Memory Reconceived

Hutton, Patrick H. “The Art of Memory Reconceived: From Rhetoric to Psychoanalysis.” Journal of the History of Ideas 48.3 (July-Sept 1987): 371-92. Web. March 10, 2012.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0“Mnemonics, or the art of memory, is today regarded as an arcane intellectual interest. It functions on the periphery of popular culture” (Hutton 371).

“The art of memory as it was traditionally conceived was based upon associations between a structure of images easily remembered and a body of knowledge in need of organization” (Hutton 371).

“If the art of memory was an essential technique of learning for yesterday’s rhetoricians, it has become for today’s psychologists the stuff of sideshows” (Hutton 372).

“memory as it was understood in its classical formulation provided not only a useful skill but also a way of understanding the world” (Hutton 372)

“From this perspective the art of memory was not only a pedagogical device but also a method of interpretation. It is this link between the art of memory and the making of paradigms of cultural understanding that suggests the larger significance of this topic” (Hutton 372).

“correspondences between the art of memory as it was practiced in the rhetorical tradition that culminated in the Renaissance and the use of memory as a technique of soul-searching in the Romantic tradition of psychology that culminates in psychoanalysis” (Hutton 373)

Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago, 1966).

through time Yates found that “the techniques of the art of memory remained essentially the same” (Hutton 373)

“the poet Simonides of Ceos, who was the first to reflect upon the emotional power of a system of images as an aid to memory” (Hutton 374)

steampunk_file_server_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5exhgj“arrangements of places and images. The places provided an architectonic design in which the knowledge to be remembered was to be situated. These were places so deeply embedded in the mind of the mnemonist that they could not be forgotten. The architecture of place” (Hutton 374)

“A good memory was a function of a resilient imagination, and images were chosen for their aesthetic appeal. Vivid pictorial imagery that inspired awe was judged to be the most effective” (Hutton 374).

(As per Plato) “The art of memory, therefore, was a way of establishing correspondences between the microcosm of the mind’s images and the macrocosm of the ideal universe, which were believed to be congruent structures. In such a conception, the role of the mnemonist took on added importance. Not only did he practice a skill, but he also assumed a priestly status as an interpreter of the nature of reality” (Hutton 375)

“The key to understanding the nature of memory, Vico contends, is derived from the direct correspondence between image and idea in primitive poetic language. In the beginnings of civilization, image and idea were one” (Hutton 377).

“Vico’s theory of memory as an act of interpretation that enables us to establish connections between the familiar images of the present and the unfamiliar ones of the past anticipates the modern science of hermeneutics” (Hutton 379).

“memory as a key to magic was displaced by memory as a key to soul-searching” (Hutton 380)

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0“The need for an art of memory to verify the integrity of knowledge through recourse to memorized oral formulae was rendered obsolete by the dramatic expansion of the publishing business and the rapid growth of the reading public” (Hutton 381)

“The transformation of the human mind that Vico describes in terms of the evolution of tropes, therefore, may also be understood in terms of the long-range shift from orality to literacy to print culture” (Hutton 381).

“the major theoretical expositions of the art in the ancient world, those devised by Roman rhetoricians in the first century B.C., were contributed during Rome’s most illustrious age of literary expression” (Hutton 382).

“As places permanently fixed on the printed page, words acquired an autonomy they had not previously possessed. … written communication is transacted through texts and thereby acquires a specific identity of time and place” (Hutton 382).

“Less constrained by demands for assiduous memorization, the citizen of print culture was disposed to use his memory for a more inquisitive kind of learning. If the art of memory appeared to many to have lost favor in the declining prestige of rhetoric, it was destined to rise once more in the guise of autobiography” (Hutton 383).

steampunk_email_icon_for_outlook_mkii_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5a47qa“The recollection of the past is therefore a process of emplotting the landmarks of one’s life history as it is presently perceived” (Hutton 384).

“Freud asserts the constructive power of the unconscious mind to shape recollection. To use his terminology, memory is tendentious in that it reflects unconscious psychic intent. In this respect the unconscious mind is the guardian of memory” (Hutton 388).

“Michel Foucault’s notion of “counter-memory,” which denies the ability of collective memory to bind meanings across dissimilar historical epochs, is a provocative statement of this point of view. Foucault’s questioning of the intrinsic value of remembering the thought of ages past reveals the degree to which our present perception of the art of memory has shifted from the problem of forgetfulness to that of oblivion” (Hutton 391).


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