I recently declared that I was planning to turn my comparison of Coates and Augustine into a proper article. A few days ago, however, I received an e-mail from a reader who went to hear Coates speak and had the opportunity to ask him if he had read Augustine’s Confessions. Reportedly Coates repeated much the same thing he said in his blog response to people who were hassling him about not having read Augustine.
Basically, he feels no obligation to spend his finite time on earth reading some particular text just because it’s “important” or “influential,” and he’s right of course. But what about me? I think there’s still a case to be made that the correspondences between Coates’ and Augustine’s texts are non-coincidental on a deeper level — they’re both memoirs centering on an intellectual problem, they both have a second-person addressee who radically changed the author’s perspective on life, etc. — but it seems like it would be more of a slam dunk if I could at least leave open the possibility that Coates had read Confessions. Shifting my strategy to address the “inner necessity” of the kinds of correspondences I have found seems like it would expand the scope of the project, perhaps unmanageably so.
I think it’s something that could still work well for a talk, or as a discussion in the context of a course — but I’m not sure I have enough ground to stand on for a proper article.
What do you think? Should I cut my losses, or press on?