Rachel's Reviews > The Art of Memory

The Art of Memory by Frances A. Yates
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's review
Sep 06, 08

bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in August, 2008

I'm not sure why I ended up trying to read this... I think possibly a comment about it in The New Media Reader piqued my interest. It's a scholarly investigation of the "art of memory," a technique dating from ancient times in which one memorizes a speech or a series of facts by "placing" the information on various locations in the memory. For example, you would walk through a building and stop at a pillar here, a shield resting there, and fix the locations in your memory. Then, you associate what you are trying to memorize with the locations you have fixed in your mind.

I enjoyed reading about the origins of this technique - how masters were said to be able to recite the poems of Homer backwards, or memorize hundreds of names upon a single hearing. I also gained a fresh perspective on the importance of memory throughout the ages, from rhetoric to terabytes. Imagine how important human memory would be if external memory was nonexistent! After a few chapters, though, this is a much more in-depth look at the subject than I really cared to read. So I stopped.

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