Author:Eric ZIOLKOWSKI, Helen H. P. Manson Professor of Bible, Lafayette College.
Acts of fleeing (or flight) and escape are a well-known topos in the lives of numerous religious leaders and religious peoples. This essay compares the ways this theme bears upon the accounts of two sojourns in a pair of classic writings by two extraordinarily prolific, dominant religious thinkers and writers from very different times and places in the Western Christian tradition: the Confessions written 397–401 by Augustine of Hippo, and Søren Kierkegaard’s Repetition, which appeared in Copenhagen under the pseudonym Constantin Constantius in 1843. In particular, I consider the young Augustine’s move from Thagaste to Carthage, and, later, his flight from Carthage to Rome, in juxtaposition with Constantius’ abrupt trip to and brief sojourn in Berlin—a barely disguised retelling of Kierkegaard’s own second trip from Copenhagen to Berlin in 1843, with echoes of his earlier flight to that city in 1841 after his sudden abandonment of his fiancée Regine Olsen. Through a comparison of several particular occurrences of the flight-escape topos in the Confessions and Repetition, as well as in Augustine’s and Kierkegaard’s actual lives, I aim to reveal a striking commonality—though one that is qualified by a crucial difference. The essay is concerned with the narrative techniques and strategies by which the two authors construe their fleeing and escapes within the contexts of the existential workings of what Augustine conceptualized as providence, and Kierkegaard/Constantius, as repetition.
Augustine; Kierkegaard; fleeing; escape; repetition
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