Argues for his surprising receptivity to rhetoric
Temporality, Eternity, and Wisdom invites readers into the text of Augustine's most widely read book to consider if rhetoric conflicts with Christianity and if Christians should condemn and abandon its use. In the Confessions, Augustine seems to answer such questions with an emphatic yes. Through a comprehensive review of the classic text, Calvin L. Troup argues that Augustine does indeed reject the dominant rhetorical tradition of the late Roman Empire, known today as the Second Sophistic. Troup notes, however, that Augustine's rejection of that rhetoric dates from long before his conversion. Troup argues that when Augustine converts, the semiotic integration of time and eternity in the incarnate Christ motivates him to espouse a substantial, practical alternative to the Second Sophistic that is nonetheless a form of rhetoric—a Christian rhetoric.
Troup shows that rather than solving the problems of time and contingency, Augustine's embrace of the incarnation intensifies his preoccupation with their relationship, particularly in human discourse. Rhetoric comes to play a crucial integrative role in Augustine's well-documented pursuit of wisdom through discourse, thought, and life. Presenting the Confessions as a compelling source of starting points toward serious contemporary thinking, Troup maintains that the text raises that correspond in interesting ways to postmodern concerns. He connects these with the conscious development of rhetorical coordinates that Augustine believes is authorized by Christianity's central event and defining doctrine—the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Calvin L. Troup is an assistant professor of communication at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. He holds a B.A. from Geneva College and an M.S. and Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University.