Memorize System of Rhetoric (using Silva Rhetoricae as blueprint/starting point)


I’ve described in a little detail my goal to memorize the content of the website “Silva Rhetoricae” (Forest of Rhetoric - in a forum topic under “Memorizing Poetry.”

The organization of the website is interesting, especially as a memory project. Along the right-hand side of the screen are a set of individual terms. Along the left-hand side are broader, organizing terms and ideas. I’ve made a list of the individual terms and, eliminating different names for the same thing, have come up with 340 total. Many of these terms appear in multiple categories described on the left side of the screen.

My goal (and challenge) is two-fold. First, simply to memorize the 340 terms. Second, to create a system/mind-map/something else that would allow the holding-in-mind of the relationships between the left and right sides (of the screen, not the brain). I would be very interested to see what anyone else could come up with. I’ve only just started, using a 120 loci house for the first third of the individual terms.


As a side note, I think it’s interesting that I came to this challenge first by reading about mnemotechnics (Foer, Dominic O’Brien, Hagwood) and then getting into Mary Carruthers’s books (which are really profound and complex) about the medieval art of memory. Carruthers places a lot of emphasis on mnemonic processes as part of the larger system of rhetoric (memory being one of the five canons of ancient rhetoric).

Carruthers isn’t easy, but she’s worth the effort.

(Josh Cohen) #4

I haven’t read her books yet. Is there one that you recommend to start with?


I’m working my way through “The Book of Memory.” It’s scholarly/academic, which means it’s slower going, but I find that it gives a valuable historical context. Personally, I’m really drawn to the insights she builds in the book.

Carruthers is reacting to the research that Frances Yates did in “The Art of Memory,” which I know you’ve mentioned. Carruthers has respect for Yates as a person who broke important ground, but there’s plenty of disagreement.


thanks for that info, rublev. carruthers sounds like another interesting vein to explore. there’s a copy available of one of her books (cowritten with jan ziolkowski) online called “The Medieval Craft of Memory: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures.” also, in regards to mind mapping is a freeware program called freemind on sourceforge. At a glance, it looks cleaner, more minimal and more professional than buzan’s imindmap®. maybe it should be added to the software page of the blog.

here’s a youtube tutorial on it:


(Josh Cohen) #7

If anyone is interested in attempting this memorization project, you might want to check out the pages groupings of figures and Figures of Speech: Groupings made by well-known authorities (authors and texts) (including Ad Herennium – see also Warren Taylor and Lee A. Sonnino). I had started to organize the information at one point, but I didn’t finish the grouping. It may be easier to start with one of those “groupings made by well-known authorities”.


I think Anthony Judge made best classification of rhetoric in 2016
But for mnemonic purposes at start we need some kind of collaborative hierarchical indexing table. Maybe we have to abandon the classic naming to A-ZZ index then upgrade it with some kind of meta-language with it’s own grammar.