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Desire and Delight: A New Reading of Augustine's 'Confessions.'(Brief Article)

Desire and Delight: A New Reading of Augustine's Confessions. By Margaret R. Miles. New York: Crossroad, 1992. Pp. 144. $15.95.

Miles did her doctoral dissertation some fifteen years ago on the meaning and value of the human body in Augustine and is now professor of historical theology at Harvard University. This fascinating book, the product of her leisurely rereading of the Confessions in the idyllic setting of the island of Paros, offers us an interpretation of the Confessions as a text of pleasure.

In the first chapter, "The Search for Pleasure," she follows Augustine's inspection of pleasure as organizing the narrative of his early life and claims that the Confessions deconstructs through narrative the ordinary meaning of pleasure, while offering a reconstruction of true pleasure. The second chapter focuses upon what Augustine viewed as a pleasurable text. Miles argues that Augustine regarded the reading of a text as capable of transforming one's life and that the Confessions was a text intended to transform the lives of others.

The third chapter, "The Erotic Text," considers Augustine's sexual experience as it affected his life and authorship. Miles argues that male sexuality is the dominant image in his construction of pleasure and attempts a gendered reading of the Confessions which points out a lot more male sexual imagery than one has previously suspected. Her final chapter, "Textual Harassment," views the final books of the work as continued autobiography in which Augustine somewhat fails to pleasure his readers.

I checked several dozen passages where I would enjoy arguing with Miles about her interpretation of Augustine's classic text, but there is no denying that her volume stirs in one the desire to sit down and read the Confessions again and afresh.

Roland J. Teske, S.J.

Marquette University.
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Author:Teske, Roland J.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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