Memories, Dreams, Confessions: Writing the Inner Life

In this course students will read two classics of spiritual autobiography, Augustine of Hippo’s ‘Confessions’ and Carl Jung’s ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’. Augustine was a rebel against authority and a seeker after esoteric knowledge in his youth, but ultimately became a religious authority figure for his own time and for subsequent ages. Jung began his career within the psychiatric establishment and rebelled against it in his 40s, thereafter becoming a countercultural figure. Jung was a mythographer who taught us about the language of dreams and the unconscious, while Augustine was a philosopher-theologian and one of the first people to turn his inner life into a compelling literary narrative. Using different vocabularies, they give us insight into the forces beyond our command by which we are lived as human beings. In the process they explore themes of time and memory, death and transcendence, and the fact that wisdom can be modelled for us by those who have attained it, but never taught according to a formula, because each individual’s journey is unique and unrepeatable.

John Tangney:

In the late 1990s John Tangney worked as an education officer with the James Joyce Cultural Centre in Dublin, helping to develop an education program for high school students and university undergraduates. This work inspired him to go to Trinity College, Dublin, to study literature following which, in 2001/2002, he spent some time teaching English in Japan. He did his doctoral work in the English Department at Duke University between 2003 and 2009. The dissertation was called The End of the Age of Miracles: Substance and Accident in the English Renaissance and it dealt with the transvaluation of medieval values in early modernity, focussing particularly on writers from the 1590s and early 1600s including Shakespeare, Nashe, Spenser, and the Jacobean dramatists. After graduation John worked at NTU, Singapore, from 2009 to 2015, teaching courses on Shakespeare, Renaissance Literature, Classical Literature and the History of Literary Theory. While there he was a co-organiser of an international conference on ‘The Contemporary’ in 2011 and served as Graduate Studies Coordinator. In 2015, he returned to Ireland where he spent time doing a coding bootcamp, and was involved in the launch of a new cultural magazine based around rare and unusual books, called The Time Traveller. At SAS he is a member of the Cultures of Rationality research group, and teaches Great Books in the core curriculum, as well as the electives ‘Memories, Dreams, Confessions’: Writing the Inner Life and ‘An Imperial Affliction’: Depression in Literature. He also runs The Intellectual Diversity Podcast.