published on May 4, 2017
Body Language in Augustine’s Confessiones and De doctrina christiana
This article examines the role of bodily expressions within Augustine’s theory of signs and language. Philosophical reflection, rhetorical practice, and his own homiletical experience all led Augustine to consider the role played by the body in communicative acts. The invesitgation is sharpened via careful analysis of the rhetorical category of actio and close readings of particular passages that are relevant for Augustine’s understanding of the process of learning language in general and of learning the catechism in particular. The centrality of bodiy signs for the dramatization of the famous scene of Augustine’s conversion in the Milanese garden is also discussed: here, voice and physiognomy express the tragedy of the will, even as bodily signs (taken as natural signs) prove crucial to Augustine’s particular retelling of the story.