Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Frances Yates

One of my favourite writers is Frances Yates. I've been revisiting her work in the past couple of weeks because I am inspired by her works for a story I am writing. I haven't read the above biography on her seen above, but I've ordered it from the library. I can't wait!

Botticelli Primavera

Durer Melancholy

An example of the kind of ideas Yates was interested in:

Yates argues that Botticelli’s famous painting, Primavera, was a Hermetic talisman designed, like other talismans, “to attract the favorable planets and to avoid Saturn.... The picture begins to be seen as a practical application of [Ficino’s magic], as a complex talisman, an ‘image of the world’ arranged so as to transmit only healthful, rejuvenating, anti-Saturnian influences to the beholder.” Other Renaissance art-works were also (according to Yates) magical talismans. She says that Dürer’s Melancholia was inspired by the Hermetist Cornelius Agrippa:

Whilst Ficino’s magic avoids Saturn, Agrippa’s magic seeks the Saturnian gifts of high abstract contemplation and pure mathematics. (Thus, as Botticelli’s predominantly Venus talisman, the Primavera, reflects the Ficinian type of magic, Dürer’s predominantly Saturnian talisman, the Melancholia engraving, reflects the Agrippan type of magic.)
From here

The book I'm working through right now called Theatre of The World is centered on the structure of theatre designs in Renaissance England and focuses on mathemetician Robert Fludd and astronomer John Dee.

The argument of Theatre of the World is that the design of the theater built by James Burbage, which influenced the later theater movement, including Shakespeare's Globe, was based on classical theory on the design of the Roman theater as expounded in Vitruvius's book on architecture. The arguments used in building up this theory emphasize the fact that Vitruvius was known among the artisan class in Elizabethan London through the teaching and writings of John Dee and could therefore have been known to Burbage. Since the geometry of the ground plan of the classical theater was based on cosmology, I further argue that cosmic associations would have been implicit in the Shakespearean theater, and that the "Idea" or meaning of the Globe Theater would have been that of a "theater of the world," expressive of harmonies between macrocosm and microcosm. From a letter by Frances Yates.

Yates argues that the above design for a stage is based on "memory palaces"..what begins as a virtual image in the mid, is incorporated for stage design...(perhaps helping actors rememeber their lines and enable them to memorize entire plays?)

The method of loci (plural of Latin locus for place or location), also called the memory palace, is a general designation for mnemonic techniques that rely on memorised spatial relationships to establish, order and recollect memorial content. The term is most often found in specialised works on psychology, neurobiology and memory, though it was used in the same general way at least as early as the first half of the nineteenth century in works on Rhetoric, Logic and Philosophy. From Wiki

In classical rhetoric, images and text were mapped onto virtual places to aid the memory of orators. Memory was enormously important to orators because they were expected to deliver long speeches with total accuracy. In fact, memory was of such value that there developed an "art of memory" designed to strengthen the natural memory. Frances Yates explains that this artificial memory depended upon the recollection of images:

The artificial memory is established from places and images . . . A locus is a place easily grasped by the memory, such as a house, an intercolumnar space, a corner, an arch, or the like. Images are forms, marks or simulacra of what we wish to remember. For instance if we wish to recall the genus of a horse, of a lion, of an eagle, we must place their images on definite loci.

Artificial memory was a kind of "inner writing" the orator reviewed while presenting a speech, observing the places and their contents, the images, and recovering the memories for things (the subject matter) that those images represented. The orator used a series of places (the topoi of classical rhetoric in which one "found" arguments, known as inventio) in which he placed one of many sets of images, depending upon the speech he was to remember." . . . the loci remain in the memory and can be used again by placing another set of images for another set of material" (7). These images were to be easily memorized. The anonymous author of the Ad Herennium, a classical rhetoric, discusses which types of images the orator should use in order to best remember them. (summary of "Art of Memory")

Related Links:

1) Memory wheel cool site
2) Biography of Frances Yates
3) Art of Memory


sarah mash said...

your blog was very interesting.i love learning about all this stuff

Four Dinners said...

Even I'm not as old as him!

I still read a bit of Shakespeare myself.

Sometimes a bit of Bacon in the mornings....;-)

tweetey30 said...

Wow woman is there anything you cant do??? You write you paint.. you draw... from what I have seen.. Amazing friend I have here... Keep it up and you will be real famous sometime and I can say to myself I know that writer/painter/anything she wants to be....

Andrew said...

Candy did you read that book Little, Big? He's got a memory palace in there LOL!

Beej said...

Candy you are interested in everything, aren't you?

Candy Minx said...

Sarah, thanks. I'm glad you found it at all interesting. This kind of stuff is off the beaten track.

4 Dins, Bacon in the a.m. is goooood.

Well, Tweetey, I like day dreaming is all. Thanks!

Andrew, I haven't read that book , but I looked it up.

Beej, I think I am actually not interested in many things. I worry about being too narrow-minded.

Gardenia said...

Truly, this is fascinating!!! I'm most intrigued with the symbolism used by the different artists.