Memory, the Lasting Perfume

The title of this post comes from a quotation by de Boufflers, and the topic is a special one for the history of rhetoric, one that begins in a story of tragedy that comes down to us from Simonides of Ceos and is now known simply as “the memory palace.” Memory plays a critical role in the history of rhetoric, especially during the medieval period when educators and others attempted to devise methodologies for memorization, perhaps in recognition of the waning of memory in juxtaposition to the feats of remembrance one reads about in the ancient world. The rhapsode Ion, in Plato’s telling, could recite all of the Iliad and the Odyssey from memory, for example.

In the past few days, you might also have heard about the extraordinary memory of President James Garfield, courtesy of a new biography on the president by Candice Millard.  Garfield could have been a formidable competitor in the memory contests described in Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein, a book that also explains how all of us can improve our memories.  In the video below, Foer explains how a memory palace works.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In keeping with the theme of memory, here is a portion of a piece of music by Tomás Luis de Victoria, whose works are the subject of a new album.


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