- Cultural Reformations
- List of Illustrations
- List of Abbreviations
- List of Contributors
- National Histories
- Literary Histories
- Enclosed Spaces
- The Eucharist
- The Saints
- Vernacular Theology
- When English Became Latin
- Heresy and Treason
- Naughty Printed Books
- Utopian Pleasure
- Poetic Fame
- London Books and London Readers
- The Reformation of the Household
- Active and Contemplative Lives
- Autobiography and the History of Reading
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.
Brian Cummings is Professor of English at the University of Sussex and was founding Director of the Centre for Early Modern Studies, 2004–2008. He is the author of The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace (2007), the editor, with James Simpson, of Cultural Reformations: Medieval and Renaissance in Literary History (2010), and has just completed an edition of The Book of Common Prayer for Oxford World's Classics. He is currently the holder of a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship for 2009–2012, researching his next book, The Confessions of Shakespeare.
Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.
If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.