EBBELER, J. V.,
Disciplining Christians. Correction and Community in Augustine's Letters.
Oxford University Press, 2012. 272p. Hardback. Series: Oxford Studies in Late Antiquity. The correspondence of Augustine belongs to those parts of his oeuvre that are still but rarely studied in their own right. In her important monograph, Jennifer Ebbeler focuses on those letters by which the bishop of Hippo tried to correct the thought and conduct of his addressees. With this type of letters, Ebbeler claims, Augustine transformed the traditional mores of epistolary exchange (7f): The letters exchanged between members of the educated elite were traditionally conceived of as a colloquium absentium amicorum, a conversation between friends over a distance. Never entirely private, they helped to establish and maintain elite networks. Harsh criticism and the attendant risk of publicly humiliating one's friends were to be avoided in these mutual admiration societies. Augustine, however, set out to conduct his correspondence in a different, Christian key: He wrote letters in order to rebuke and correct and he expected his correspondents to reply and acknowledge their error in written form. With his attempt at Christianizing the epistolary culture of late antiquity, Augustine was clearly asking for trouble. And - as Ebbeler's fine study shows in abundant detail - he did not ask in vain. (...) Ebbeler has written a bold and original monograph, full of fresh insights. It is warmly recommended to all those who are interested in Augustine and the literary culture of Late Antiquity.' (WINRICH LÖHR in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.02.45).