I’m rereading Gregory Ulmer’s Heuretics: The Logic of Invention and it’s got my mind spinning. About the time Jeff Rice suggested I read it (it had been on my radar for a while as something I should read), Mike Salvo also suggested it would be a useful book for me but suggested I read Applied Gramatology first so that Heuretics would make more sense. I, of course, didn’t read Applied Grammatology so I’m getting a lot more out of Heuretics this second time around (but that’s usually true of anything, no?). Right now, I’m trying to work out the relationship, if any, between Ulmer’s chorography and Mary Carruthers’ discussion of monastic composition.

Juxtapose, for instance,  this discussion of monastic composition that I quoted in Thursday’s post

Medieval memoria thus includes, in our terms, “creative thought,” but not thoughts created “out of nothing.” It built upon remembered structures “located” in one’s mind as patters, edifices, grids, and — most basically — association-fabricated networks of “bits” in one’s memory that must be “gathered” into an idea. Memory work is also process, like a journey; it must therefore have a starting-point. And this assumption leads again to the need for “place,” because remembering is a task of “finding” and of “getting from one place to another” in your thinking mind. (Craft of Thought 23)

with Ulmer’s discussion of chorography

That is who I am going to invent chorography—by creating the field within which the insight I seek already exists. Compose a “diegesis”—an imaginary space and time, as in a setting for a film—that functions as the “places of invention,” using this phrase in the sense associated with it in the history of rhetoric. The topics store the “treasures of tested and approved ways of investigating a chosen subject, ways both of conducting an argument and of analyzing a theme or subject prior to discussing it” (Dixo, 26). In order for rhetoric to become electronic, the term and concept of topic or topos must be replaced by chora (the notion of “place” found in Plato’s Timaeus). That is what I learned from Derrida. For not a dictionary definition must suffice: chora is “an area in which genesis takes place” (F. E. Peters, 197).

Chora is not thinkable on its own but only within a field, a diegesis, considered as my premises. “Premises” in logic are propositions that support a conclusion, explicit or implicit assumptions, or a setting forth beforehand by way of introduction or explanation. “Premises” may also refer to a tract of land—a building together with its grounds and other appurtenances. The creation of a field (out of received, extant materials, drawing on a database such as Columbus, which could include potentially every document produced in the Westin the past five hundred years) within which might emerge the surplus value of a revelation or an innovation that has not been thought as such, has something to do with the luck of these two premises—one logical, the other architectural, combined in the phrase the “grounds of reason” (the need to reason from certain established or provisional assumptions). Here is the principle of chorography: do not choose between the different meanings of key terms, but compose by using all the meanings (write the paradigm). In my study, these premises are themselves the object. What guides my passage through the database Columbus is the desire to discover this place or chora of my own premises, the diegesis within which I have been thinking, presuming, the setting that has gone without saying but that has provided the logic of all my work.I want to write the diegesis within which my own grounding presuppositions might come into appearance. Then I will be able to write judgment rather than only feel it or think it. (Heuretics 48-9)

Part of me wants to argue that monastic composition is chorographic, that one of the functions of rumination is to explore all the meanings one might draw from. Or is that just me projecting my own print-digital transitional noetic onto the medieval practice?

On the one hand, it’s a mute question. My goal is not to revive medieval compositional practice and medieval memoria as they practiced it. (That is, I have no desire to argue, as Dorothy Sayers does in “The Lost Tools of Learning,” or the home-school advocates with whom this essay carries so much resonance, that we’d all be better off if we revived medieval education wholesale.) Rather, like Geoffrey of Vinsauf and Boncompagno who consciously refashioned classical rhetoric for their age, I an consciously trying to refashion medieval memoria for the digital age. On the other hand, however, I need to be careful that I don’t read my ideas and practices into medieval theory.