Contents | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Conclusion | References


Chapter Two
Renaissance Mnemonics, Poststructuralism, and the Rhetoric of Hypertext Composition

by Richard Smyth, Ph.D.

This, I believe, is one of the earliest examples of the extreme fascination with deploying words in a kind of abstract space which was to be a characteristic of the Ramist age, and which is still so much a part of us that we can hardly realize it has an origin and a history.
--Walter Ong
We choose our past in the same way that we choose our future.
--Hayden White

One goal of historical exploration in a grammatological project is to understand the extent to which current institutional practices are cultural, to understand, that is, that they have been invented at some point in history. Such is the motivation behind Ong's work on Ramus, as he writes in the above quotation; as such, his work engages in a grammatological exploration which examines the effects of a particular technology of the word--the printing press--upon the contemporaneous practices of rhetorical oratory. If the outline--the "deployment of words in an abstract space"--was invented at a particular moment in history, then knowing of its status as invention gives us the option of continuing its usage or inventing new practices. Ong enjoins us, then, to become aware of the origins of our current practices so that we are not bound unconsciously to employ methods that may no longer be suitable to the new media now available. Grammatological deconstruction, it could be argued, works in a similar way: it identifies the metaphors underlying certain "concepts we live by" so that we can consider alternatives, thereby empowering us in our use of language.1

My primary purpose in this dissertation, then, involves the question of hypertext composition, of how this new electronic medium might be used within the educational institution by both scholars composing academic articles about poets like Edmund Spenser and English instructors training students to write about and with literature in a hypertext program like Storyspace. This chapter plays the role of examining the history of pedagogical practices as they existed during the transitional period spanning the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Knowledge of how pedagogical practices changed then can help current pedagogical reformers generate innovative instructional curricula by providing an understanding of both the dynamics involved in a period of transition and the defining characteristics of the print and electronic apparatuses. Such knowledge, I hope to show by the end of this dissertation, can be most fruitful in negotiating our current transitional shift. After providing a brief history of sixteenth-century pedagogical practices and demonstrating how the printing press was one of the central causes of the shifts in educational methods, I look at the work of Edmund Spenser as a representative example of one writer in the midst of these changes. The chapters following this preliminary groundwork will then explore what I have learned about hypertext composition from the sixteenth century and apply this learning in solving the problem of how to compose in hypertext in a manner that exploits its full potential for communicative efficacy.

The task of writing a history, though, is not without its problems, since the discipline of history, as of late, has come under attack. It is no longer viewed as the unproblematized revelation of the past, but is now seen to be mediated by language and by language-users. The notion of the "observer effect," while originating in anthropological study or perhaps even in such scientific thought-experiments as Schrodinger's Cat, quantum mechanics or relativity, has colored the methodological strategies of the liberal arts and social sciences as well. The conclusions of Hayden White are now well-known, conclusions which clarify the extent to which histories are literary constructions, interpretations framing a set of facts. As he writes, "But in general there has been a reluctance to consider historical narratives as what they most manifestly are: verbal fictions, the contents of which are as much invented as found and the forms of which have more in common with their counterparts in literature than they have with those in the sciences."2

While White's call for historiological sophistication is specific to the discipline of history, his call to action is similar to Ong's in that it requires historians of any discipline to consider the invented nature of the discipline itself. The implications of his claims extend, therefore, to historical exploration in any discipline, but especially to literary criticism, as so much of its endeavor involves history. Jerome J. McGann comments on the extent to which an "ideology of continuity" in narrativized literary histories governs the sphere of literary criticism: "If one is interested in critical knowledge, one has to be wary of this impulse to generate continuities. . . . In the discourses of criticism, narrativized forms are so common that their narrativity is often not even noticed."3 McGann calls attention, like Ong and White, to what is forgotten or overlooked in our current practices, and therefore his work, in that it looks to identify the origin of a specific cultural behavior within an invisible ideology, qualifies for the title of "cultural criticism" as well.

The work of scholars like Jack Goody, Walter Ong, and Eric Havelock, who could be called "grammatologists"--historians of reading and writing practices--has recently come to be scrutinized by cultural critics who find in it the tendency to generate continuities in the historical movement from orality to literacy. Before proceeding to explore the sixteenth century for the ways in which some institutional practices were abandoned and others were initiated, I must first discuss the debate over the history of orality and literacy in order to situate grammatology within this debate and to show how grammatology can resolve the problems that Goody, Ong, and Havelock pose for a grammatological representation of history. Insofar as this dissertation is a historical exploration of past reading and writing practices, of past strategies for "information storage and retrieval"4 as they have been carried out in oral and literate cultures, I am writing the next chapter in this history, the chapter concerning the move from literacy to "computeracy." The goal, ultimately, is to work toward deriving scholarly and pedagogical strategies for information storage and retrieval in electronic media based on past practices of building memory palaces that, as I intend to show, are more suitable for electronic dispositio than current literate or "book" strategies.

The Orality-Literacy Debate

The scholarship surrounding questions of oral cultures and how such cultures compare to literate cultures has become quite extensive in recent decades, so much so that Cambridge University Press has instituted a series of books entitled "Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture." Such scholarship explores a number of different aspects of the problem, from the points of view of various disciplines: anthropological studies of tribal African cultures, historical studies plotting various points along the line marking the transition from strictly oral practices to current literate practices, sociological studies describing the effects of writing upon interpersonal relationships. While much data were gathered on these and other topics, only recently have the methodology and assumptions governing these studies come under question. The "debate," then, concerns the extent to which some of these scholars have succumbed to an ideological bias which enables them to conclude that literate culture is superior to or more advanced than "primitive" oral cultures.

The central question of the debate as I see it is as follows: does alphabetic literacy inherently change the capability or the capacity of the mind to think? Each of the three grammatological scholars mentioned, Ong, Havelock and Goody, have all been guilty of making this claim in their work, overtly suggesting in the process that this change makes the literate cognitively advanced or superior. Ong, for instance, defining writing as a "technology of the word," writes that "Technologies are not mere exterior aids but also interior transformations of consciousness. . . ."5 Writing, in his view, becomes indispensable to the kinds of progress that humankind has managed to make since its advent: "Nevertheless, without writing, human consciousness cannot achieve its fuller potentials, cannot produce other beautiful and powerful creations. In this sense, orality needs to produce and is destined to produce writing" (14-15). Havelock, too, sees the potential of human rationality as being unlocked by writing. In his study of the effects of the Greek alphabet upon communicative efficiency, he claims that literacy literally changed our minds, allowing for logical thinking to emerge. Havelock therefore suggests that all logical thinking was a result of Greek alphabetic literacy.6 Goody as well, in his Domestication of the Savage Mind, written in part as a corrective to Havelock's disregard of chirographic cultures existing prior to Greek civilization, makes the claim that writing practices such as the recipe, the list, and the table or chart helped in the "development of cognitive structures and processes" which emerged "subsequent to the advent of writing" (36-37).

Each of these writers views the technologies of writing as devices that enable users to realize the "fully human" potentials of rational thought which are characteristic of modern-day civilization. Assumed in this point of view is the belief that the technologies of literacy--first the invention of the vowel in Greek culture, the emergence of chirographic culture, and finally the invention of movable type--are implicitly progressive, leading in an inevitable "march of time" toward the development of individuality, democracy, freedom. Literacy, in and of itself, comes to be a civilizing force: the progressive technologizing of the word is an emancipatory development.7 In a sense, proponents of this view hold that this process of technologizing is naturally progressive, rather than seeing the assumption that literacy liberates as a culturally imposed valuation.8

This position has come under attack by such scholars as Brian Street and Mary Carruthers. In Literacy in Theory and Practice, Brian Street addresses the tendency described above as an ideological assumption; he sees a problem in a position which represents technology as a neutral agent. The appeal of this position, according to Street, is that it allows one to avoid the charge of "discrimination" in the politicized sense most commonly used today.

They can argue, whether implicitly or explicitly, that this new version of the "great divide"--the division between literate and non-literate--does not discriminate between cultures but simply between technologies. Since technologies are "neutral," then no aspersions are being cast on individual members of cultures which happen to lack a particular technology and are thus taken to lack certain intellectual advantages. . . . The suggestion is no longer that a culture is intellectually superior, as earlier racist theories had argued. Rather, it is claimed that a culture is intellectually superior because it has acquired that technology. (29)
Mary Carruthers has a similar problem with the haphazard use of the word "technology." In The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture, in which she reveals medieval mnemonic practices to be a mixture of oral and literate practices, Carruthers calls for care in the use of the term technology, specifically care in the assumption that cognitive processes are improved:
[S]ome modern historians of technology seem to assume that there is a direct and simple correlation between the form something takes in writing and the way a person is able to think about it, in the same way that a washing-machine's design determines how clothes washed in it will be washed. The fashion for defining writing as a technological innovation of the same sort as television and the automobile, or the heavy plow and moveable type, seems to me fraught with difficulties.9 (96)
Street labels this position that views technology as a neutral agent the "autonomous model" of literacy, a position which privileges one particular form of literacy as a universal practice, as the sole form of literacy.10 He writes, "The model tends, I claim, to be based on the 'essay-text' form of literacy and to generalise broadly from what is in fact a narrow, culture-specific literacy practice" (1).11

As an alternative to the reductive autonomous model, Street offers what he calls the "ideological model" of literacy, one which recognizes that practices of literacy fulfill different purposes in different social contexts and that it is necessary, therefore, to attend to the specific setting in which a particular form of literacy exists in order to identify how it works for that culture. Carruthers's example of the washing machine is helpful here: rather than viewing literacy as a "technology" that works in one way and one way only, as those upholding the autonomous model assume, the ideological model assumes that the way literacy "works" in a culture depends upon the culture in which it is working: "The model stresses the significance of the socialisation process in the construction of the meaning of literacy for participants and is therefore concerned with the general social institutions through which this process takes place and not just the explicit 'educational' ones" (Street 2).

The emphasis here on the institutional makes Street's argument similar to a grammatological one, which seeks, as part of its position, to recognize the place of institutional practices in the employment of technologies of communication. The notion of the "apparatus" does not reduce literacy to a neutral technology but considers technology in relation to the institutional practices governing its usage. The use of "technologies of the word," that is, must be learned in specific social settings, institutional settings, by individuals. Furthermore, the institutional training received by students as a means of employing these technologies within particular social settings results in an ideological formation that crystallizes into a particular form of subjectivity.12 Havelock, for instance, writes of how a sense of selfhood emerged subsequent to the invention of the alphabet, a recognition that Ulmer includes as part of his definition of grammatology: "Subject formation--subjectivation--is itself subject to invention."13 Subjectivity thus becomes part of what defines Ulmer's notion of "the interactive matrix" of the apparatus, which in his conception is constituted by technologies of communication, institutional practices as well as subject formation.14 Grammatology, therefore, provides the theoretical framework for an approach to the effects of language technologies which fits Street's "ideological model," supplying with its definition of the apparatus what Michael Warner, in The Letters of the Republic, believes has been lacking: "But to my mind the material studied in this book derives much of its interest from the reciprocal determination it shows between a medium and its politics. This is a historical relation of causation that remains relatively untheorized and resists the ways we usually narrate the past" (xii).15

Given the debate as set forth above, however, it is clear that the notion of "technology" must be clearly and carefully defined. While other possibilities for defining this term have been opened up by such theorists as Theresa De Lauretis--with her "technologies of gender"--and Deleuze and Guattari--with their notion of the "abstract machine"--the grammatologist focuses on technology as a tool of communication. This would include not only specific technologies themselves (such as video, radio, typewriters, or printing presses) but also other implements not normally considered technologies, like a pencil, for instance, or a book. Conceiving of technology as a tool here avoids the limited view of technology exemplified in Carruthers' "washing machine" metaphor, which she employs to question the sense of a neutral machine that only works in one way. A tool can be used in a variety of ways for a variety of different reasons, though it may have one specified function, for example the use of a screwdriver as a chisel: it will work as a chisel in certain situations, but its intended function was to drive screws into wood. This definition of technology, then, would allow for context-specific employment, for which Street's ideological model calls.

Carruthers offers an alternative term etymologically related to technology: technique. She writes of these two almost interchangeably, as one can see in the following passage, in which she warns about reifying technique and refers to the abuse of this word in the same terms she uses when discussing the reductive use of technology by other scholars:

Similarly, neither the prevalence nor the form of written materials in a culture should, I think, be taken as any sure indication of those people's ability to think in rational categories, or of the structures those categories may take. I am not suggesting that technique and technology have no effect upon human culture; this study is concerned to identify and describe a number of distinctive features in medieval literary culture which are sometimes expressed in particular techniques, such as page layout. But I try not to reify technique, and in particular I think it very important to recognize that the form in which information is presented to the mind does not necessarily constrain the way in which such information is encoded by the brain nor the ways in which it can be found and sorted. (32)

A third possible synonym for defining the technology of communication in a grammatological fashion is to view it as a mnemonic prosthesis. Grammatology might be considered as the study of the history of reading and writing, or more precisely the study of how information is "stored and retrieved" ("information" here not merely indicating neutral facts and figures but also referring to cultural axioms concerning gender relations, class distinctions, racial stereotypes, national mythologies, and any other ideological assumptions that are woven within its text), of how societies remember.16 Storage and retrieval can be seen as aspects of memory, and memory becomes the crux: "Learning is regarded as a process of discovering more effective, efficient, inclusive mnemonics--for memory, as Hugh of St. Victor says, is the basis of learning" (Carruthers 106). Technology, then, can be viewed as anything that improves the efficiency of memory, whether it be a tool like a pencil to write a grocery list or a technique like page lay-out that enhances recall of entire book pages.17 A library filled with books can be conceived of as a technology, when technology is defined as mnemonic prosthesis.18

With this sense of technology, then, I look in the next section at two grammatological histories, Frances Yates' The Art of Memory and Walter Ong's Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue, with the intent of exploring how the sixteenth century was a transitional period for pedagogical practices, such that a different mnemonic system--the Ramist method of outlining--replaced the traditional mnemonic system of the memory palace. But the memory palace, as I will show in subsequent chapters, is more amenable to electronic media and will therefore provide a model for electronic dispositio. This will be one part of the prolegomenon for an electronic rhetoric, the second part consisting of specific strategies for writing within hypertext.

Sixteenth-Century Mnemonic Practices

Writing of the effect of Hayden White's conclusions concerning historiographical narrativization in the context of literary criticism, Jerome McGann says, "White explores a type of critical narrative which he calls the 'narrativized' text, where the writer builds into the discourse an illusion which suggests that completion is inherent to the historical events rather than to the narrative of those events" (Social Values and Poetic Acts 140). Any past event or practice, then, is always open to recycling in a new (historical) narrative that reinterprets the past in terms of the present. Such is my purpose in this dissertation: to re-open the history of the memory palace, which came to an apparent end in the sixteenth century, and remotivate its mnemonics in the context of late twentieth-century technologies. My purpose in this section will be to review the institutional changes in pedagogical procedure which are said to have brought about the decline in the use of the memory palace as a popular mnemotechnique. This review will suggest that scholars and students responding to changes in communications technology at the present moment can bring about its return. Insofar as the changes in the sixteenth century were caused, in part, by the advent of a new technology--the printing press--I will suggest that the recent advent of new technologies, such as video, interactive multimedia, and virtual reality or "cyberspace," will impose the same pressure upon the educational institution to adapt to the changes with revised institutional practices. This dissertation, ultimately, will offer some possibilities for such practices.

First, I will review the history of the memory palace. The legendary origin of the mnemonic strategy of remembering images in particular places--the fundamental principle of the memory palace--occurred at a banquet given by Scopas. The poet Simonides, present at the banquet to entertain the guests, was called outside by two men, presumably the twin gods Castor and Pollux in praise of whom part of his songs were sung. During his absence the roof caved in, killing all of the dinner guests and mangling them beyond recognition. Simonides, however, was able to identify the guests, as he had remembered the places at the table at which each guest sat. From this experience he extrapolated the fundamental principle of the memory palace, and so is said to have invented the art of memory.19

This story is often recounted in conjunction with discussion of the fourth part of rhetoric--memoria. The three Roman sources for rhetorical practice each include strategies for memorization based on Simonides' invention: Cicero's De oratore, Quintilian's Insititutio oratoria and the anonymous Rhetorica ad Herennium. The purpose of this discussion of memoria was to present methods for memorizing speeches once written, for the most effective means of delivery. As such, the focus of these early treatises remained rhetorical, and its instruction remained confined to the improvement of one's oratorical abilities.

A shift in emphasis occurs in the Middle Ages, when in the highly Christianized context of the time, different goals were pursued by the institutions of education. Yates locates the shift in a particular reading of Cicero's De inventione:

That is to say, they [Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas] knew only the Ad Herennium on the artificial memory, and they saw it, through a tradition already well established in the earlier Middle Ages, in the context of the "First Rhetoric of Tullius," the De inventione with its definitions of the four cardinal virtues and their parts. Hence it comes about that the scholastic ars memorativa treatises--those by Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas--do not form part of a treatise on rhetoric, like the ancient sources. The artificial memory has moved over from rhetoric to ethics. (57)20
The same mnemonic strategies were applied to a different purpose: the memorization of virtues and vices so as to keep monks focused on the rewards of virtuous behavior and reminded of the punishments for bad behavior. In this vein, Dante's Divine Comedy is possibly a poem based on the Art of Memory.21

Another institutional force which maintained the need for memorization concerned the new mendicant orders, members of which would preach as they wandered as part of their service. Yates recounts Beryl Smalley's study of fourteenth-century friars who memorized allegorical personifications of the sins in order to facilitate recall of material for purposes of preaching. The strategies offered in the various texts have their origins, Yates suggests, in the practices of the classical Art of Memory.22 Furthermore, the dominant instructional mode until the sixteenth century was the oral disputation, in which degree candidates would have to engage to demonstrate their prowess in arguing. "As late as Ramus' own day, (as John Standonck's 1503 statutes for the College of Montaigu show), such disputations were the sole exercise of all students."23 Those engaged in a disputation would not only need to memorize their own portion of the dialogue but also needed to "store" in memory the arguments of their opponents, so as to be able effectively to refute those points.

These disputations occurred very frequently in the setting of a medieval university. "Besides the types of disputation connected with the 'graduation' ceremonies of both bachelor and master, there were the frequent disputation conducted by the master in his own classes."24 These would simply be questions posed by either the master or by a student, with the subsequent oral response. Another student, appointed as the "respondent," would then summarize both the answers to the question and the objections raised. In another, more common version of the disputation, known as "public and 'ordinary' disputations, the respondent and opponent were students or bachelors, while the one who summed up and gave the final solutions was the master, who thus 'determined' the question" (Daly 157). At Oxford, for instance, these were quite frequent: "in the medical faculty, the rules call for weekly disputations, and in the faculty of arts the new master was to dispute on every 'disputable day' for forty continuous days" (157). The disputation was, in fact, considered to be one of the duties of a master or doctor, besides the task of "professing."

But a gradual decline in the use of the medieval mnemonics occurred, in particular the memory palace, for various reasons. For one, a complete text of Quintilian's Institutio oratoria was discovered in the early fifteenth century, so by the sixteenth century his version was available. This is an important development because Quintilian is the only one of the three Latin sources to criticize the efficacy of the memory palace, suggesting in its stead the strict rote memorization that we are more familiar with today. Furthermore, since Thomas Aquinas himself wrote of the Art of Memory, the memory palace became associated with scholasticism, which was attacked by humanist philosophers like Erasmus and Melanchthon.26

The practice of building memory palaces--in which loci were made available for the placement of remarkable imagery that would stimulate one's memory--did not, however, become completely discontinued but became marginalized to the Neoplatonist movement, which adopted its mnemonics for the purpose of enhancing the Hermetic philosopher's magical grasp over nature. Much of Yates' work revolves around recounting the Hermetic and Cabalist traditions as they are incorporated into the memory palace tradition practiced by the Hermetic philosophers that she researches, especially Giordano Bruno.27 While the Hermeto-Cabalist tradition may have been strong in the sixteenth century, it eventually becomes discounted by the end of Bruno's life, resulting in his burning at the stake in 1600.28 Yates recounts a debate which took place between a Brunian, Alexander Dicson, and a Ramist disciple, William Perkins, in 1584. While the debate was ostensibly about opposing arts of memory, it was, as Yates writes, "at bottom a religious controversy" (267), and this is part of the reason why the Hermetic version, perceived as subversive and pagan, failed to maintain any influence over future mnemonic practices.29

At the same time that such religious and intellectual controversies were playing themselves out, pedagogical changes were occurring, changes caused by both internal institutional pressures and external technological shifts. Within the institution, more and more emphasis was placed upon writing as the oral disputation declined in its status as the sole means of showing one's learning. The advent of a "curriculum" was part of the reason for this trend. The current sense of "curriculum" as meaning the set of pedagogical tasks to be completed within a given period of time seems to have had its origin in the late medieval/early modern university setting, and the underlying metaphor of the "road race" (curriculum in Latin means "a contest in running") was as much a problem then as it is now. Ong writes of how an element of discourse as simple as class discussion became abbreviated so that the road race of curriculum could be run: "Even partial dialogue with the class, in which the pupils volunteered questions or objections, was necessarily severely restricted, or one would never get through the material at all" (Ramus 155).

The move to a coverage model of education also encouraged standardization of education, such that teacher's guilds began to determine guidelines for course content. This trend also affected the degree of orality in the university setting, resulting in increased reliance upon writing. Again, Ong is helpful here:

The normal-school tradition itself [a disputation-based curriculum], however, had prepared the way for the humanist assault on the oral disputation. Insofar as knowledge was standardized by being put in the keeping of teachers' guilds, where it inevitably became more and more a commodity, it tended to retreat from the evanescent world of discourse (verba volant ) to the more stable world of writing (scripta manent ). (155)
The dreaded teacher's exam, which every new public school teacher must pass before becoming a bona fide certified teacher, had its origins in this process of standardization that the teachers' guilds enacted. This exam ensured a degree of competence but at the same time shifted the conception of knowledge to that of a commodity:
[K]nowledge naturally tended to be viewed less as a wisdom transmissable only in a context of personal relationships than as a commodity. It could be measured--indeed, had to be--which meant that it could be manipulated in terms of quantitative analogies. We have not yet arrived, but we are well on the way to report cards. . . . (Ramus 152)
The problem of teaching complicated philosophy to young teenagers also contributed to the institutional reshaping that participated in the decline of discourse practiced within education. This in fact goes to the heart of Ong's treatment of Ramus's educational reforms. As part of the historical groundwork that Ong provides for demonstrating the conditions under which Ramus revises the constitution of rhetoric and dialectic, he relates the process of simplification that occurs for pedagogical purposes. This promoted the transmission of less than accurate material and initiated the pairing-down process that culminates in Ramus's revised logic.30 In fact, Ramus justifies his "natural dialectic" by appealing to its practicality:
Ramus flaunts his reason for the superiority of this practical analysis with a disconcerting frankness: it is the best possible method for enabling the schoolboy to memorize the twenty- eight lines of Ovid in question! . . . . Ramus' preoccupation with dichotomization has its real origin largely in the pedagogical appeal of the tidy bracketed tables of dichotomies which he studied in the printed commentaries and epitomes of Agricola's Dialectical Invention. (194, 199)
Ultimately, this appeal to practicality proved to be the crucial blow in the demise of the memory palace as a mnemonic strategy: because one had to work at discovering visual puns to situate in carefully created places, oftentimes generating elaborate and esoteric connections in the hope of stimulating the memory, the procedure seemed too complicated and unnecessary. The Ramist dichotomies were arguably more efficient and less complicated.31

As the framework of grammatology suggests, though, institutional changes were not the only factor involved. The new technology of the printing press also aided in this process, in that it participated in fostering the advent of the Ramist dichotomies. Ramus, of course, was not the first to fabricate elaborate charts mapping the mind and its workings. But charts made prior to the printing press were reproduced like all documents were before the printing press: by hand. Besides the inaccuracies that such a procedure promoted, oftentimes this process was tedious to say the least, as well as complicated. With the new "age of mechanical reproduction" that the printing press engendered, multiple copies of complicated charts like Ramus' dichotomies could be reproduced with minimal inaccuracy. As Ong writes, "The Agricolan and Ramist dialectic was to prove itself unexpectedly congenial to printing techniques" (97). The value of Ong's thesis lies in his explanation of the power of the technology to initiate wide-reaching cultural change--given the proper institutional setting.32

Insofar as the printing press was congenial to Ramism, it facilitated its expansion as a mnemonic system. The printed book, too, helped contribute to the decline of the memory palace, as the process begun in the Middle Ages--the storing of information in book form--became that much more easy.33 Mass production was now possible; no more did one have to wait for a human hand to transcribe completely an entire tome. "The schematic layouts of manuscripts, designed for memorisation, the articulation of a summa into its ordered parts, all these are disappearing with the printed book which need not be memorised since copies are plentiful" (Yates 124). This plenitude was significant, as Carruthers indicates in speaking of why medieval scholars required a good memory: "Scholars have always recognized that memory necessarily played a crucial role in pre-modern Western civilization, for in a world of few books, and those mostly in communal libraries, one's education had to be remembered, for one could never depend on having continuing access to specific material" (8). The need for a good memory was no longer as urgent as it once was, and so the mnemonic practices that cultivated a phenomenal memory were less and less engaged.

The irony in Ramus' aim to create a better way of memorizing with his dichotomies becomes apparent: in promoting a written, visual form of memory which serves as a mnemonic prosthesis on paper, he superceded the more oral form of the memory palace, one in which human memory itself was more directly engaged. The Ramist method institutes an age of rhetoric or anti-rhetoric in which the latter two steps--memoria and pronuntiatio-- drop out of consideration, and memory in itself becomes incorporated in writing. The resulting hybrid of memory and method--what Sharon Crowley calls "the methodical memory"--can only be expressed in writing:

A written outline, then, was a graphic representation of the categories contained in the memory. The discursive outline simply was a graphic representation of the processes of analysis and amplification. The workings of the methodical memory could now be put on display for all to see!34
This state of affairs has developed over the centuries since the sixteenth century, and only now, with the relatively recent advent of electronic and mass media, is the hegemony of exposition being challenged. Barilli's diagnosis of contemporary rhetoric suggests the need to reconsider rhetoric in light of twentieth-century breakthroughs in communicative technology.

The current challenge, then, is to view the electronic media as mnemonic prostheses, as new tools for storing information, tools which have characteristics that differ from the book as a storage medium. I am claiming that our discipline has much to learn from the sixteenth century concerning the employment of a three-dimensional writing space such as the Storyspace hypertext medium, specifically from the storage strategies of the memory palace as well as from the individual authors who were negotiating a time of transition as fluid as ours is now. I will now consider from a grammatological perspective the sixteenth-century context of Edmund Spenser, one of the first "authors" to be paid as an author.

Spenser and the Memory Palace

Whether conscious or not, Spenser lived in a transitional period during which mnemonic practices, pedagogical practices, political power relationships, class relationships, and subjectivity were undergoing changes that oftentimes were contradictory in their implications: the "secret" self writing a variety of different signatures, the Protestant reformer employing an iconographic mnemonic system,35 the impoverished sizar, with a homosexual mentor, whose course of study and, consequently, his poetry were affected, in part, by the advent of the printing press.36 The previous section of this chapter recounted the history of mnemotechnics as a set of institutional practices that changed as a result of the effects of the printing press, and, as the next section will show, Spenser's poetry reveals his participation in the outgoing practice of the memory palace. The chapter to follow will then explore how Spenser embraces the incoming practices of print literacy and what the implications of this embrace are for the subsequent development of the "mnemonics of literacy," as I shall call it.

It remains now to demonstrate how Spenser's allegorical impulse shared in the tradition of the memory palace. The goal of returning to Spenser as a grammatologist, at a time when allegory is on the rise again both as a topic and as a practice in literary theory, at a time when the "electronic word," to quote the title of Richard Lanham's recent book on "electronic literacy," is as visual as it is verbal, will be to learn from him strategies for composing in and conceiving of a medium like hypertext, a three-dimensional writing "space" that has been described as a dungeon and a castle. These strategies will be recounted in the final portions of this dissertation. Ultimately, I intend to reconfigure Spenser and the memory palace tradition in a heuretic equation with the present moment, to perceive a new constellation that includes Spenser, the memory palace, literary theory and the electronic storage and retrieval of information.37 The pattern that emerges will take the form of a poetics of hypertext composition.

While there is no direct evidence that Spenser learned the art of remembering by building memory palaces or theaters in his mind, as a student of rhetoric, learning the fourth step of memoria, we can suppose he would have read the recommendations that Roman rhetoricians made about its efficacy. For a poet who wanted to be remembered, whose laureate ambitions are all but a commonplace among contemporary criticism,38 these strategies may have seemed appealing, even indispensable. And the allegorical nature of the memory palace certainly would not have escaped Spenser. For these reasons, The Faerie Queene, as the major work of allegory in the English Renaissance, is a good place to look for evidence of Spenser's mnemonic strategies.

The most striking moment of Spenser's use of the memory palace comes in the proem to Book Two. Spenser begins by defending his choice of the romance as a vehicle for his matter in the rhetorical ploy of anthypophora, or response to anticipated objections.39

Right well I wote most mighty Soueraine,
That all this famous antique history,
Of some th'aboundance of an idle braine
Will iudged be, and painted forgery,
Rather then matter of just memory,
Sith none, that breatheth liuing aire, does know,
Where is that happy land of Faery,
Which I so much do vaunt, yet no where show,
But vouch antiquities, which no body can know. (
Here Spenser feels the need to justify the memory that he invokes by "vouching" antiquities. The emphasis on memory is significant, for Spenser must defend his use of legendary material as relevant subject matter in a poem meant to praise the queen, since this "famous antique history" might be judged, as he writes, as "th'aboundance of an idle braine" and "painted forgery" rather than "matter of just memory." And this is the book in which the Arthurian legends come to play their most significant role: later, in canto nine, Arthur and Guyon enter the chamber of Eumnestes ("good memory") in the House of Alma and find two important books stored there, one titled Briton Moniments, and the other titled Antiquitie of Faerie. Arthur reads the former, Guyon the latter, throughout canto ten. The writings in these memorial texts nourish the two heroes ("alma" in Latin means "nourishing") in that they are strengthened to go forth with their quest. Alma, therefore, as the source of a book learning that provides national identity, is the ultimate "alma mater."

Spenser answers this potential objection raised in the first stanza of the proem by invoking the startling discoveries that voyagers to the New World were making, finding places never thought to exist: "But let that man with better sence aduize,/That of the world least part to vs is red:/And dayly how through hardy enterprize,/Many great Regions are discouered,/Which to late age were neuer mentioned" ( The poet "logically" concludes that just because something has never been seen does not mean that it does not exist: "Why then should witlesse man so much misweene/That nothing is, but that which he hath seene?" ( The following stanza reveals where the "land of Faery" is:

Of Faerie lond yet if he more inquire,
By certaine signes here set in sundry place
He may it find; ne let him then admire,
But yield his sence to be too blunt and bace,
That no'te without an hound fine footing trace.
And thou, O fairest Princesse vnder sky,
In this faire mirrhour maist behold thy face,
And thine own realmes in lond of Faery,
And in this antique Image thy great auncestry. (
The inquirer can find Faerie lond by certaine signes here set in sundry place. These lines figure the entire poem, The Faerie Queene itself (the here ), as the memory p(a)lace in which the poet, the architect of this palace, has placed "signs" of Fairy Land. In the epic poem, metaphorically represented here as a mirror, Elizabeth can see her face, and in the antique image she can find her ancestry.

Here Spenser is using the language of the Art of Memory: images or signs set in places in order to call forth the memory of what was stored by means of the memory image. Yates recounts the instructions for using the Art of Memory:

The first step was to imprint on the memory a series of loci or places. . . . The images by which the speech is to be remembered . . . are then placed in imagination on the places which have been memorised in the building. This done, as soon as the memory of the facts requires to be revived, all these places are visited in turn and the various deposits demanded of their custodians. (The Art of Memory 3)
Spenser, in other words, provides in The Faerie Queene a guided tour of Fairy Land, of the Queen herself--the virtues to be upheld, the vices to be avoided.

The final stanza of the proem specifically connects this language of the art of memory to the act of allegorizing, demonstrating Spenser's consciousness of the allegorical nature of the mnemotechnique. It continues directly from the fourth, apologizing for the use of allegory:

The which O pardon me thus to enfold
In couert vele, and wrap in shadowes light,
That feeble eyes your glory may behold,
Which else could not endure those beames bright,
But would be dazled with exceeding light. (
The "antique Image" in which Elizabeth will behold her ancestry must be veiled in allegory, for she is so stunningly beautiful that persons beholding her would go blind. This circuitous way of praising Elizabeth's glory is framed in the language of allegorizing: the covert veil, the wrapping in shadow's light, refers to the "speaking other" of allos agoreuei.40 Spenser admits to this strategy also in his Letter to Ralegh, again invoking the "places" in which she appears in the poem:
In that Faery Queene I meane glory in my generall intention, but in my particular I conceiue the most excellent and glorious person of our soueraine the Queene, and her kingdome in Faery land. And yet in some places els, I doe otherwise shadow her. (Poetical Works 407).
The structure of allegory itself suggests the mnemonic procedure inherent in placing images in places to trigger the memory. Craig Owens says that, in allegory, "the image is a hieroglyph; an allegory is a rebus--writing composed of concrete images" ("The Allegorical Impulse" 209), and one can view this dynamic in the following description of a "memory for things" image, in which a defense lawyer mnemonically inscribes the following in his memory place:
We shall imagine the man in question as lying ill in bed, if we know him personally. If we do not know him, we shall yet take some one to be our invalid, but not a man of the lowest class, so that he may come to mind at once. And we shall place the defendant at the bedside, holding in his right hand a cup, in his left, tablets, and on the fourth finger, a ram's testicles. In this way we can have in memory the man who was poisoned, the witnesses, and the inheritance. (Yates 11)
The scene here visually represents all of the elements that the lawyer wishes to recall; most notable is the grotesque depiction of the ram's testicles, which is a visual pun on the Latin testes, meaning "witness." In her work on allegory, Maureen Quilligan points to the relationship between the pun and allegory as well when she calls attention to "the essential affinity of allegory to the pivotal phenomenon of the pun, which provides a basis for the narrative structure characteristic of the genre" (Quilligan 32).41

The vivid image of the ram's testicles also identifies the importance of violence or grotesquery in the fabrication of these images. It was believed that resorting to such methods facilitated image recall. Eugene Vance, following consideration of Yates' work, writes, "Violence may be seen not only as the 'subject' of oral epic narrative, but also as an aide-memoire or as a generative force in the production of such narrative. In a commemorative culture, events of violence . . . are given great prominence so that the collective memory will be duly impressed with the pathos of 'history' as it is deployed: violence as semiosis."42 One can easily see this aspect of the Art of Memory in Spenser's The Faerie Queene, as David L. Miller points out in The Poem's Two Bodies: "The mnemonic value of such vividness is a standard topic of Renaissance rhetoric and poetics, and forms a basic strategy of Spenser's gothic extravagance in The Faerie Queene. " (24). One need only think of the more "memorable" moments of the poem, for instance when in Book One the dragon Errour is described as an "vgly monster plaine,/Halfe like a serpent horribly displaide,/But th'other halfe did womans shape retaine,/Most lothsom, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdaine" (I.i.14.6-9), who daily feeds "A thousand yong ones . . . /Sucking vpon her poisonous dugs, eachone/Of sundry shapes, yet all ill fauored" (I.i.15.5-7), or at the end of Book One canto eight when Duessa is stripped naked, she is described in the following vivid terms:

Her dried dugs, like bladders lacking wind,
Hong downe, and filthy matter from them weld;
her wrizled skin as rough, as maple rind,
So scabby was, that would haue loathd all womankind.

Her neather parts, the shame of all her kind,
My chaster Muse for shame doth blush to write;
But at her rompe she growing had behind
A foxes taile, with dong all fowly dight:
And eke her feete most monstrous were insight;
For one of them was like an Eagles claw,
With griping talaunts armd to greedy fight,
The other like a Beares vneuen paw:
More vgly shape yet neuer liuing creature saw. (I.8.47.6 - I.8.48)

Despite the influence of his "chaster Muse," Spenser manages to follow through with this detailed description of Duessa's "neather parts" with the purpose, I am arguing, of providing a memorable image in the same way that one was trained to do in learning the Art of Memory.

There is also evidence in the tradition of the Art of Memory indicating that the personification that suffuses allegorical writing and representation was employed as part of the process of memorization. Yates again is helpful: here she tells of an illustrated memory-image of Lady Grammar found in Johannes Romberch's book, published in 1520: "Though devoid of aesthetic charm, Romberch's Grammar is of importance to the student of artificial memory. She proves the point that personifications, such as the familiar figures of the liberal arts, when reflected in memory, become memory images" (120). The personifications in The Faerie Queene are so pervasive a part of Spenser's allegory that it would be tedious to catalogue them all. These personifications, combined with the number of memorable "places" in which they occur (for example, Errour in her cave or Acrasia in the Bower of Bliss), fall within the tradition of the memory palace. The poem thus has an overall effect of being structured like a memory palace: each book has its hero who wanders from memory place to memory place, encountering personifications of vices and virtues that are meant to be easily remembered: Errour's den, the House of Lucifera, Orgoglio's castle, the House of Holiness, the Castle of Medina, the Cave of Mammon, the House of Alma, the Bower of Bliss, etc.43

Probably the most obvious example of a memory palace occurs in the latter part of Book Two, when Arthur and Guyon visit and defend the House of Alma. The knights tour the allegorical body of the castle, entering through the mouth and then traversing the digestive tract, the heart, and finally the head. In the head (the tower), they visit three compartments presided over by three guardians: Phantastes (representing foresight and fantasy), an unnamed steward that some give the name Judgment, who manages the other two faculties, and Eumnestes (representing memory). The description of these loci and the relationships of the custodians constitute an allegory of the mnemonic process one finds in the memory palace tradition.

The structure of the turret itself can be seen as a mnemonic of the three parts of the mind as conceived in medieval philosophy and personified by the above figures44: they are described as rooms in which allegorical personages reside.

Therein were diuerse roomes and diuerse stages
But three the chiefest, and of greatest powre,
In which there dwelt three honorable sages,
The wisest men, I weene, that liued in their ages. (II.9.47.6-9)
The room, or "cell," was a typical part of a memory palace, a room in which some memorable image was stored. "Cella, the word used by Geoffrey of Vinsauf for the memory, also means 'storeroom,' as indeed its derivative form, cellarium, English 'cellar,' still indicates" (Carruthers 35). The descriptions of each of the chambers, too, invoke the memory palace tradition. Phantastes' chamber was "dispainted all within,/With sundry colours, in the which were writ/Infinite shapes of things" (II.9.50.1-3). The walls of the second room, too, "Were painted faire with memorable gestes,/Of famous Wisards, and with picturals/Of Magistrates, of courts, of tribunals . . ." (II.9.53.3-5). And though Eumnestes' chamber is not described in terms of images,
His chamber all was hangd about with rolles,
And old records from auncient times deriu'd,
Some made in books, some in long parchment scrolles,
That were all worme-eaten, and full of canker holes. (II.9.57.6-9)
The books and scrolls, the "memorable gestes / Of famous Wizards," the "Infinite shapes of things" written on the walls all suggest the characteristics of mnemotechnics. These are memory places that store information in the form of visual and written material.

Another clue pointing to this tradition resides in Phantastes' chamber, which is filled with flies "Like many swarmes of Bees assembled round/After their hiues with honny do abound" (II.9.51.3-4). Carruthers speaks of the conflation of bees and memory:

The compartments made by bees for their honey are called cellae (still called "cells" in English). . . . Bees and birds are also linked by persistent associations with memory and ordered recollection. Indeed there is a long-standing chain or, perhaps the better word, a texture of metaphor that likens the placement of memory-images in a trained memory to the keeping of birds and to the honey-making of bees. Trained memory is also linked metaphorically to a library. And the chain is completed by a metaphoric connection of books in a library both to memories placed in orderly cells and to birds and bees in their coops and hives. (35-36)
The presence of bees in this passage, then, is consistent with traditional representations of the arts of memory, as is Eumnestes' library, full of rolls, scrolls, and books. But here in this library are two important books, books that the heroes of Book Two will read throughout the next canto. These books, one called Antiquitie of Faerie lond, the other Briton Moniments, serve a mnemonic function for Spenser's (re)presentation of British history. The contents of the books themselves, selected as they were by Spenser, become evidence of their import in terms of the allegorical function of the three guardians Phantastes, "Judgment," and Eumnestes.

According to David L. Miller, the most important of these figures is Judgment, as he is the only one among them, in stanza 54, said to "meditate" ("There sate a man of ripe and perfect age,/Who did them meditate all his life long"). Miller points out the parallel to Diet, who is similarly described in stanza 27 as being "rype of age,/And in demeanure sober, and in counsell sage" (27.8-9), and he suggests that the numerological coincidence (27 doubled is 54) is no accident, and as such constitutes an allusion to Spenser (as Diet is a "dispenser"): "Certainly there is an analogy between the functions performed by Diet and Judgment: each within his own sphere chooses and directs, and so shadows the poet's responsibility for the allegorical dispensation of his narrative" (185). Miller calls this relationship among the three guardians a "radical allegory of Spenserian poesis " insofar as "the meditative function of the sage who operates [in the middle chamber] implicitly gathers memory [Eumnestes] and imagination [Phantastes] into itself" (188). Such is the stated purpose of The Faerie Queene as Spenser states in his "Letter to Ralegh": "a Poet thrusteth into the middest, euen where it most concerneth him, and there recoursing to the thinges forepaste [the stated realm of Eumnestes], and diuining of things to come [the stated role of Phantastes], maketh a pleasing Analysis of all" (Poetical Works 408).

And this becomes the purpose of the apparently haphazard representation of the histories: "In his treatment of the history Spenser therefore implants certain patterns that invite the reader to exercise the synthetic faculty of the middle chamber . . ." (Miller 200). This reading of Spenser the dispenser of his allegory, implanting patterns for readers to discover, though invoking the intentional fallacy, serves my reading of Alma's castle as a memory palace. Part of the memory palace tradition involves choosing what to remember and storing it in a particular place in the palace with an image. This is the role of Spenser and Judgment: the selection and arrangement of imaginative elements allegorizing the memorial texts of British history, into which Spenser writes Queen Elizabeth as rightful heir and successor.45 Spenser becomes the palace architect of the books (memory "palaces" in themselves), of Alma's Castle, of The Faerie Queene itself. As such, Spenser engages the tradition of the memory palace in his attempt to inscribe the Queen, as well as himself, in (literary) history.

Ralegh recognizes this project of inscription in his Commendatory Verse, posing a rhetorical question which serves as a warning to the poet:

If thou hast formed right true vertues face herein:
Vertue her selfe can best discerne, to whom they written bin.
If thou hast beautie praysd, let her sole lookes diuine
Iudge if ought therein be amis, and mend it by her eine.
If Chastitie want ought, or Temperance her dew,
Behold her Princely mind aright, and write the Queene anew.
(Poetical Works 409; emphasis added)
Ralegh warns Spenser to re-write his poem if it does not please the Queen, if he has not, that is, formed her face properly. He recognizes here the nature of Spenser's act as an act of prosopopoeia, of "face-making." Insofar as The Faerie Queene is an act of memorializing, of remembering the Queen before her death, this act of prosopopoeia takes on a mnemonic function. I will explore in the next chapter the extent to which prosopopoeia is a mnemonic device and the various ways that Spenser, as memorial poet, as architect of memory palaces, employs this device and what this means in terms of Spenser's position within the transitional period of the sixteenth century.


1I allude in this sentence to Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By, and intend by doing so to suggest that their work provides a model for the work of deconstruction. Early in the first chapter of the book, the authors present an example of one pervasive metaphor we live by--"argument is war"--and then proceed to suggest how difficult it would be to conceive of argument in terms of an alternative metaphor: "Try to imagine a culture where arguments are not viewed in terms of war. . . . Imagine a culture where an argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way" (4-5). Implicit in this suggestion is the potential that deconstruction has for empowering us--to the extent that we can be empowered--by providing alternatives and choices. Ultimately, though, the poststructuralist knows that one is confined to work within language, unlike those literary critics who believe that language is merely a transparent medium to a meaning that transcends the language itself.

2In Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1978, 82. Elsewhere, White writes of the "burden of history" as being the need to identify how history itself was invented at a particular point in history, how it was a cultural phenomenon: "Thus, historians of this generation must be prepared to face the possibility that the prestige which their profession enjoyed among nineteenth-century intellectuals was a consequence of determinable cultural forces. They must be prepared to entertain the notion that history, as currently conceived, is a kind of historical accident, a product of a specific historical situation, and that, with the passing of the misunderstandings that produced that situation, history itself may lose its status as an autonomous and self-authenticating mode of thought. It may well be that the most difficult task which the current generation of historians will be called upon to perform is to expose the historically conditioned character of the historical discipline . . . " (29).

3Social Values and Poetic Acts: The Historical Judgment of Literary Work. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1988, 132-3. McGann proceeds to offer alternatives to narrativizing for historical representation.

4By offering this potentially reductive equation of reading and writing practices with the notion of "information storage and retrieval," I do not intend to overlook the ways that poststructuralism complicates and problematizes the whole notion of reading and writing as processes controllable by an author. In one sense, the phrase captures the implied logocentrism in the rhetorical tradition of the commonplaces, which identify topics of various subject matters as being located in certain places that can be plumbed for the purpose of making an argument. But information here must be understood as any form of textuality in the broadest sense of the term, such that the information that a writer stores in the form of narrative or epic poetry (or any other form, for that matter) may be unconscious representations of pervasive cultural norms that the writer unwittingly manifests in the writing. The mere act of storing information does not, of course, assure its accurate and immediate retrieval, even when it is within an individual's own esoteric mnemonic system. Given the characteristics of signs that deconstructionists recognize, a text of "stored information" might be retrieved differently by different readers; information perhaps unknown to the author might thus be released at a later point in time. A poststructuralist critique of the logocentric topology of the memory palace, taking into account these issues, is to come in chapter five.

5Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. New York: Routledge, 1982.

6Havelock writes, in The Muse Learns to Write: Reflections on Orality and Literacy from Antiquity to the Present (New Haven: Yale UP, 1986), "A more radical question would be to ask: May not all logical thinking as commonly understood be a product of Greek alphabetic literacy?" (39). Later, he comments on how thought patterns themselves were changed: "A special theory of Greek literacy involves the proposition that the way we use our senses and the way we think are connected, and that in the transition from Greek orality to Greek literacy the terms of this connection were altered also, and have remained altered, as compared with the mentality of oralism, ever since" (98).

7Michael Warner challenges the conclusion that print enabled democracy to occur in his book The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1990). He begins by citing a text by John Quincy Adams, in which "Adams assumes that printing's purposes, uses, and meaning do not themselves undergo change. The press is a powerful instrument for enlightenment precisely because its nature is not contingent" (4). For the sake of his study, Warner believes that "we have to assume that the purposes, uses, and meaning of print do change" (4).

8One can see the notion that literacy is naturally progressive in the advertisements for PLUS ("Project Literacy U.S."). In opposition to such programs of literacy, Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" attempts to teach literacy in such a way that students become empowered to work politically, an approach that suggests the teaching of literacy can somehow be opposed to the goal of liberation.

9Carruthers is critical, among other things, of the reductive nature of labeling practices by certain scholars involved in the orality-literacy debate. Ong, for instance, is guilty of suggesting that memory is obliterated by the advent of literacy, that somehow human memory atrophies with the storage of information in written form. Her research in medieval mnemonic practices, in which the act of writing involved an extensive process of inventio during which the composer "discovered" the commonplaces stored in his/her memory, suggests that the book in medieval culture helped to enhance individual memory but that it in no way obliterated memory: "I think it will become clear in my discussion [of how one making a text proceeded] that the terms 'oral' and 'written' are inadequate categories for describing what actually went on in traditional composition" (194).

10Street in fact suggests that this autonomous model is politically motivated in order to perpetuate the current schooling practices: "[E]ducation systems are to be justified on the grounds that they develop 'intellectual competence that would otherwise go largely undeveloped.' They conjecture that literacy plays a central part in this process. The qualities which they attribute to literacy thus take on the more general significance of justifying the vast expense on western educational systems. Seen in this perspective, the claims already have political and ideological significance . . ." (19).

11Jonathan Goldberg, in Writing Matter: From the Hand of the English Renaissance (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1990), locates the origin of this narrow conception of literacy--what he calls at one point the "ideology of literacy" (205)--in sixteenth-century pedagogical practices. Like Street's assessment of the politically motivated nature of the autonomous model, Goldberg finds the aim of humanistic pedagogical programs, which focused on creating the notion of high literacy by means of training in handwriting, to be the securement of employment in courtly settings for intellectuals otherwise marginalized from such positions of power. Mulcaster's pedagogical treatise The First Part of the Elementarie, for instance, attempted to define the requirements for minimal literacy in such a way that the institution which he was inventing was the only means of acquiring high literacy, the idealized italic style of handwriting. Citing Francois Furet and Jacques Ozouf (Reading and Writing: Literacy in France from Calvin to Jules Ferry ) in order to compare the situation in sixteenth-century England with their assessment of the situation in France, Goldberg concludes with an assertion that undermines the position of those upholding the autonomous model: "Hence, the spread of literacy always correlates with social and economic inequalities. Literacy, they conclude, 'represented the key to entry to the cultural model of the upper classes. Wherever we look, in every period, social stratification presides over the history of literacy' (303). . . . Extensions of literacy redefine, but do not abolish, structures of class" (48).

12See, for one example of this phenomenon in the sixteenth century, Goldberg's third chapter: "The individual produced by writing is not an individualized subject but one conforming to the characters inscribed--the words and the letters of the copytexts clad in royalty" (164). See also the fifth chapter: "Hence (as Cressy knows), statistics about literacy (including his own) that depend on counting signatures err; moreover, as was emphasized earlier, they reproduce the more modern notion of what constitutes literacy--the ability to sign the name and thereby to produce the individual" (242-3).

13From Ulmer, Heuretics: The Logic of Invention, 92.

14Heuretics, 17. Havelock locates the emergence of selfhood in early Greek culture; in this view, it has dominated in the apparatus of literacy for over 2500 years. While others locate the moment of invention at other points (for instance, after the invention of moveable type), the sense of the self as something invented is the common denominator. Contemporaneous with the emergence of the new electronic media has been the poststructuralist questioning of the unified self. See, as only one example of this, Foucault's conclusion that "As the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end" (The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, New York: Vintage Books, 1970, 387).

15Friedrich Kittler is said to have a conception of discourse which is similar to the grammatological definition of apparatus, as one can see in David E. Wellbery's foreword to Discourse Networks 1800/1900, trans. Michael Metteer and Chris Cullens (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990): "While Kittler accepts the Lacanian dictum that the unconscious is the discourse of the Other, he reads this formula from the standpoint of Foucault. That is to say, the term discourse no longer refers, as in Lacan's rendering, to the linguistic and therefore abstract notion of extended speech, but rather to positive modes of existence of language as shaped by institutions of pedagogy, technical means of reproduction, storage and transfer, available strategies of interpretation, and so on. Likewise the Lacanian Other is for Kittler not the general and sovereign instance of the one Law, but rather (and again, with Foucault) the network of forces and resistances, commands and addresses, that constitute historically specific configurations of domination" (xxi). The "discourse network" as presented here is comparable to Ulmer's notion of the "interactive matrix."

16This latter phrase intentionally alludes to the title of Paul Connerton's sociological study entitled How Societies Remember (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989). The notion of "information storage and retrieval" stems from Havelock's The Muse Learns to Write, in which he writes, "Once the necessity to preserve cultural identity through linguistic storage, on the one hand, and the oral character of early cultures on the other, are brought into conjunction and viewed together, the question arises: How then, can orality store its information for re-use? How can it preserve its identity?" (56).

17At the same time, caution still must be practiced in using the term efficiency to avoid ethnocentric views of technological determinism. Even the notion of "artificial memory" or mnemonic prosthesis must be carefully employed so as to avoid what Levi-Strauss warns about in Tristes Tropiques : "One might suppose that . . . [t]he possession of writing vastly increases man's ability to preserve knowledge. It can be thought of as an artificial memory, the development of which ought to lead to a clearer awareness of the past, and hence to a greater ability to organize both the present and the future. After eliminating all other criteria which have been put forward to distinguish between barbarism and civilization, it is tempting to retain this one at least: there are people with, or without, writing; the former are able to store up their past achievements and to move with ever-increasing rapidity towards the goal they have set for themselves, whereas the latter, being incapable of remembering the past beyond the narrow margin of individual memory, seem bound to remain imprisoned in a fluctuating history which will always lack both a beginning and any lasting awareness of an aim. Yet nothing we know about writing and the part it has played in man's evolution justifies this view" (298).

18In her textbook of rhetoric organized via the five parts of rhetoric, Winifred Bryan Horner, in Rhetoric in the Classical Tradition (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988), writes of libraries as the repositories of cultural information: "Where classical rhetoric limited the study of memory to cultivating the natural memory, modern rhetoric must consider memory in terms of the resources available through books and databases . . ." (339).

19See Frances Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1966) 1-2 for a detailed account of this moment.

20Yates qualifies this statement soon after by suggesting that the "ethical or prudential interpretation" of the Art of Memory already existed in the Middle Ages and that Albertus and Thomas were merely following suit. She then proceeds to trace the origin of this "momentous transference," as she puts it, by looking at Boncompagno da Signa's pre-scholastic treatise, the Rhetorica Novissima. See 57-60.

21"That Dante's Inferno could be regarded as a kind of memory system for memorising, Hell and its punishments with striking images on orders of places, will come as a great shock, and I must leave it as a shock. It would take a whole book to work out the implications of such an approach to Dante's poem" (Yates, The Art of Memory 95).

22Yates suggests, too, that "The preference of these English friars for the fables of the poets as memory images, as allowed by Albertus Magnus, suggests that the artificial memory may be a hitherto unsuspected medium through which pagan imagery survived in the Middle Ages" (99).

23Walter J. Ong, Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason, (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1958) 154.

24Lowrie J. Daly, S.J. The Medieval University, (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1961), 156.

25While Daly provides useful general information about the university setting itself, Mary Carruthers provides specific details about how mnemonics were taught to the students, mnemonics specific to the memorization of written texts. For instance, in answering how medieval bestiaries were used, she writes, "What the Bestiary taught most usefully in the long term of a medieval education was not 'natural history' or moralized instruction (all instruction in the Middle Ages was moralized) but mental imaging, the systematic forming of 'pictures' that would stick in the memory and could be used, like rebuses, homophonies, imagines rerum, and other sorts of notae, to mark information within the grid" (127). Other strategies, which she recounts in detail, concern the use of "sets" of images students were assumed to have, such as the alphabet, numbers, and the zodiac. These were deployed within a numerical grid system imposed upon the book pages, a practice which was common: "There are a number of other sources and practices current throughout the Middle Ages which indicate that both the numerical grid system and mnemonic value of page layout were well known . . ." (95). These methods are consistent with the practices presented in the classical rhetorics, but they demonstrate practices taught to help students memorize written texts. As such, Carruthers delineates a mixed practice, one that fuses oral and literate strategies.

26As Yates writes, "The distinctly cool and Quintilianist attitude of Erasmus to the artificial memory develops in later leading humanist educators into a strong disapproval of it. Melanchthon forbids students to use any mnemotechnical devices and enjoins learning by heart in the normal way as the sole art of memory. . . . Erasmus did not like the Middle Ages, a dislike which developed into violent antagonism in the Reformation, and the art of memory was a mediaeval and a scholastic art" (127).

27One area that Yates neglects is the use of the memory palace by the Jesuits in their militaristic response, as the "shock-troops of the Counter-Reformation," to the successes of the Protestant Reformation. We know that the memory palace was practiced among them from Jonathan D. Spence's history of The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci (New York: Penguin Books, 1984). Spence even provides an explanation for why the practices in this traditional art of memory were particularly well-suited for the Jesuits: "This vivid restructuring of memory was also a fundamental component of the edifice of discipline and religious training that the converted Spanish soldier Ignatius of Loyola developed for the members of the Society of Jesus, which he founded in 1540; he had been marshaling his arguments in writing the early drafts of the Spiritual Exercises" (15). The memory palace tradition was also useful, to be sure, in the extensive rhetorical training that the Jesuits received, training which enabled them to go forth and re-convert the Protestants to Catholicism in rhetorical street-fights. See Francesco C. Cesareo, "The Collegium Germanicum and the Ignatian Vision of Education," The Sixteenth Century Journal 24 (Winter 1993), 829-841 for an account of the Jesuit emphasis on winning back those lost to Protestantism.

28In her book-length study of Bruno, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Yates writes of how Bruno was burned as an "impenitent heretic" (349). She writes of how "Bruno takes a radical step, which puts him outside the pale of normal Christian Hermetism, by abandoning the Christian interpretation, and above all, by going wholeheartedly for the magic as the chief thing, the core of Hermetism" (230). The extent to which Hermetism did survive in that period depended on how veiled its truly pagan origins were, or how convincingly a proponent presented its interpretation as not being antithetical to a Christian vision, as in the case of Pico della Mirandola. Yates demonstrates, in The Art of Memory, how Hermetism managed to survive until the time of the scientific revolution, which she suggests was influenced in part by Hermetic principles: "And such a study might demonstrate that all that was most noble in the religious and philanthropic aspirations of seventeenth-century science was already present, on the Hermetic plane, in Giordano Bruno, transmitted by him in the secret of his arts of memory" (388).

29Evelyn Fox Keller writes of how alchemy, the practice and goal of hermetism, lost on another front: that of science. She recounts the conflict between the Baconian and hermetic conceptions of how humankind should relate to nature, finding the sexual metaphors that each opposing side used to incorporate its attitude toward nature: "His [Bacon's] central metaphor--science as power, a force virile enough to penetrate and subdue nature--has provided an image that permeates the rhetoric of modern science. . . . If the root image for Bacon was a 'chaste and lawful marriage between Mind and Nature' that will 'bind [Nature]to [man's] service and maker her [his] slave' . . . the root image of the alchemists was coition, the conjunction of mind and matter, the merging of male and female. As Bacon's metaphoric ideal was the virile superman, the alchemist's ideal was the hermaphrodite." Reflections on Gender and Science, (New Haven: Yale UP, 1985) 48.

30Ong writes of Peter of Spain, "Why is it that our manualist, moving through all this maze, thrusts aside by a kind of sleight of hand all question of probability and regards the concern of dialectic or logic to be certainties alone? Basically, because he is a manualist, supplying the need for a handbook for the teen-age medieval student" (62). Later he writes of the same phenomenon: "Not satisfied with equating dialectic and teaching, Melanchthon also must solve problems external or peripheral to dialectic on a pedagogical basis. Thus, he defends the long-standing distinction between dialectic which controls 'plain' speech and rhetoric which controls 'ornamental' speech on the grounds that, while not necessarily accurate, the distinction must be held to because it is teachable. He is hewing here to the Agricolan line, for, when Agricola had dismissed a logic of predication in favor of a topical logic, he too had done so because the former is hard to teach and the latter easy" (Ramus 159).

31Of this Frances Yates writes, "Amongst the complexities of which Ramus made a clean sweep were those of the old art of memory. Ramus abolished memory as a part of rhetoric, and with it he abolished the artificial memory. This was not because Ramus was not interested in memorising. On the contrary, one of the chief aims of the Ramist movement for the reform and simplification of education was to provide a new and better way of memorising all subjects" (232).

32The primary thesis Ong offers shows that the move away from oral discourse and toward the more visual medium of writing helped to bring about the emergence of science: "In its long-term effects, Ramism, with the topical logic which it exploits, is favorable to the emergence of modern science, experiment included, because of the way it loosens up the field of knowledge in encouraging visualist approaches to this field" (269).

33In distinguishing between "books" and "texts," Carruthers comes to define a book as a mnemonic tool: "A book is not necessarily the same thing as a text. 'Texts' are the material out of which human beings make 'literature.' For us, texts only come in books, and so the distinction between the two is blurred and even lost. But, in a memorial culture, a 'book' is only one way among several to remember a 'text,' to provision and cue one's memory with 'dicta et facta memorabilia.' So a book is itself a mnemonic, among many other functions it can also have" (8).

34The Methodical Memory: Invention in Current-Tradional Rhetoric, 82. In Crowley's history of the discipline of rhetoric and composition, she finds the five-paragraph theme to be the last stage of an evolutionary trend that began with Ramus: "The five-paragraph theme was the most thoroughgoing scheme for spatializing discourse that had appeared in rhetorical theory since Peter Ramus' method of dichotomizing division rendered all the world divisible by halves" (135).

35For an example of this phenomenon other than Spenser, see Catharine Randall Coats, "Reactivating Textual Traces: Martyrs, Memory, and the Self in Theodore Beza's Icones (1581)," Later Calvinism: International Perspectives, ed. W.Fred Graham (Kirksville, Missouri: Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies XXII) 19-28. Beza, Calvin's friend, successor, and biographer, wrote a text composed of many imaged representations of various confessors and martyrs he wished to have remembered. Coats explores the conflicted forces which informed the text's composition--some of them originating in the Protestant fear of the Art of Memory and its iconic mnemonic--and suggests that Beza's self-revelation was his motivation: "By incorporating images, Beza provoked an attack from the Jesuits, who accused him of succumbing to the very idolatry Calvinists claimed to abhor. Beza's motivations in choosing to include woodcuts must therefore be examined. I maintain that its effect was to produce a new form of emblematic text, in which word and image both compete and conjoin to construct a living portrait of the self: that of its author. . . . Through the selection, ordering, and exposition of his material, Beza reveals, primarily, himself" (20).

36Goldberg tells of Spenser's relationship with Harvey and how it reflected a mentor-student relationship that goes back to classical Greece: "Within that spacing, which, for Elizabethans like Spenser and Harvey, takes the historically specific situation of the apparatuses of a homosocial pedagogy, the Spenserian career--in life, in letters--is launched" (Sodometries 80). Goldberg shows that the Renaissance approach to pedagogy is in this fashion traditional, in that it establishes the student as one who identifies with the teacher. At the same time, however, the kinds of changes that Ong reports in Ramus, and the political and religious conflicts that figure in Ramus's pedagogical reformation, are working to bring about institutional changes as well.

37"Historicism contents itself with establishing a causal connection between various moments in history. But no fact that is a cause is for that very reason historical. It became historical post-humously, as it were, through events that may be separated from it by thousands of years. A historian who takes this as his point of departure stops telling the sequence of events like the beads of a rosary. Instead, he grasps the constellation which his own era has formed with a definite earlier one." Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History," Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1968) 263.

38While critics agree that he was ambitious and that his ambitions are seen in the poetry, some recent discussion concerns the extent of his obsequiousness. Derek Alwes, for instance, takes issue with Louis Montrose and tries to argue that "the poetic role Spenser defines for himself in his works is that of accomplice, not adversary. He understands the ideology of the state as espoused by Elizabeth and those who speak in her name; he knows he can make a valuable contribution to it (hoping, of course, that the value of his contribution will be recognized and rewarded," "'Who knowes not Colin Clout?' Spenser's Self-Advertisement in The Faerie Queene, Book 6," Modern Philology 88 (August 1990), 29.

39I derive my definition from Richard Lanham's A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms: A Guide for Students of English Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968).

40Spenser uses the same "shady" language in the Letter to Ralegh, in which he again is in the mode of apology: "To some I know this Methode will seeme displeasaunt, which had rather haue good discipline deliuered plainly in way of precepts, or sermoned at large, as they use then thus clowdily enwrapped in Allegorical deuise" (Poetical Works 407).

41This is, in part, the grammatologist's interest in the memory palace tradition, as it calls for a kind of writing that embodies the picto-ideo-grammatical Writing that Derrida tries to encourage: "The images for a word or term were generated by techniques similar to those Derrida uses for his rebus or cartouche writing--antonomasia, puns, paragrams" (Ulmer, Applied Grammatology 73). The visual puns employed in the memory palace tradition provide the kind of rebus-writing for which grammatology strives.

42Eugene Vance, Mervelous Signals: Poetics and Sign Theory in the Middle Ages (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986) 54. Vance's chapter on the Song of Roland is in itself a grammatological study of the poem as a manifestation of the effects of a shift from orality to literacy in relation to the purpose of memory: "Though it would be silly to insist that the Song of Roland is first and foremost a Song of Writing, we have every right to examine its implicit models of self-representation for indices of an epistemological crisis rooted in the competing cultural functions of speech and writing" (81).

43Nico van den Boogaard, in his treatment of the Roman de la Rose, finds evidence that Guillaume de Lorris employed the "habit of mind" one finds in artificial memory practices, which involve locating striking images in particular loci. He finds in particular the passage enumerating the various species of birds inside the garden as employing this technique: "Je ne vois qu'un seule explication: l'auteur a donne cette description sous l'influence de certaines habitudes de pensee. Il imaginait des loci differents et il placait dans chaque lieu une espece d'oiseau. Je ne crois pas qu'il ait trouve cette disposition dans la tradition du locus amoenus " (89).

44See Mary Carruthers's The Book of Memory, chapter two on "Descriptions of the neuro-psychology of memory" for an in-depth presentation of medieval conceptions of cognitive processes.

45The irony of this arrangement can be seen in Spenser's description of the flies/bees swarming in Phantastes' chamber, a description which figures the anxiety Spenser feels about employing allegory for his purposes: "All those were idle thoughts and fantasies,/Deuices, dreames, opinions vnsound,/Shewes, visions, sooth sayes, and prophesies;/And all that fained is, as leasings, tales, and lies" (II.9.51.6-9). The Faerie Queene is filled with "leasings, tales, and lies." Much has been said about Spenser's anxiety concerning his allegorical project. See, for instance, Kenneth Gross: "This double valence of the imaginative work, its mingling of tyranny and freedom, is something that the poem confronts with a certain anxiety. . . . [T]he poet seems to work through such conflicts by the nearly obsessive repetition of scenes in which icons, statues, phantasms, illusions and so on are first elaborately described and then summarily transgressed, broken, dissolved" (16). See also Jacqueline Miller in Poetic License, in which she corrects the failure in other readers to locate the source of Spenser's anxiety within the fundamental basis of allegory. See page 100-101.

Contents | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Conclusion | References

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