Thursday, November 4, 2010

Response to Reading Fourteen

Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students chapter eleven provides a very interesting examination of memory, in terms of both ancient and modern expectations.

One of the more interesting points made by the book, I believe, is that memory is far less narrative than we initially think. The book gives the example of essay composition. It reminds us that we must remember commonplaces and argumentative strategies, how we went about composing other pieces of discourse, and grammar and spelling information. No matter how many notes an individual may take, much of these elements are based entirely on memorization. Writing cannot occur without some rudimentary experience.

"[T]hese days, people tend to think of their memories as narratives of their past lives, rather than as carefully organized depositories of common knowledge. Despite this belief, our memories are stocked with many things besides narratives of our experiences..." (Crowley and Hawhee 380).

It is certainly a unique thing that memory is so all-encompassing, and yet we forget the most nuanced abilities of memory. Processes are just as important as narrative descriptions, if not more. Case in point: rhetoric. If we cannot remember the steps involved in document creation, then rhetoric cannot exist. No degree of extraneous experience will be able to explain the formulation of rhetoric; this is a purely methodical and systematic memorization process. "[P]eople do not begin composing as though nothing has ever happened to them or as though they remember nothing of their past lives" (Crowley and Hawhee 380).

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