Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Obsessed with Augustine, 2 Aug 2011
This review is from: Late Antiquity: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I'm usually a fan of the VSI series, but for me this fails absolutely as an introduction to late antiquity because as I find it so dodgy on areas where I do have some knowledge, I can't trust the author on the areas which are new to me. It is also obsessed with Augustine. Once the author moves beyond Augustine, and perhaps neo-platonism, everything becomes rather fragile, and, occasionally, bizarre. Augustine was certainly a formidable figure, but almost everything, in a volume covering c250-750 CE, is referred back, at one point or another, and in a rather uncritical and decontextualised reading, to Augustine. For example the index reveals Augustine mentioned on 31 out of 116 pages, that is over a quarter of the book, and it is by far the largest entry in the index. By comparison the index indicates both Constantine and Constantinople are on 9 pages, and Justinian on 10. There are numerous lengthy quotes, but the reader is rarely made aware of the sources of the quotes. Tellingly the author's blurb only mentions previous editorial activity. There is no mention of authored work.
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Initial post: 24 Aug 2011 07:28:40 BDT
Last edited by the author on 24 Aug 2011 07:29:14 BDT
Do remember that many books in the VSI series don't try to give a complete overview of the period; rather they follow the very first VSI, Classics: A Very Short Introduction by Mary Beard and John Henderson in following a theme that introduces the subject. Gillian Clarke has used Augustine as a key to explore Late Antiquity. I do think you're being a bit harsh on her, though I certainly sympathize with your point of view on occasion (I hate Mary Beard's book, though love Catriona Kelly's Russian Literature: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions), though she is even more obsessed with Pushkin than Clarke is with Augustine!).
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