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date: 27 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Autobiography as a concept asks deep questions about the periodization of history. It is also a scene of persistent rivalry in the construction of medieval and Renaissance models of history. Since Jakob Burckhardt’s Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien of 1860, there has been a war of ownership over the rise of human subjectivity. This article examines the debate over the history of autobiography by focusing on St. Augustine and his Confessions. It considers the exposure of the Confessions to different kinds of reading during the late medieval period, including that by Petrarch. It argues that the Confessions has been read more extensively in the twentieth century than ever before and that the Augustine of the “invention of subjectivity” is a writer of a specifically twentieth-century imagination. In this way it also assesses the impact of the Reformation on the Confessions.

Keywords: history, Renaissance, subjectivity, autobiography, St. Augustine, Confessions, reading, medieval period, Petrarch, Reformation

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