Sunday, August 14, 2005

Dissertation notes: Kelber on Carruthers and Coleman's revision of Yates

From Kelber, Werner H. "The Case of the Gospels: Memory's Desire and the Limits of Historical Criticism." Oral Tradition 17.1 (2002): 55-86.

Summarizing Mary Carruthers and Janet Coleman's revision of Francis Yates, Kelber writes:

"Carruthers' Book of Memory (1990) may be described as a study of the nature and activities of medieval thought, including practices of composing and reading texts, appropriating pictures, envisioning words and events, "eating" and "digesting" words, and modes of meditation and prayer. She has unfolded a culture extending from late antiquity into the Renaissance in which thought was deeply rooted in the human sensorium of touching, smelling, hearing, and varying forms of visualization. her work suggests, by implication more than be definitional explicitness, that some of our central Western metaphors did not mean what they have come to mean to us today. Among those concepts we had thought we knew, but which require rethinking in ancient and medieval terms, are text and textuality, author and tradition, reading and writing, and logic and cognition, to name a few. Most importantly, Carruthers arrives at the conclusion that the culture of late antiquity and the Middle Ages—notwithstanding its steadily increasing manufacture of manuscripts—was predominately a memorial culture rather than a purely documentary, textual one. Coleman's Ancient and Medieval Memories (1992) distinguishes itself by a superior knowledge of ancient philosophy and medieval theology, and by uncommonly subtle representations of philosophical argumentation. her hugely impressive inventory of ancient and medieval theories of memory, which encompasses almost 2000 years of Western intellectual history, principally makes the argument that the measure of remembering was not historical verification as such, but rhetorical persuasiveness. One was inclined to remember primarily what was deemed worthy of remembering, and what merited remembering depended on the bearing it had for present time and circumstances. Only with the advent of the Enlightenment, she claims, were concerted efforts made to reconstruct the past as past" (56).

*Carruthers, Mary. The Book of Memory: A Study in Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.
*---. The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.
*Coleman, Janet. Ancient and Medieval Memories: Studies in the Reconstruction of the Past. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992.
*Yates. The Art of Memory. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1966.
*---. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. London; Boston: Routledge, 1972.
*---. The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age.. London; Boston: Routledge, 1979.
*---. Lull and Bruno. London; Boston: Routledge, 1982.

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