The body is a means of communication. The five senses: sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch allow for interaction not only with one's environment, but also with other people. Both Ovid's The Art of Love and Saint Augustine's Confessions center many of their main themes on the body's physical nature. Each interprets the positive and negative actions of the body's five senses. Ovid and Augustine implicate the body, as an entity seeking to fulfill natural desires by attaining pleasure and beauty. Both agree that the body can be used to manipulate. Ovid ascertains pleasure as a series of games of the mind and body to achieve seduction, while Augustine sees the body as a manipulative force leading to sinful irrational acts.
Both authors believe that more than one person is needed to attain a goal whether it be positive (Ovid), or negative (Augustine). According to Ovid, interaction between bodies is a two-sided game with the man and the woman having designated roles. He designates certain rules and tips for each of them to follow in order to gain the desired results of love and sex. Ovid sees this game as a positive means for meeting and keeping women by presenting the body as a carrier of the five senses that aids seduction. In order to indulge the five senses, he is concerned with masking "each blemish," and "hiding your physical faults." (Line 260-261) While Ovid considers mostly the superficial elements of the five senses such as hairstyle, makeup and pleasantries, Augustine concerns himself with a higher level of thought on the senses.
Augustine is concerned not with man's relationship with man, but rather man's relationship with God. Man's role and loyalty is to God. In order to follow God's commands, man must refrain from giving into the sinful urges the senses induce, and instead, use these capabilities to connect with God and to grasp the glory of his magnificence. Both authors agree that man is easily tempted by his body's impulses. Ovid sees manipulation as positive characteristic, allowing for seduction and the ultimate fulfillment of wanton desires, while Augustine interprets this maneuverability as pushing man further away from God and closer toward sin and Satan.
Augustine views the game as dangerous, an act which only results in "an avid desire to do injury and an appetite to inflict loss on someone else without any motive…" (page 34). Augustine sees that when one body is associated with others, their influence is negative, forcing the original solitary being to commit sinful acts. "There was a pear tree near our vineyard laden with fruit, though attractive in neither color nor taste. To shake the fruit off the tree and carry off the pears, I and a gang of naughty adolescents set off late at night after (in our usual pestilential way) we had continued our game in the streets. We carried off a huge load of pears. But they were not for our feasts but merely to throw to the pigs. Even if we ate a few, nevertheless our pleasure lay in doing what was not allowed." Augustine explains that it was the company that he was in that led him to sin. When surrounded by sinners, man is easily manipulated and in turn, mimics their actions.
Augustine associates social interaction with dangerous sinful "Certainly no one laughs when alone; yet sometimes laughter overcomes individuals when no one else is present if their senses or their mind perceive something utterly absurd." He goes on to say "alone he would not have done it (stealing the fruit), could not conceivably have done it by (him) self." (Page 33) Immorality, according to Augustine, is heightened when you are in a group. Augustine sees that in the company of others' bodies, only sinful acts can result, whereas Ovid associates relationships between bodies to yield pleasure and ecstasy. "…The act should give equal pleasure to them both" (Page 238). Men and women, when engaged in a relationship, should work together following the "rules" of love to pleasure each other. Instead of one person being exploited by a group, as Augustine believes, Men and women should work simultaneously, seducing each other with flowery language and stunning superficial appearances.
Both Augustine and Ovid discuss ways in which the body can be used unbecomingly. Both examine wine, consumed during social activity. Their views on drinking's appropriateness varies greatly. As with groups, Augustine believes that wine is sinful since it dilutes morality and rational thought. Wine is representative of immoral thoughts, rash decisions, and hedonistic pleasures. Sex, a result of physical attraction, leads to sin and hinders contemplation of God and his power. One must put aside drunkenness and wantonness in order to accept Christ. Drinking encourages frivolous activity. "Her appetite for liquor (released an) overflow of playful impulses and which in children adults ordinarily try to suppress" (page 167). Ovid, on the other hand, believes that wine can be used to one's advantage to lure a member of the opposite sex. "But drinking, for girls, is another matter- it suits them: desire and wine go well in tandem." (Line 761-763). Women, while under the influence of alcohol, are more lively and attractive to men. The wine makes them less inhibited sexually and, therefore they restrain their emotions much less.
Augustine and Ovid both refer to the body, yet Augustine is vague and Ovid presents more specific references to the body. Ovid chooses to discuss the body not on a spiritual level, but rather on a physical earthly one. While Ovid makes allusions to specifics of the body, such as hair and body types, Augustine discusses the body in a much simpler, figurative manner. Augustine, on the other hand, discusses the body as an entity or a carrying case for ultimately reaching true beauty and understanding God.
Both Augustine and Ovid talk about the body as a means to a desired ends. For Ovid, the prize is mundane and secular: sexual relationships with members of the opposite sex. And for Augustine, the reward is reaching a state of mind of purity and understanding and being accepted under and by God's love. To understand men differing goals, both examine the ability to "see" literally and figuratively. For Augustine, it is the five senses of the body that allow for man to recognize and to appreciate God's awesome abilities and creations. Augustine classifies love and beauty, as the love and beauty of God. When Augustine steals fruit from the pear tree, he is lured by the fruit's appearance. "The fruit which we stole was beautiful because it was your creation." It is the physical appearance that attracts Augustine to sin. Ovid, on the other hand, defines beauty as a well-manicured appearance and an attractive body. "What attracts us is elegance-so don't neglect your hairstyle; looks can be made or marred by a skillful touch" (lines 133-134). The superficiality of makeup, clothing and hair-dos, concoct Ovid's idea of attractiveness and when well groomed, the opposite sex is more attainable. Both also criticize the body for extremely different reasons. While Ovid critiques men and women's style of dress, hairdo's and hygiene, Augustine scrutinizes the body on a much more symbolic level, examining how the body relates to God and morality.
"There is beauty in lovely physical objects, as in gold and silver
and all other
such things. When the body touches such things, much significance attaches
to the rapport of the object with the touch. Each of the other senses has its
own appropriate mode of response to physical things…The life which we live in
this world has its attractiveness because of a certain measure in its beauty and
its harmony with all these inferior objects that are beautiful…These inferior
goods have their delights, but not comparable to my God who has made them all.
It is in him that the just person takes delight; he is the joy of those things
which are at the bottom end of the scale of good, we abandon the higher and
supreme goods, that is you, Lord God, and your truth and your law."
Augustine is not concerned with the superficial beauty of physical objects, but rather with the meaning behind the objects. Augustine believes God is all around, in everything, for he is the creator of man and his environment. And it is God's ability and magnificence to produce for mankind that occupies Augustine's thoughts. The five senses are used here by Augustine not to simply admire a beautiful object, but to glorify God's creations.
Both Ovid and Augustine reflect on the liberal arts tradition and its relation to the body's senses. Ovid says the liberal arts are a means of seduction and it is important for a woman to develop her mind as well as her appearance. "It is best you have gifts of the mind in addition to physical charms…Then build an enduring mind, add that to your beauty: It alone will last till the flames consume you." Ovid believes it is not just physical beauty, but mental capacity and intelligence that make a person attractive. By studying the classics, one's "beauty" is therefore enhanced. Men and women must use, according to Ovid, their senses to first attract the opposite sex with visual outward beauty, and then through sound through conversation and courting, and
finally, to keep them physically through touch and pleasures of the flesh. However, the relationship, once the superficial beauty is gone, is maintained through intellectual discussion and wit. Augustine, on the other hand, sees the liberal arts as sinful for they induce untamed emotions. He is very suspicious of the art of rhetoric, for discourse might thwart one's search for truth and relationship with God. Augustine believes that no matter how much information you grasp, or how great a desire you have to know and to learn all is futile if you do not love God. Augustine refers to books, like the body, as seducers of the mind. Augustine divides knowledge into two branches: one that is helpful and informative and the other that is seductive and contrived. Augustine believes that to some extent, if one experiences sensory deprivation, then they will be able to transcend material love and beauty and in favor of a more heavenly love and understanding. The five senses are implicated in moving one further away from God, by reacting so intensely to written words, which are not the word of God. He classifies poetry as "fornication against God." Fear plays a major role in the Confessions and in The Art of Love. The fear of sinning from a lack of discipline in human nature is a cause for anxiety for Augustine. And the fears of not finding a mate and growing unattractive are concerns for one to follow Ovid's argument.
While both examine relationships, Augustine questions man's relationship with God and Ovid analyzes men's relationship with women and vice versa. Instead of using the body to desire another human body as Ovid does, Augustine advocates using the body to desire God's love and acceptance and understanding. Even though both authors offer different interpretations as to the function of the body's five sense, they both agree that the sensations allow man to relate with his surroundings. For this reason, the body and its physicality are at the root of both Ovid's The Art of Loveand Augustine's Confessions.