Desire and Delight
A New Reading of Augustine's Confessions
Imprint: Wipf and Stock
144 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.29 in
- Published: August 2006
Augustine's Confessions is one of the most powerfully evocative autobiographies of the Christian West. It recounts the complex experiences through which this formative theologian came to renounce the compulsive sexual practice of his youth, reinvesting his attention and affection in a disciplined spirituality. The Confessions is explicitly about desire, longing, passion--physical and spiritual. It narrates Augustine's desperate attempt to get, and to keep, the greatest degree of pleasure. Even his conversion to Catholic Christianity is narrated as a seduction to continence, and the model of spirituality he articulated relied intimately and profoundly on his sexual experience. Desire and Delight explores the erotics of asceticism as described by Augustine, noticing the gendered foundation of his model of spiritual aspiration. Going beyond the tormented, self-conscious Augustine of conventual interpretations, one discovers in this book a man impelled by the eros that defines human beings as such: the pursuit up the scale of pleasures to the ultimate Pleasure. The pursuit is analyzed here in the text, context, and subtext, with such intellectual and emotional engagement that the Confessions becomes a text of pleasure.
"To say that Margaret Miles's 'New Reading of Augustine's Confessions' is 'better than the original' might seem an overstatement, but only just. It is a 'new' reading, not just a feminist reading, though that angle of course does not come through. It took me back to the Confessions (which I have not read for years) and will no doubt be used extensively by people alongside the bishop of Hippo himself as a kind of Virgil-and-Beatrice guide to that forerunner of the Divine Comedy."
Harvard Divinity School
"A gem of a book. This passionate rereading of the Confessions produces the very kind of pleasure it sets out to describe. Readers will want to return to Augustine, and to more of Margaret Miles, at the first opportunity."
--Elizabeth V. Spelman