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The intimate relationship between affect and the art of memory lies at the heart of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, this chapter argues, represented as a Platonic (and anti-Platonic) allegory of love. The art of memory – a colloquial term for an art or method that goes by many names, including artificial memory, the architectural mnemonic, and locational memory – is more than a rhetorical method of memorization, as traditionally understood. The origin story of the art of memory, its discovery by a poet who remembers a ruined edifice and the dead therein, instead suggests that this art was first and foremost a strategy of artistic creation: a poetics, as will be shown, whose affective power – the emotional force that makes it memorable by marking and moving both mind and body – derives paradigmatically from memories of love and stories about it. The ars memorativa meets the ars amatoria, the psyche and poetics, in Shakespeare’s Sonnets as throughout the poetic tradition that he remembers anew in metapoetic fashion.
In his Holy Sonnets, Donne seeks to forget rather than remember his sins, begging God for ‘a heavenly Lethean flood’ to ‘drown’ his ‘sin’s black memory’ and implying that his very salvation may depend upon it: ‘That Thou remember them, some claim as debt; / I think it mercy if Thou wilt forget’. Such a desire for divine oblivion would seem to be the very inverse of the theologian Dr Donne’s well-known assertion that ‘the art of salvation is but the art of memory’, yet, this chapter argues, they are intimately joined in the Holy Sonnets. This chapter explores how the speaker’s uncertainty about his salvation connects the ‘art of death’ (ars moriendi) with the ‘art of memory’ (ars memorativa) as a mnemonic poetics of ruin and recollection. The transformation of the art of memory into an art of salvation in Augustine’s Confessions is central not only to Donne’s reputation as a ‘second St Augustine’ but also to the poetics of memory that shape the Holy Sonnets. Donne constructs the Holy Sonnets as a memory theatre in which to enact the drama of salvation by performing the role of Doctor Faustus, a part drawn from both Augustine’s Confessions and Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.
This essay explores Virgil's influence in Renaissance poetry through the literature's most common trope, that of ruin; specifically, it examines the complexity of Virgilian imitation in Spenser's The Shepheardes Calender through an exploration of its introduction by his anonymous first critic, E.K. Through the topos of ruin, this essay reconsiders Virgil's legacy in the Calender, suggesting that critics have underestimated Spenser's criticism of Virgil's authorial pattern. Rather than reconstructing Virgil's model of cultural transmission — that of ruin and repair—Spenser presents the Ciceronian art of memory as a competing model for the architecture of immortality, for building upon the ruins of the past.
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