A seminar offered each summer on some aspect of the History of Theology with Professor James K.A. Smith, Visiting Distinguished Professor. Participants will explore one or more authors according to themes established by Professor Smith in his current research and writing. Theme for Summer 2015: What could a fifth-century North African bishop possibly have to say to us secular cosmopolitans? Why read Augustine in our "secular age?" Because, in fact, our secular age is already an Augustinian age. To tweak Faulkner just a bit, Augustine isn't dead; he isn't even past. We don't need to engage in acrobatics of "relevance" to cultivate interest in a fifth-century North African bishop because, in a sense, he's been with us this whole time: he just went underground. He is part of our cultural subconscious. And if you dig below the surface, you start to see him everywhere. You'll notice that Hannah Arendt, under the (official) direction of Karl Jaspers (and the unofficial, er, "tutelage" of Martin Heidegger) did her dissertation on Augustine. Or that a fellow north African and existentialist, Albert Camus, also wrote a dissertation on Augustine and Neoplatonism. The genealogy of an "existentialist" strain of 20th-century philosophy is quite directly Augustinian. In important ways, Heidegger's Being and Time was the stone dropped in the pond of our complacency. His analysis of our pathetic, derivative conformity to the chattering of "the they," coupled with his call for a resolute choice of a "project" that summons us to authenticity-these turn out to be Heidegger's translations of Augustine into the language of phenomenology. While Being and Time seemed to drop from the sky, sui generis, in 1927, by the 1990s, when Heidegger's early lectures from 1919-1923 began to be published in his Gesamtausgabe [Collected Works], we learned that his analysis was far from original. In fact, we can see all of Heidegger's categories emerge in an important lecture course on-you guessed it-Augustine's Confessions. This course will consider the theological significance of Augustine's enduring influence on philosophy (and culture) in the 20th and 21st century, exploring the direct Augustinian influence on contemporary theorists such as Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, Albert Camus, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francais Lyotard, Jean-Luc Marion, and John Milbank (and "Radical Orthodoxy" more broadly).
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