one thinks of Augustine in connection with poetry and literary aesthetics, certain topics immediately come to mind, such as his attitudes towards classical literature and rhetoric, as well as their implications for Christian teaching, especially in the De doctrina christiana. In fact, these well-known topics have become commonplaces of Augustinian scholarship. As far as the aesthetic element in Christian literature is concerned, it has been firmly subordinated to didactic purposes in prose preaching and it has been reduced to a supposedly purely cognitive affair in exegesis. Augustine's precept in the De doctr. chr. (2.40.60-61) to take from pagan culture what is useful reads like an encouragement to practice allegorical interpretation of pagan literature and mythology in the manner of Lactantius.

Keywords: Augustine; Christian literature; De doctrina christiana; mythology; pagan allegorical interpretation; poetic exegesis



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