Augustine of Hippo: A Controversial Life


Born to a Berber mother and a Roman father, Augustine grew up in North Africa in the latter part of the 4th century. His words and ideas, however, influenced not only the development of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire in his era and beyond, but also fields as diverse as semiotics and music, and indeed many of the assumptions and ideas in the world we live in today.

From his early philosophical works, through his Confessions--one of the first texts to capture the journey of the interior life--to his later polemical treatises, Augustine wrote with captivating vividness and astonishing intellectual capacity. In order to get as well-rounded a picture of him as possible, each week will focus on a different role he filled or a controversy he waded into. We will immerse ourselves in the thought world of an ancient and yet surprisingly relatable figure of tremendous influence. 

Note: The main primary sources for this course can be found in the book Augustine: In His Own Words by William Harmless. Students are encouraged to obtain a copy of this text.

Programme details

Course begins: 18 Apr 2023

Week 0:  Course Orientation

Week 1:  Early life and the Confessions

Week 2:  The Philosopher

Week 3:  The Bishop 

Week 4:  The Preacher 

Week 5:  The Exegete

Week 6:  Controversy 1: Against the Manichees

Week 7:  Controversy 2: Against the Donatists

Week 8:  The Theologian: On the Trinity

Week 9:  Controversy 3: The City of God, against the pagans

Week 10:  Controversy 4: The Pelagians


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £238.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Susan Griffith

Dr Griffith is an Associate Member of the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford and a member of Wolfson College, specialising in early Christianity and patristics.

Course aims

To gain a deeper understanding of the life and thought of Augustine of Hippo.

Course Objectives

1. To introduce students to a broad range of works by an influential thinker and theologian.

2. To encourage students to go deeper into texts and topics that particularly interest them. 

3. To experience the reward of reading a thinker's own words. 

Teaching methods

Each week will focus on a topic and related primary source texts. Pre-recorded lectures will provide context and introduce key concepts and live online seminar will allow us to discuss the readings in depth. For those who wish to go deeper, plentiful resources will be provided for further reading. You will also have the opportunity for ongoing discussions about the reading throughout the week via the Canvas portal.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. read a wide range of Augustine's writings;

2. gain insight into the social, cultural, political, and religious context in which he produced these works;

3. be able to trace the development of his thought over time.

Assessment methods


Option A: Three very short (c. 500 words) essays connecting historical doctrinal disagreements to contemporary debates or beliefs.


Option B: One short (c. 1,500 words) essay. Students will be asked first to provide a short (c. 300 words) plan for the essay. 

Please note that the reading list contains not just core texts for everyone, but also suggested texts suitable for a range of essay topics. 

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


Each course will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

While it would be helpful to have some background knowledge of the era, the reading will be able to provide these. No prior familiarity with the material is required or expected. It would be good for students to start reading some of the introductory material and perhaps the Confessions (either in whole or in selections in the compendium Augustine: In His Own Words by William Harmless, as found on the reading list) prior to the start of the course. 

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)