The Force of Memory in Late-Medieval and Renaissance Culture (seminar)

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This was a fall weekend seminar held from October 13 to October 14, 2000.

Before the eighteenth century, memory was understood as encompassing both a rational, investigative power of recollection and a set of procedures for storing and filing material. This weekend seminar called historians of literature, art, and ideas to an investigation of the continuities and divergences of the memorial culture of the high Middle Ages and of the Italian Renaissance. Advance reading, in English translation, framed the discussion. Works may include those on the techne of memoria by Hugh of Saint-Victor (d. 1135), the ars memorativa of one of the earliest northern humanists, Jacobus Publicius (flourished ca. 1460), and picture-books of diagrams designed to help preachers and pious readers alike. The seminar situated these practical medieval arts in relation to the memorial arts of Italian humanists, including the many writers and artists associated with the Cinquecento Italian humanist academies, culminating in the philosophical/memory Teatro of Giulio Camillo. Participants' own research projects determined the specific organization of two days of intensive sessions. Particularly welcome were projects that address the variety of intellectual communities served-including the Augustinian canons of Saint-Victor (the precursors of the University of Paris), the early medieval universities, preachers, teachers, poets, painters, and scientists-or that develop the protean theme of memoria as an invention-engine, emphasizing memoria as a technique, indeed a techne with close ties to painting, architecture, and poetry. A reading knowledge of Italian and basic Latin was helpful, but was not required.

Director: Lina Bolzoni is the Dean of "Classe di Lettre e Filosofia" of the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa. She is the editor of Morgana, a collection of studies and new editions of Renaissance texts, and the author of La stanza della memoria: modelli letterari e iconografici nell'eta della stampa (1995). She has edited numerous texts and compilations, including Camillo's L'Idea del theatro (1991); Cultura della memoria (1992); and Memoria e memorie: convegno internazionale di studi, Roma, 18–19 maggio 1995 (1998).

Mary Carruthers is Professor and Chair of English and Director of the Center for Research in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance at New York University. She is the author of Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric and the Making of Images, 400–1200 (1998) and The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (1990), as well as many articles on Middle English and medieval Latin literature and the history of medieval rhetoric.