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The Organization of Augustine's Psalmus contra Partem Donati

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Augustine of Hippo writes in the Retractations that he composed his Psalmus contra Partem Donati (393) as a retort to the rhymed "psalms" which Donatist congregations chanted, and that he had intended his own Psalm for chanting in his congregation. Instead of a lyrical hymn, however, Augustine composed a brilliant defense of the catholic understanding of the nature and mission of the Christian community in the world. The piece was meant for his congregation to sing according to individual capacity but was structured and delivered as a homily rather than a hymn. To produce his didactic, polemical sung sermon, Augustine employed not only the standard rhetorical elements like repetition, anaphora, and even prosopopoeia, which readers have recognized, he also used the organizational pattern of forensic oratory: exordium, narratio, refutatio, confirmatio, and peroratio, which has not been commented on. The form of the Psalmus also has no sources in Latin but it reflects the pattern of other verse sermons of the era, such as those abundantly represented in the Greek East.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Classics and Early Christian Literature, Ave Maria University, 5050 Ave Maria Blvd., Ave Maria, FL 34142, USA


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