Confessions Questions and Answers
by Aurelius Augustinus

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Analyze the differences between Augustine's Confessions and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in relation to spirituality and religion.

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The most obvious similarity between the two works is that both describe a pilgrimage, but a closer investigation reveals significant differences. Confessions describes a spiritual pilgrimage toward Christianity, and Canterbury Tales takes place in the context of a pilgrimage to Canterbury. The emphasis in Confessions is on a Christianity that rejects the worldly, including sexual appetites and material greed. Canterbury Tales engages with this dichotomy in many ways, most explicitly in its treatment of avaricious and lustful clergymen such as the Friar, the Summoner, and the Pardoner. On the other hand, the distinction between "right" and wrong" Christianities in The Canterbury Tales is never very distinct. The pilgrims all seem to inject their personalities into their versions of the faith, which nevertheless (appropriately, since they are, after all, on a pilgrimage) suffuses many of their accounts. So while Confessions is a rejection of the worldly, The Canterbury Tales seems more ambiguous, almost a study of how the worldly mingles with the religious in the lives of actual people. This is, of course, entirely approriate. Confessions is intended to be a didactic religious tract, where The Canterbury Tales is a secular poem that addresses religious themes that occupied the minds of Chaucer's readers.

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