Participation Type

Paper

Presentation #1 Title

Christian Audience Theory in Augustine’s De Catechizandis Rudibus

Presentation #1 Abstract

For rhetoricians interested in the development of homiletical theories and practices, the question of Augustine’s views of rhetoric is unavoidable. Despite a long debate over whether De Doctrina Christiana largely preserved and recommended classical rhetorics for Christian ends or effectively stripped rhetoric of its inventive power and focus on contingency, rhetoric scholars remain largely focused on De Doctrina. But De Doctrina is not the only or even most important site of Augustine’s rhetorical theory for homiletics: this paper argues for a reconsideration of Augustinian rhetoric, focusing on De Catechizandis Rudibus (c. 400 CE), a letter providing advice about catechizing would-be church members. This paper outlines De Catechizandis’ audience theory, which grew out of fourth-century doctrinal controversies. Specifically, I argue that Augustine’s audience theory draws from Cicero, but is significantly shaped by Augustine’s theological commitments during the Pelagian controversy; whereas in Greco-Roman rhetoric handbooks, audiences are analyzed via characteristics such as age and class, in De Catechizandis, audiences are considered in terms of sin and spiritual status. This study suggests the value of closer examination of the relationships among Christian anthropology, homiletics, and rhetorical theory.

At-A-Glance Bios- Presenter #1

Emily Murphy Cope is an assistant professor of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at York College of Pennsylvania. Her research interests center on rhetorical education and religious rhetorics, specifically the rhetorical education of American evangelicals.

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Christian Audience Theory in Augustine’s De Catechizandis Rudibus

For rhetoricians interested in the development of homiletical theories and practices, the question of Augustine’s views of rhetoric is unavoidable. Despite a long debate over whether De Doctrina Christiana largely preserved and recommended classical rhetorics for Christian ends or effectively stripped rhetoric of its inventive power and focus on contingency, rhetoric scholars remain largely focused on De Doctrina. But De Doctrina is not the only or even most important site of Augustine’s rhetorical theory for homiletics: this paper argues for a reconsideration of Augustinian rhetoric, focusing on De Catechizandis Rudibus (c. 400 CE), a letter providing advice about catechizing would-be church members. This paper outlines De Catechizandis’ audience theory, which grew out of fourth-century doctrinal controversies. Specifically, I argue that Augustine’s audience theory draws from Cicero, but is significantly shaped by Augustine’s theological commitments during the Pelagian controversy; whereas in Greco-Roman rhetoric handbooks, audiences are analyzed via characteristics such as age and class, in De Catechizandis, audiences are considered in terms of sin and spiritual status. This study suggests the value of closer examination of the relationships among Christian anthropology, homiletics, and rhetorical theory.