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Ars oblivionalis, ars inveniendi: The Cherub Figure and the Arts of Memory

MARY J. CARRUTHERS
Gesta
Vol. 48, No. 2, Making Thoughts, Making Pictures, Making Memories: A SPECIAL ISSUE IN HONOR OF MARY J. CARRUTHERS (2009), pp. 99-117
DOI: 10.2307/29764902
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/29764902
Page Count: 20
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Ars oblivionalis, ars inveniendi: The Cherub Figure and the Arts of Memory
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Abstract

To serve their purpose well, many so-called mnemonic images in the Middle Ages facilitated meditation and invention by presenting many rich materials in a highly abbreviated form, which could be expanded and recombined for a variety of compositions. To abbreviate fruitfully requires rigorous compression and selection, a kind of forgetting that was distinguished both in theory and practice from rote recitation or learning by heart. The twelfth- and thirteenth-century diagram called the Cherub offers an excellent example of how such an image was used in study and composition. Focusing on six versions of it, this essay demonstrates that the medieval cherub image is not an illustration tied to any particular text but functioned independently as an analytical tool, an art for inventing arguments, which incorporated the methods of medieval dialectic and rhetoric.

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