Document Type





theology, Augustine, early Christianity


Christianity | Religion


Might attending to the texture of bodies in Augustine’s theology of marriage open up new interpretive possibilities? Eve Kosofky Sedgwick and Patricia Cox Miller give theoretical cues, Danuta Shanzer philological ones, for a dialogical reading of On the Good of Marriage and Confessions that seeks to defamiliarize, complicate, and broaden—in several senses, to queer—traditional interpretations of Augustinian marital theology. Shame and vulnerability, fear and desire, pain and pleasure, are all surfaced, as Augustine depicts marital figures that are shot through with ambivalence—open and torn, cut and bleeding, both cleaving to one another and ripped apart. Ultimately, he attempts to turn desires that won’t quite align as they should toward textual pleasures. If Christ attends, caresses, and enflames through “the mesh of flesh” (Confessions 13.15.18 [CCL 27:252]), as he puts it, Augustine reaches back toward both flesh and divinity through the mesh of text. Seduction may thereby be drawn toward the border where time touches eternity—where a libidinous love evokes the reciprocal gift of fidelity without demanding it, exceeds itself in fecundity without commodifying its own productivity, and, finally, embracing all by grasping at nothing, touches on a joy that knows no end. Fides— proles—sacramentum. At such a barely imaginable limit-point, marriage has become so expansive—an ever-exceeding love set into the very weave of the cosmos—that he need no longer resist its lure.

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Copyright © The Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Journal of Early Christian Studies, Volume 19, Issue 1, Spring 2011, pp. 1-20.

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