"Illustration" and the Arts of Memory

Mi09NovGanztägigFr11"Illustration" and the Arts of MemoryWorkshopVeranstaltungsartWorkshop


Organised by Sergius Kodera (Universität Wien), Anita Traninger (Freie Universität Berlin/EXC 2020), and Luca Lil Wirth (Freie Universität Berlin/EXC 2020), project “Arts of Memory”, Research Area 1: “Competing Communities”.

The workshop aims at reconsidering the old, but increasingly unhelpful dichotomy of text and illustration by seeking to derive a new understanding of text-image-relations from the historical arts of memory. It is organised in the context of the »Arts of Memory« project at the Cluster of Excellence »Temporal Communities« which explores historical arts of memory as transtemporal and transcultural modes of community building. The project starts from the assumption that cultural “arts” such as mnemotechnics, rhetoric, writing or translation are decisive for the genesis of temporal communities, along with non-verbal or trans-linguistic modes of communication (performative, artistic, institutional, technological). The project’s focus is on the art of memory as it was originally developed in Roman rhetoric and then productively recast in the early modern period. The project will thus investigate how an originally radically individualised instrument of rhetorical preparation came to be forged into an effective communicative tool in conjunction with an intermedial literary practice and how this practice could remain productive across the arts and well into the modern era, spawning an array of arts of memory.

One of the project’s aims is, therefore, to demonstrate the close correspondances between emergent literary and artistic genres and mnemonics in the early modern period. Another is to develop a more general theoretical perspective: the concept of imago agens will serve as a vantage point from which we will critically reflect on the notion of assemblage or agencement (from agencer – to lay out, to arrange – in Deleuze and Guattari’s original French). We will explore how this concept can underwrite the study of the intricate relationship between literature, performing and visual arts and its role in community building. The guiding hypothesis is that the art of memory could serve as a blue-print for an intermedial conception of literature as a practice between the arts in a transcultural and transtemporal perspective.

Early modern treatises on the ars memorativa emphasize the crucial function of vivid and (usually) visual imagery. Indeed, many masters of medieval and early modern mnemonics recommended the use and development of striking images (imagines agentes) in the faculty of imagination that had to be assigned fixed places (loci) in order to organize the memory.

Many of these treatises seem to conceive of these imagines agentes as empty containers which could be used to store any kind of memorandum. Yet, to what extent is such a neat dissociation of imago and content feasible? It is actually a formidable problem to determine the extent to which these imagines agentes relate to the contents that have to be remembered (memorandum) – or instance when, as it happened in Giovan Battista Della Porta’s Ars reminiscendi, an erotic image serves to denote similar affective states of mind.

On a different plane, the case of Giordarno Bruno’s mnemonics the scholarly world of the twentieth century has already conducted such a debate. In her seminal study, Frances Yates had maintained that Bruno’s imagines did not merely function as conventional placeholders, but rather the concise expression of the intended memoranda; in Bruno’s case, these would be basic constituents of a magical philosophy of an animistic infinite universe. In a series of detailed study of Bruno’s intricate mnemonic systems, Sturlese has denied Yate’s claims, arguing for a mere conventional application of Brunian arts of memory, yet both positions have been qualified in more recent years (Bolzoni, Clucas, Mertens).

The organizers of the workshop believe that the question of the relation between imagines agentes and memoranda is not merely pertinent to mnemotechnics, but actually needs to be examined in a broader scope, as an important stage in the development of modern culture. We suspect that the combination of words and images in mnemonics is a harbinger of productive tensions, the consequences of which we wish to explore further, for instance in connection with the development of new literary forms, visual art and architectures.

Participants are invited to reflect on the relationship between imago and memorandum, between illustration and text in late medieval and early modern literature in the broadest sense and their interplay between fields including literary fiction, in particular with a view to the emergence of new genres

  • didactic treatises
  • confessionals
  • games (board and card games)
  • cosmography (maps)
  • visual art
  • architecture
  • wunderkammern
  • etc. …

Contact & registration

Luca Lil Wirth (Freie Universität Berlin), luca.wirth@fu-berlin.de

Exzellenzcluster “Temporal Communities”
Room 00.05
Otto-von-Simson-Straße 15
14195 Berlin

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9. November 2022 - 11. November 2022 (Ganztägig)(GMT+02:00)

Freie Universität Berlin

Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin

Freie Universität Berlin