from the Walter J. Ong Archive
Canon of Memory in the Middle Ages Bibliography
[Note: This bibliography was complied
in 2002 ad has not been updated.] In Memory Issues in Composition
Studies, John Frederick Reynolds argues for a reclaiming of the
rhetorical canon of memory from the dustbin of history, a process that
began with Peter Ramus and ended with current-traditional rhetoric.
Memory's dismissal had been so effective that even Edward Corbett, in
his Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, wrote it off as
pure memorization and, therefore, unnecessary in the post-printing era
(4-5). The contemporary study of rhetorical memory largely began with
Frances Yatess The Art of Memory, which gave one of the
first and still most detailed accounts of the classical system of artificial
memory as described in the Rhetorica ad Herennium. Yates demonstrated,
he notes, that Memory was the loci of the topoi for Aristotle
(31), and the connection to the divinity of the soul for Plato (36,
37). Memory was the custodian of all the parts of rhetoric to the author
of the Ad Herennium (5), proof of the souls divinity to Cicero
(45), the source of oratorys power to Quintilian (43), the groundwork
of the whole to Plato (37), and the key to invention to Aristotle
(34) (5-6). The middle ages, Reynolds notes, not only carried
on but also expanded the classical tradition of memory.
For the purposes of contemporary composition,
Reynolds suggests we explore four aspects of rhetorical memory: memory
as mnemonics, memory as memorableness, memory as databases, and memory
as psychology (7-13). For the purposes of rhetorical theory, however,
I, as well as others, suggest we expand our notion of memory even farther
so that it includes memory as history and memory as culture. This bibliography,
in an attempt to explore rhetorical memory in its myriad forms, is divided
into four sections: 1) memory theory, which covers both primary and
secondary studies of the theory of memory during the middle ages; 2)
practices and uses of memory, which examines how memory and memory theory
was used and practiced during the middle ages (unlike the first section,
this includes both medieval and modern memory theory); 3) memory, orality,
and literacy, which explores memory within the context of orality and
literacy studies; and 4) ars memoria et ars poetica, which covers works
that specifically discuss the intersection between (literate) poetic
practice and artificial memory.
- Augustine. Confessions.
Tr. R.S. Pine-Coffin. New York: Penguin, 1961.
- In Books X and XI of his Confessions,
Augustine, who taught rhetoric professionally before his conversion,
discusses memory. According to Augustine, memory is what we learn
(it is not only what we experience, but what we hear from others),
it is an active process (recall), it allows us to remember the past
truly through words that are imprinted into our minds via images gathered
through sensory experience, and it always exists in the present (memory
works in the present as it accesses images of the past).
- Carruthers, Mary. The Book
of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. Cambridge Studies
in Medieval Literature 10. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.
- The Book of Memory is,
in many ways, the continued study of memoria that Francis Yates called
for in her The Art of Memory. The Book of Memory is
the study of medieval memory training and its relation to literacy.
In it, Carruthers posits that medieval culture was itself a memorial
culture, one that makes present the voices of what is past,
not to entomb either the past or the present, but to give them life
in a place common to both in memory (260). Carruthers argues
that memory was the chief faculty of the mind, the primary canon of
rhetoric, the most important branch of education, and the foundation
of all composing. Moreover, she argues that memory was believed to
be central to ethical living. The book considers medieval memory from
a variety of perspectives: models for thinking about memory (wax tablets
and storehouses); psychological and medical theories of memory, mnemonic
systems used to train memory, memory arts in the tradition of the
Rhetorica ad Herennium, memory and its role in composing and
reading, memory and its role in education, and books as memorial objects.
Carruthers also includes translations of three little known memory
treatises Hugh of St. Victors De Tribus Maximis Circumstantiis
Gestorum, Albertus Magnuss De bono, Tractatus IV,
Quaestio 11 De Partibus Prudentia, and Thomas Bradwardines
De Memoria Artificiali, the third of which has already
been translated by Beryl Rowland.
- Coleman, Janet. Ancient and
Medieval Memories: Studies in the Reconstruction of the Past.
Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992.
- Janet Colemans work on ancient and medieval
memory, which she describes as a series of interrelated studies of
the range of views on memory and its uses during the middle
ages (3), is a study of memory as psychology and epistemology.
This work, in which she argues that theories of remembering in the
middle ages is in part theories of signs, of language, and the relationship
of language to thinking, shows that many of the questions and answers
we are struggling with today, are really just reformulations of medieval
discussions. Most of us, she states, remain unaware
that modern science, some modern history and modern philosophy have
inherited from the Renaissance a trivialization of over 1,000 years
of previous history (xvii).
Colemans study begins
with Plato and culminates with John Duns Scotas and William of Ockham.
Throughout much of the Middle Ages, the past was believed to be
knowable, even intelligible in light of the present
and the debate between Ockham and Scotas was not over whether the
past was knowable, but whether it was present and universal
or past and particular (464). This comprehensive study
is divided into five sections: The Critical Texts of Antiquity,
The Practice of Memory During the Period of Transition from
Classical Antiquity to the Christian Monastic Centuries, The
Beginnings of the Scholastic Understanding of Memory, Aristotle
Neo-Platonized: The Revival of Aristotle and the Development of
the Scholastic Understanding of Memory, and Later Medieval
Theories of Memory: The via antiqua and the via moderna.
- Rowland, Beryl. The Artificial
Memory, Chaucer, and Modern Scholars. Poetica 37 (1993):
- Written as a response to Mary
Carrutherss The Book of Memory, Rowland briefly explains
the term artificial memory as an architectural type of mnemonic system
which makes use of images and places. Rowland notes that Francis Yatess
study was one of the earliest and the first in English, and is still
the best starting point for anyone interested in the art of memory
in the classical and medieval period. After Yates, Rowland says, one
should then take up Mary Carrutherss more recent study. While
Rowland believes Carrutherss work is both important and detailed,
he is troubled by the modern scholarship, including his own which
he goes into in some detail, which she has left out. Rowland then
concludes that there is much left to learn about the art of memory
and many treatises left untranscribed.
- Wallis, Faith. The Ambiguities
of Medieval Memoria. Canadian Journal of History
/ Annales canadiennes dhistoire 20 (1995): 77-83.
- This essay examines and comments
upon four works of scholarship: Ancient and Medieval Memories:
Studies in the Reconstruction of the Past by Janet Coleman, The
Book of Memory by Mary Carruthers, Dreaming in the Middle Ages
by Steven F. Kruger, and History and Memory by Jaques Le Geoff,
which, respectively, explore memory as psychology and epistemology,
memory training as a branch of pedagogy, memory imagery and its similarity
to dream imagery, and memory in the service of history. In comparing
these four works, Wallis demonstrates that medieval memoria is a complex
concept that is made up of a complex constellation of overlapping
connotations, where fiction bleeds into fact, the personal into the
public, the psychological into the pedagogical, and the past into
the present (83).
- Yates, F.A. The Art of Memory.
Chicago: The U of Chicago P, 1966.
- The first five chapters of Yatess
The Art of Memory, which was the first modern English work
to tackle the subject, explains the classical and medieval practice
of an architectural type of mnemonic system that makes use of places
and images, of which the Rhetorica ad Herennium has the best
know discussion. Yatess study was so influential that when scholars
refer to artificial memory or the art of memory,
they are more often than not referring specifically to this system
Yates describes, though recent work, particularly that of Mary Carruthers,
is demonstrating that this system was but one subset of locational
mnemonic systems. Despite this, for what it is, Yatess work
is still considered the best study of its kind and is highly recommended
as a starting point for any study of artificial memory. For a further
description of this work, see the introduction above.
Practices and Uses of Memory
- Berlin, Gail Ivy. Memorization
in Anglo-Saxon England: Some Case Studies. Oral Tradition
in the Middle Ages. Ed. W.F.H. Nicolaisen. Medieval and Renaissance
Texts and Studies 112. Binghamton, N.Y.: Center for Medieval and Early
Renaissance Studies, 1995. 97-113.
- Berlin begins her study of memorization
in Anglo-Saxon England by noting that after Christianization there
would be at least two possible memory systems: that of the native
oral tradition and that of literate monastic practice. Making use
of written accounts, Berlin provides some case studies of both lettered
and unlettered accounts of memorization. From the available
evidence, Berlin makes the following observations: precision in memorization
depended upon the purpose, that memorization often engaged both the
eye and the ear, that some form of vocalization was used in memorizing,
and that all accounts of memorization in Anglo-Saxon England included
a written text as a first step towards memorizing.
- Burke, Peter. History as Social
Memory. Memory: History, Culture, and the Mind. Ed. T.
Butler. Wolfson College Lectures 1988. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989. 97-113.
- This essay discusses how social
memory functions in relation to history. Specifically, it looks at
how social memory is transmitted, how social memory is used, and how
social amnesia is used. Social memory is transmitted via: oral transmission;
memoirs and other written records, which are not innocent acts
of memory, but rather attempts to persuade, to shape the memories
of others (101); images such as pictures, tombstones, statues,
and medals; actions, in particular ritual actions which are
reenactments of the past, acts of memory, but they are also attempts
to impose interpretations of the past, to shape memory (101);
and space (the Catholic church, for instance, would restructure the
lay out of villages after they converted indigenous peoples). Social
memory itself, Burke argues, is often consciously used by those who
dont have solid cultural roots. While the victors may write
history, he suggests, theyre also the ones likely to forget
it. He points to the Irish peoples continued grievances against
events that took place during the Elizabethan period as one such example.
Lastly, Burke notes that cultures forget, even destroy, documents
that become awkward and embarrassing (110).
- Coleman, Janet. Late Scholastic
memoria et reminiscentia; Its Uses and Abuses. Intellectuals
and Writers in Fourteenth-Century Europe. Ed. Piero Boitani and
Anna Torti. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag 1986. 22-44.
- Late scholastic thought as represented
by John Duns Scotas, according to Coleman, believed that everything
a mind could think of was part of memory, of memoria. To Scotas, memory
was understanding, not recollection, reminiscentia, and, to
him, perfect memory was not the recollection of individual experience
but the understanding of what you know. In this essay, Coleman discusses
the ramifications of memoria as understanding and uses Jean
Froissarts chronicle of the Hundred Years War as a case study.
Froissart, she explains, wants to retell rather
than verify (44). According to scholastic thought, Froissart,
who relies heavily upon oral testimony as well as written documents,
is, like any knower, an omnipresent witness to the declarative
knowledge which corresponds to perfect memory where what is hidden
in our memories is actualized and revealed (44).
- Fentress, James, and Chris Wickham.
Social Memory. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992.
- One of the best studies of social
memory available, this work is written by two medievalists who, while
not limiting themselves to medieval memory, do draw heavily upon medieval
sources and scholarship throughout their work. Social memory, which
Fentress and Wickham have renamed from Maurice Halbwachs collective
memory, is to differentiate it from both history and individual memory,
is interested in commemoration and formal reenactment. Like individual
memory, and unlike history, social memory is has no pretensions to
objectivity or truth. It is what is believed, at least at some
level for one should not neglect folk-tales, which are commemorations
of the past as well, although they are often not even told as strictly
believable (xi). Chapter one is an excellent introduction to
social memory and its relationship to history, myth, literature, and
rhetoric, and chapter four deals specifically with social memory in
the middle ages.
- Geary, Patrick. J. Phantoms of Remembrance:
Memory and Oblivion at the End of the First Millennium. Princeton:
Princeton UP, 1994.
- In this study of the history of
memory, Geary examines the three regions of the former Carolingian
Empire during the Eleventh Century to examine how memory of the past
was recollected, transformed, and used. Geary argues that scholars
have put too much emphasis on the dichotomy between individual and
social memory and on the differences between oral and written history
because one individual could shape social memory just as much as social
memory could shape the memory of one individual and that during this
period many written documents came to be because of oral tradition.
After presenting a series of case studies, Geary makes the following
observations: our knowledge of the early Middle Ages was determined
by people of the Eleventh Century found useful, what they wanted their
contemporaries to know and not know; that these processes took place
at local levels for specific purposes but had broad and long-lasting
effects; that the raw materials of the past were either
transformed to conform with the present or were lost when this was
not possible; and that the shift to written records makes this period
- Mostert, Marco, ed. New Approaches
to Medieval Communication. Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy
1. Turnhout: Brepolis: 1999.
- Part I of this work provides a good
survey of the state of Medieval communication scholarship. Part II
contains five essays, my favorite of which, and the one which is most
related to memory, is Send More Socks: On Mentality
and the Preservation Context of Medieval Letters which tries
to suggest what might have been lost based upon what has been found,
such as wooden tablet birthday invitation found in British Roman ruins;
a rune stick asking a husband to come home, found in the ruins of
a Norwegian tavern; love letters written on wax tablets; and a birch
bark havent heard from you lately, please write and let
me know how youre doing letter in Novgorad. Part III,
which is the real important section of this work, is a 104-page bibliography
on Medieval communication (divided into 16 sections and 75 subsections!),
which includes non-verbal communication, ritual,
and eight pages on oral and written memory. A most useful
- Rowland, Beryl. The Art of Memory
and the Bestiary. Beasts and Birds of the Middle Ages: The
Bestiary and its Legacy. Ed. Willene B. Clark and M.T. McMunn.
Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1989. 12-25.
- Bestiaries, Rowland argues, like
stained-glass windows and medieval sermons, worked to provide moral
and scriptural instruction through creating memorable images, thereby
imprinting their lessons into the minds of even those without trained
memories. To this end, bestiaries used both illustrations and text
and often co-opted secular tradition to further their instructional
aims. Among Rowlands many examples of how bestiaries blending
secular and religious/moral traditions is that of the beaver. Beavers,
whose testicles were believed to be medicinal had the Latin name castor,
derived from castrando so tradition tells us, because when
it is chased by hunters, it will castrate itself and throw its testicles
at its pursuers. The Christian message that regularly accompanies
this entry tells us that we should live chastely and cast off our
sins and throw them to the Devil.
- Scherb, Victor I. Setting
and Cultural Memory in Part II of Beowulf. English Studies.
79.2 (1998): 109-119.
- Victor Scherb argues that the audience
of Beowulf, as is common with all audiences of traditional
oral poetry, was familiar with Beowulfs narratives
and, therefore, what they were interested in was not the plot but
the way in which the poet could revive a large number of dormant
memorial strands to quote Scherb quoting Wald Godzich (110).
The Beowulf poet chief technique for doing this, Scherb argues,
was in his use of setting and symbol to evoke a large number
of memoria in such a way as to comment upon the dynamics
of cultural memory within Germanic society (110). After discussing
what has been previously said by others, Scherb examines the poems
less studied second half, in particular, the poets juxtaposition
of the dragons barrow and Beowulfs mound, focusing on
two symbolic functions. First, Scherb notes that while the dragons
burrow symbolizes the conventionalized ruin, Beowulfs burial
mound serves as a beacon, as a marker. He notes that Anglo-Saxon roads
made use of crosses and pre-existing burial mounds as signposts and
comments: Just as Anglo-Saxon road markers and crosses were
employed to recall wanders to the right path, so Beowulfs
monument serves as a similar orienting and memorial function
(115). Scherb then describes the dragons barrow as the antithesis
of heroic Anglo-Saxon culture. The barrow is full of treasure and
armor that lies unused. Absent from the barrow is heroism and human
culture. Beowulfs monument, on the other hand, Scherb argues,
stands as a symbol of Beowulfs heroism and his glory. Beowulfs
mound will continue to evoke associations of uprightness, heroism,
and enduring glory; conversely, the dragons mound will carry
with it associations of physical destruction, hoarding, and absence
(119). The poets use of settings, Scherb concludes, is, in part
mnemonic device, but also serves to create an idea-complex
which addresses the issues of memory in an oral culture (119).
Memory, Orality, and Literacy
- Chaytor, H.J. The Medieval
Reader and Textual Criticism. Bulletin of the John Rylands
University Library of Manchester 26 (1941-1942): 49-56.
- Chaytor argues that medieval scribes
relied upon auditory memory rather than visual memory
and suggests that the difference between auditory and visual
memory can be made a basis for emendation (56).
- Clanchy, M.T. From Memory to
Written Record: England 1066-1307. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP,
- Clanchy argues that post-conquest
England saw a rise in lay literacy that was driven by the bureaucracy
instituted by the Normans and that bureaucracys desire for record
keeping. By comparing pre- and post-conquest lay documents such as
wills and charters, Clanchy traces a shift in reliance upon written
documents. He notes that during the Anglo-Saxon period privileged
memory and oral tradition to settle issues such as the ownership of
property, wills, and transactions, even when written documents were
created. The wording in these documents, he argues, suggests that
they were regarded as a reminder, much like tying a string around
a finger, rather than actual proof. Proof resided in the memory of
witnesses. By 1307, however, the shift to written records as the primary
form of legal proof had become so ingrained in English society that
even serfs made use of written charters to transfer property.
- ---. Remembering the Past
and the Good Old Law. History 55 (1970): 166-172.
- In this study of how preliterate
and literate societies remember the past, Clanchy focuses upon pre-literate
and literate Englands relationship to the good old law
how precedent and tradition manifest themselves in practice.
While preliterate societies, Clanchy argues are primarily concerned
with the needs of the present rather than the truth of the past
(172), literate societies are beholden to traditions they no longer
understand. As England shifted from oral to written law, he notes,
law became more inflexible, more bizarre, and perhaps less equitable,
than the old (176). Extrapolating from this, Clanchy argues
that in preliterate societies, knowledge of the past exists within
people and, while unobjective, is meaningful and valid to more
people and that in literate societies, while knowledge of the
past is more objective, it exists outside of people and is only
immediately significant to historians (176).
- Fry, Donald K. Old English
Formulas and Systems. English Studies 48 (1967): 195-204.
- This essay is a response to H.L.
Rogerss response to Francis P. Magouns The Oral-Formulaic
Character of the Anglo-Saxon Narrative Poetry, which was one
of the earliest attempts at applying oral-formulaic theory to Old
English verse. In it, Fry argues that oral formula need not be exact
words repeated but a repetition of systems. Fry defines Old English
formula systems as a group of half-lines, usually loosely related
metrically and semantically, which are related in form by the identical
relative placement of two elements, on a variable word or element
of compound usually supplying the alliteration, and the other a constant
word or element of a compound, with approximately the same distribution
of non-stressed elements (203). For example, Fry argues that
the half-lines heals-beaga mæst (Beowulf 1195b) and heall-ærna
mæst (Beowulf 78a), both unique in the Old English corpus,
are products of the same formula system of (noun) (noun) mæst.
In other words, Fry argues that at least in Old English, oral formula
operated on the level of half-line systems rather than as specific
discrete word groupings.
- Innes, Matthew. Memory, Orality
and Literacy in an Early Medieval Society. Past and Present:
A Journal of Historical Studies 158 (1998): 3-36.
- Using the example of Notker, a monk
of St-Gallen and the abbeys schoolmaster, and his literary works
as a case study, Innes the interplay between myth, social memory,
and history (6-7). Innes argues against what he calls the strong
thesis of literacy which sees literacy as a technology that carries
with it inevitable implications and argues for a weak
thesis of literacy that sees literacy as a social practice that, interacting
with other factors, brings with it a gradual, often imperceptible,
pace of change (3). In studying Notkers Gesta Karoli,
his Deeds of Charlemange, Innes finds a complex matrix of orality
and literacy at play. Not only does Notker uses both oral and written
sources, his writing contains both oral and literate styles: Oral
traditions were colored by written models and were subject to literary
interferences. This was a two-way process. Not only were oral traditions
arranged according to literary models, but texts could also be understood
with reference to oral tradition (17). Innes concludes that
is correct to discuss literacy in its specific historical contexts
within the terms of the weak thesis, but that this does
not contradict the strong thesis of literacy so
long as the latter is correctly stated as a set of possibilities and
potentialities rather than the automatic consequences of writing or
an inevitable pattern of teleological development (34).
- McGillivray, Murray. Memorization
in the Transmission of the Middle English Romances. Garland Reference
Library of the Humanities 1275 = The Albert Bates Lord Studies in
Oral Tradition 5. New York: Garland, 1990.
- To test the theory that manuscript
variation in Middle English romances may be the result of memorial
transfer that the variation between manuscripts is the result
of oral transmission, McGillivray studies four romances: Floris
and Blauncheflur, King Horn, The Seege of Troye,
and Sir Orfeo, each selected because they are short, they all
exist in numerous manuscripts, and they have early dates. McGillivray
notes first off that while oral transmission has been traditionally
cited as a likely reason for the majority of manuscript variation,
if new theories of scribal behavior that focus on he psychological
and creative aspects of copying are correct, then this theory
may no longer be plausible (4). Based upon the internal and external
evidence of the four romances, McGillivray argues that the variation
between texts is probably a combination of both variation in oral
transmission and in scribal copying, made all the more murky by the
possibility of minstrel-scribes possibly copying down their own texts
as well as minstrels dictating to scribes and scribes copying from
manuscripts. McGillivray concludes that what the evidence does suggest
is that it no longer makes sense to discuss the reconstruction of
a perfect text from extant versions, seeing how such a archetypal
text may have never existed in the first place.
- OBrien OKeefee, Katherine.
Visible Song: Transitional Literacy in Old English Verse. Cambridge
Studies in Anglo-Saxon England 4. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993.
- In this study of oral and visual
mnemonic devises in Old English poetry, OBrien OKeefee
compares manuscript layout and design and the role of both scribe
and reader Old English and Latin verse in manuscripts written in Anglo-Saxon
England, a period of transitional literacy. OBrien
OKeefee notes that while for a long time Anglo-Saxon scribes
of Latin verse make use of lineation, capitalization, and punctuation
they did not do so when copying Old English verse (190). This suggests,
she argues, that a reader brought different kinds of knowledge
to the reading of verse in the two languages (190). Readers
of Old English verse must have read by applying oral techniques
fro the reception of a message to the decoding of a written text
Ars Memoria et Ars Poetica
- Buckmaster, Elizabeth. Chaucer
and John of Garland: Memory and Style in the First Fragment.
Medieval Perspectives 1.1 (1986): 31-40.
- In this essay, Buckmaster discusses
John of Garlands Parisiana Poetria de Arte Prosaica, metrica,
et Rithmica in which he, building upon Ciceros work
probably actually the Rhetorica ad Herennium which medieval
scholars believed was authored by Cicero, suggests that artificial
memories be organized by social class (courtiers, city dwellers, and
peasants) and that each social category should be accompanied by class
appropriate objects, animals, and words. Garlands developed
this system specifically for poets and, Buckmaster argues, Chaucer
made use of it in The Canterbury Tales. She notes, for instance,
that the first three tales The Knights Tale,
The Millers Tale, and The Reeves Tale
are all three tales about love triangles, each told in a style
appropriate to social class of their teller. The miller, she notes,
as a city dweller, while much more physical than the knights
tale, is much more artfully handled than that of the reeves
tale and focuses not so much upon the sex but on the deceptions and
revenges within the tale.
- ---. Meditation and Memory
in Chaucers House of Fame. Modern Language Studies
16.3 (1986): 279-287.
- Building upon Beryl Rowlands
work on the poem as an externalization of the artificial memory
process in which each book creates a memory palace which the
narrator explores, Bruckman discusses the poems structure, its
three books, as a representation of the practice of Prudence, one
of the cardinal virtues. According to Cicero, Prudence was the knowledge
of past, present, and future and, according to Thomas Aquinas
and Albertus Magnus, an artificial memory was necessary to its cultivation.
Each book of the House of Fame does this, Buckmaster argues,
by presenting Chaucers knowledge of the sciences, arts, and
philosophy in the past, present, and future. Finally, Buckmaster suggests
that the poem is an inner journey, an act of meditation in the tradition
of Ignatus Loyola who tied the art of memory to meditation, which
is the composition of place as an effect to see with the
eyes of the imagination the corporal place.
- Carruthers, Mary. The
Poet as Master Builder: Composition and Locational Memory in the Middle
Ages. New Literary History 24 (1992-1993): 881-904.
- Carruthers argues that the locational
memory system described in the Rhetorica ad Herennium
and made famous by Francis Yates is only one subset of many
mnemontechniques (881). In this essay, her interest
lies in a version of the locational memory used in monastic circles
during the Middle Ages to compose prayers and sacra pagina.
Carruthers argues that this form of mnemonic system was a composing
technique, a technique which she says was inventional rather than
informative. Carruthers provides multiple examples of writers referring
to this system, using what she calls the master builder
trope, and concludes that this form on mnemonic building was a composing
technique that could be used for a variety of projects, whether
a poem, a prayer, a painting, or a building (900).
- Howard, Donald R. The
Canterbury Tales: Memory and Form. ELH. 28.3 (1971):
- Howard, drawing upon Yates
work on artificial memory, argues that the Prologue is the heart of
The Canterbury Tales and that Chaucer made conscious use of
memory in composing it. Howard notes that the Prologue is itself presented
as a remembrance. Each pilgrim is introduced in such a way as to create
a visual picture accompanied by interesting tidbits about them that
can only have been learned over a period of time. Chaucer does this,
Howard argues, so that we will remember each pilgrim when we read
his or her specific tale. Howard also notes that the pilgrims themselves
are introduced in order of natural groupings based upon estate and
companions (knight, squire, and yeoman or the five guildsmen and their
cook), the way one might list them when reciting from memory. Finally,
Howard argues that it is fitting that The Canterbury Tales
is fragmentary as it is supposed to be told from memory, which are
- Rowland, Beryl. The Art
of Memory and the Art of Poetry in the House of Fame.
Revue de lUniversite dOttawa 51.2 (1981): 162-171.
- Focusing upon Chaucers
comment in Book II of the House of Fame that memory not only
holds his dream but is responsible for turning it into art, Rowland
argues that the poem is about the art of poetry itself, that it considers
the kinds of material a poet would use, and that it demonstrates the
role of artificial memory in the composition of poetry. According
to Rowland, this process works as such: the poet takes words from
books, makes them images in his or her mind, and then turns those
images into new words, a new poem. Here, as elsewhere, Rowland notes,
Chaucer considers books just one more kind of artificial memory.
- ---. Bishop Bradwardine,
the Artificial Memory, and the House of Fame. Chaucer
at Albany. Ed. Rossel Hope Robbins. New York: Burt Franklin &
Co., 1975. 41-62.
- Rowland explains artificial
memory and argues that the House of Fame may be seen
as an externalization of this memory process and believes that
Bishop Brandwardines De Memoria Artificiali influenced
Chaucer. Rowland makes this claim based upon some significant differences
between Brandwardines discussion of loci and those proscribed
in the Rhetorica ad Herennium, such as Brandwardines
suggestions that one make use of cultivated fields, and contrasting
buildings by using different materials (such as roofs of straw) and
different heights. Having drawn our attention to these differences,
Rowland discusses examples within the poem, such as the House of Rumor,
which is made of rushes and twigs, lying in a valley below the House
of Fame. Included with the essay is Rowlands translation
of De Memoria Artificiali, based upon the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge,
MS 169, the shorter of the two extant versions of the treatise.
- Schibanoff, Susan. Prudence
and Artificial Memory in Chaucers Troilus. ELH
42 (1975): 507-517.
- Examining the poems interest
in place, on its connections between place and action, Schibanoff
notes that the poem often emphasizes places over the actions that
occur in them. This is most readily apparent, she argues, in book
V during Troiluss tour of Troy after Criseyde has left him.
His tour serves as a catalog of the places where the two had been
and as they are visited, they recall the actions and the events that
had taken place in them. This rather unusual use of physical
setting, she argues is rooted in the system of artificial memory
(512). Schibanoff notes, however, that Chaucer creates a discordance
between what the locations mean to Troilus and what they mean to the
reader. She argues that Chaucer does this by creating a perspective
of omniscience for the reader, which Schibanoff equates
with the cardinal virtue of Prudence. Prudence, she notes, was made
up of memory, intelligence, and foresight. Throughout the poem, she
suggests, the audience reads the poem through a prudent, omniscient,
view. We know how Troiluss relationship with Criseyde will end.
Knowing this, Schibanoff argues, means that the loci and images encountered
during Troiluss tour serve not just as artificial memory, but
because it is coupled with foresight, it functions as
the moral memory of Prudence (513).