Veronica Roberts

Author: Jennifer Fulton

Veronica Roberts is a doctoral candidate in Political Science.  She recently returned from the XLII Incontro di Studiosi dell’Antichità Cristiana in Rome, where she presented a paper titled "'Aliud namque sunt diutiae, aliud pecunia':  A Brief Reflection on the Intertwined Themes of Wealth and Hope in Augustine's City of God."  The Nanovic Institute awarded Veronica a Graduate Professional Development Grant for this exciting opportunity.  She recently sent us a report on her experience:

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I am very grateful to the Nanovic Institute for making my trip to Rome possible. In every way, it was an unforgettable experience. Because my dissertation studies Augustine’s City of God, which heavily explores the history of the Roman republic, it was very exciting to visit the Eternal City—to walk the streets around the Capitoline hill, remembering that when ancient Rome was besieged by the Gauls, that hill alone was saved because the squawking of the sacred geese woke up the Roman consul; to walk along the Gianicolo, realizing that it is the same Janiculum hill to which the people fled before the Civil Wars; to visit the Forum and Palatine Hill and understand for the first time why Augustine targets the particular Roman deities that he does; I had many more such moments of awe, but these convey the general tenor of the whole trip. Thus, on the most basic level, I am grateful for the trip because it helped me understand the subject of my dissertation better. What is more, I was able to take photos that I will put in my dissertation, so that the readers will be able to share this deepening of understanding.

Turning to the conference itself, I am glad to say that it was a success. My primary objective in attending it was to meet Fr. Robert Dodaro, O.S.A. who is the president of the Augustinianum and has written Christ and the Just Society, an excellent book on Augustine’s City of God that I engage heavily in my dissertation. I was able to have a three hour meeting with Fr. Dodaro, in which he advised me about job prospects, successful publishing, pointed me towards helpful secondary literature, and helped me think though the presentation of my ideas on Augustine’s thought.  This was an important connection to make because he is very difficult to reach by email, and our face-to-face meeting will help him to look out for my emails. What is more, he has promised to read my dissertation over the summer; because he is such an excellent Augustine scholar, I think that his feedback will be extremely valuable. He has also invited me back to Rome in November to have a meeting with him and John Rist (another important Augustine scholar) about how to transform the dissertation into a successful book. Because next year, during my postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton, my project will be just this, this opportunity is very exciting.

The conference itself was very interesting, engaging a wide range of early Church Fathers on the question of wealth and poverty. I learned much about the other Church Fathers from others’ presentations, which was both illuminating in itself, and helped me understand the newness of Augustine’s approach and emphasis. I was also glad to present my own paper on the theme in Augustine, based on my reading of the City of God.  This paper will now go through the peer-review process, and, I hope that it will be published in the Augustinianum’s journal; regardless, the peer review process will provide me with constructive feedback.

In sum, my trip to Rome was an unforgettable experience and I am deeply grateful to the Nanovic Institute for funding it. The trip both enriched my scholarship by bringing Rome to life for me, and opened up opportunities that will help my academic career. Thank you very much for this.