Journal of Romance Studies

Memory and the body’s topography

Journal of Romance Studies (2003), 3, (1), 5–16.

Abstract

The opposition between above/below, right/left and front/back generates culturally diverse symbolic classifications which always refer back to the morphology of the human body. These classifications, representable in a two-column schema, function as a mnemonic device. It is from our bodily morphology that we are able to configure places around us in distinctive, and therefore memorable, ways. The ‘art of memory’ tradition, in which it is assumed that the order of places guarantees acts of remembering, is therefore grounded in a premise it fails to theorize: for it is the order of the body that preserves the order of the places which ensures remembrance. The ‘art of memory’ relies, not on a stable system of places, but on a stable system of places in the body.

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Connerton, Paul