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Title: Julian of Norwich and the Art of Memory
Author(s): BOENIG, Robert
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 19    Date: 2009   
Pages: 25-34
DOI: 10.2143/SIS.19.0.2043671

Abstract :
Julian of Norwich composed two versions of her Showings, an initial Short Text and approximately twenty years later a Long Text – an expansion that includes some of her most famous passages, particularly her excursus on Jesus as Mother and her insistence on love as God’s ultimate ‘meaning’. This article investigates the role memory played in the composition of the Long Text, particularly that of artificial memory, the elaborate system of heuristics developed in Antiquity and inherited by the Middle Ages. This so-called ‘art of memory’ depended on artificial associations of the things to be memorized with arbitrary visualizations, puns, or numerical grids. Analysis of passages from her Showings reveals that Julian’s memory played a very complex role, one that simultaneously employs and rejects the methods of the medieval art of memory. Artificial memory gave her surprisingly little in the way of new facts called up from her the past; for Julian, the art of memory becomes essentially interpretive rather than heuristic, providing her with a method of generating her new ideas.

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