Renaissance mnemonics, poststructuralism, and the rhetoric of hypertext composition

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Renaissance mnemonics, poststructuralism, and the rhetoric of hypertext composition
Smyth, Richard Edward, 1964- ( Dissertant )
Ulmer, Gregory L. ( Thesis advisor )
Meek, Allen ( Reviewer )
Gamble, Lesley ( Reviewer )
Howard, Richard ( Reviewer )
Glaros, Michelle ( Reviewer )
Mauer, Barry ( Reviewer )
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
Physical Description:
vi, 238 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Allegory ( jstor )
Electronics ( jstor )
Literacy ( jstor )
Memory ( jstor )
Mnemonics ( jstor )
Palaces ( jstor )
Poetry ( jstor )
Rhetoric ( jstor )
Writing ( jstor )
Written composition ( jstor )
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
English language -- Rhetoric -- Data processing ( lcsh )
English thesis Ph.D
Mnemonics ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )


This dissertation provides a prolegomenon for a rhetoric of hypertext composition derived from the Renaissance Art of Memory as well as the poststructural concept of the rhizome. Institutional inertia has prohibited the advent of a fully realized electronic rhetoric, and one can view the effects of this inertia in the "residual literacy" of recent computer interface designs and hypertext documents. The goal is to maximize the mnemonic efficiency of hypertext as a medium of information storage and retrieval. In order to do so, I establish an historical analogy bridging the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. Study of the sixteenth century as a period of transition in mnemonic practices can help to negotiate our current moment of transition from an apparatus of print literacy to an apparatus of electronic literacy. Adopting the theoretical position of grammatology, which recognizes the dynamic interaction between technologies of communication and the institutional practices determining their use in specific circumstances, I point to the shift in mnemonics that occurs during the sixteenth century as being caused by changes in the primary technology of communication and in pedagogical practices, and I suggest that the advent of electronic media will usher in another change in mnemonics, or strategies of information storage and retrieval. Edmund Spenser is a case in point; his poems are shown to reveal his employment of both the ancient oral mnemonic of the memory palace and the emergent literate mnemonic of print. Prosopopoeia, I argue, is a trope which theoretically organizes the experience of print literacy and which provides an illusory sense of control over language. The ideology of depth that results displaces a surface-oriented understanding of language and meaning, which is returning with the renewed emphasis on allegory in literary theory. The historical study of Spenser and sixteenth century mnemonic practices, therefore, is motivated by a desire to Jearn from them a methodological groundwork for composing in hypertext, a three-dimensional medium which promises to revolutionize a reader's relationship to textuality as long as a uniquely electronic rhetoric, suited to the peculiar characteristics of the medium, governs writing with this new tool of communication.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1994.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 224-237).
General Note:
General Note:
Statement of Responsibility:
by Richard Edward Smyth.

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In memory of my father, Gerald Smyth,

who was dying while I wrote this,
who died before I finished.


Unlike some others, I do not have so many people to thank that they
cannot be specifically recognized. First of all, I must thank my committee for
their patience and feedback during this entire process. I especially thank Greg

Ulmer, my director, for his constant encouragement, his generous giving of
time for guidance, and his allowing me to grow with and into this disserta-
tion. He has given me not only a methodology, a life-long course of study,
and a way of thinking this discipline beyond its ivory tower boundaries but

also the courage to enjoy what I am doing and to make it relevant to my own
life and experience. Next, I thank the members of our dissertation seminar-

Allen Meek, Lesley Gamble, Richard Howard, Michelle Glaros, and Barry
Mauer-for their imput into the shaping of this project and, more
importantly, their friendship. Other friends who served as my outside
support system-namely Martin and Karen Simpson, Walt Lewallen,
Richard Brobst, and Roy Parkhurst-must not be forgotten. I thank my

parents, too, for always believing in me. And, finally, I thank my wife for

supporting me financially and emotionally as well as my children, who have

borne the brunt of one working on a Ph.D. degree yet somehow still love me.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ..........................................................................................iii

A BSTRA CT ................................................................................................................. v

IN TRO DU CTIO N ...................................................................................................... 1


1 GRAMMATOLOGY AND RENAISSANCE STUDIES ...................................... 17
Towards a Definition of Grammatology............................................. .... 17
Deconstruction in Early Modern Studies .................................................... 30
The "New Historicism" of Grammatology ............................................... 42

2 GRAMMATOLOGY IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY ..................................... 55
The Orality-Literacy Debate ..................................................................... 59
Sixteenth-Century Mnemonic Practices...................................................... 68
Spenser and the Memory Palace ............................................... ........... 80

OF PROSOPOPOEIA ......................................................................................... 93
Prosopopoeia and the Mnemonics of Literacy ............................................96
The Ideology of Depth and the Prosopopoeia of the Book...................... 117

4 THE AGE OF ELECTRONIC COMPOSITION ................................................. 136
The Return of Allegory and the Privileging of the Surface...................... 136
Hypertext and the Visual Representation of Information........................ 150
Residual Literacy in Electronic Interface Designs: Allegories of
Book Reading .............................................................................................. 166

The Rhizome and Hypertext Writing.......................................................... 178
A Deleuzoguattarian Conception and Method of Hypertext
Com position................................................................................................ 186

C O N C LU SIO N ................................................. ................................................ 214

LIST OF REFERENCES .................................................... .......... .... 224

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................................................................. 238

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Richard Edward Smyth

August, 1994

Chairman: Dr. Gregory L. Ulmer
Major Department: English

This dissertation provides a prolegomenon for a rhetoric of hypertext

composition derived from the Renaissance Art of Memory as well as the

poststructural concept of the rhizome. Institutional inertia has prohibited the
advent of a fully realized electronic rhetoric, and one can view the effects of

this inertia in the "residual literacy" of recent computer interface designs and

hypertext documents. The goal is to maximize the mnemonic efficiency of

hypertext as a medium of information storage and retrieval. In order to do

so, I establish an historical analogy bridging the sixteenth and twentieth

centuries. Study of the sixteenth century as a period of transition in

mnemonic practices can help to negotiate our current moment of transition

from an apparatus of print literacy to an apparatus of electronic literacy.

Adopting the theoretical position of grammatology, which recognizes the

dynamic interaction between technologies of communication and the
institutional practices determining their use in specific circumstances, I point
to the shift in mnemonics that occurs during the sixteenth century as being
caused by changes in the primary technology of communication and in
pedagogical practices, and I suggest that the advent of electronic media will
usher in another change in mnemonics, or strategies of information storage

and retrieval. Edmund Spenser is a case in point; his poems are shown to
reveal his employment of both the ancient oral mnemonic of the memory
palace and the emergent literate mnemonic of print. Prosopopoeia, I argue, is

a trope which theoretically organizes the experience of print literacy and
which provides an illusory sense of control over language. The ideology of

depth that results displaces a surface-oriented understanding of language and
meaning, which is returning with the renewed emphasis on allegory in
literary theory. The historical study of Spenser and sixteenth century
mnemonic practices, therefore, is motivated by a desire to learn from them a
methodological groundwork for composing in hypertext, a three-dimensional
medium which promises to revolutionize a reader's relationship to textuality
as long as a uniquely electronic rhetoric, suited to the peculiar characteristics

of the medium, governs writing with this new tool of communication.


Today, the primary responsibility of English departments in higher

education, in terms of general education (or "core") requirements, calls for
the teaching of composition and rhetoric (i.e. of writing skills) to freshman
students. Beyond this fundamental role, instructors are then charged with
introducing to their students "literature," which at one time encompassed the

canonical classics (or "works") of primarily English and American authors but

which now has opened up to include noncanonical "texts," including post-

colonial, pop cultural, and feminist writings. Students studying in these
courses are usually required to write interpretive essays that demonstrate a
high degree of literacy-that is, the ability to read carefully the text they

interpret and then to write skillfully a clear and persuasive argument
supporting their position. Some of these students choose to major in English,

for various reasons: to be public school teachers, to be future law students, to

be corporate wizards (given the well-rounded education a major in English
provides), or, perhaps, to be English professors.
Such instruction, limited as it is to the precepts of literacy, was fine
prior to the age of electronics, but it is not any longer. The advent of new
media such as video and hypermedia poses problems for those working in
the humanities, namely the problems of reading and writing with these
media and of teaching students to do the same. The filmic and multi-media
qualities of these electronic technologies offer multiple tracks for a denser,

richer information space. With talk of fusing the telephone, the television

and the computer into a single communication medium which will someday
be wired to a data superhighway, the necessity to embrace such compositional
problematic becomes more apparent. Already, the new software MOSAIC, a
tool for browsing the World-Wide Web which provides hypermedia links to
visual and audio information as well as plain text, is encouraging a hyper-
textual form of composition within the Internet itself. My work focuses on

the practical and theoretical problems involved in the invention of an
electronic rhetoric suited to such a hypertextual method of writing.
The dominance of the entertainment industry's appropriation of

electronic technologies, as witnessed in the hegemonic presence of television
and video games, indicates the reluctance of the educational institution to

appropriate these technologies for pedagogical purposes. Such appropriation
is necessary because book reading has become less and less prevalent and will
continue to diminish as the presence of consumer electronics becomes more
pervasive. Haste is necessary, given the speed of the changes that are
occurring and the degree to which English departments lag behind in
responding to the challenge. By adapting to the present reality of this
transitional shift, instructors concerned about preparing students to be critical

readers and effective writers of the electronic texts they will most likely be
encountering in their lives will help to bring about a pedagogy of electronic
Historians of rhetoric tell of how rhetoric [originally the "art of

speaking," the curriculum which a future rhetor (Greek), or orator (Latin), or
public speaker would undergo], so prominent at certain points in time, was

subordinated to the emergent scientific paradigm of the seventeenth century,
with its emphasis upon clarity and the transparent usage of language. As

Walter Ong writes, those residual oral practices present for millenia after the
advent of alphabetic literacy eventually succumbed to full-blown literate

practices in the centuries following the emergence of the printing press as
"hearing dominance yields to sight-dominance":
Today, when curricula list rhetoric as a subject, it usually means
simply the study of how to write effectively. But no one ever
consciously launched a program to give this new direction to
rhetoric: the "art" simply followed the drift of consciousness
away from an oral to a writing economy. (Orality and Literacy

This "drift" shows itself most prominently in contemporary rhetorician
Chaim Perelman's Theory of Argumentation, which only considers the first
three of the five parts of rhetoric, "because he believed they memoriala and

action ] were not suited to a culture like ours, where discourses circulate all

through the printed word" (Barilli 105).

Barilli's comments directly following this statement are telling, given

my earlier description of the new technologies that will affect the twenty-first

century English department:
But today this limitation [of rhetoric to the first three parts] is not
at all necessary. When Perelman was trained in the 1940s and
1950s, he could not take into account the influence of new tech-
nologies such as the tape recorder and television-tools that
made possible the rediscovery of the importance of pronuncia-
tion and gestures.... (105)

Barilli ends his contemporary history of rhetoric with a call for a new

rhetoric, one that takes into consideration the responsibilities that the
electronic technologies require of us: "In short, there are enough reasons to
rewrite an Institutio for our time as comprehensive as Quintilian's, and one
in which special care should be given to all the classical parts of rhetoric,

overlooking none of them" (129).1 Recognizing the presence of technologies

of communication that augment mere printed textuality, Barilli's call for an

Institution is directed to English departments, which have traditionally been

responsible for instruction in rhetorical practices. Ong, too, writing earlier

than Barilli, believes that the "'literate orality' of the secondary oral culture

induced by radio and television awaits in-depth study" (Orality and Literacy

160). The goal of this dissertation will be to attempt to define where such a

rhetoric might begin to seek its rules.

Taking Barilli's dictum into account, one point of departure would be

the beginning itself-the Greek era-not in terms, however, of the history of

rhetoric but in terms of the history of orality. Eric Havelock's The Muse

Learns to Write, which offers a "special theory" of Greek orality, tells of the

important "formula" that he derived from biologist Ernst Mayr's Animal

Species and Evolution. Mayr spoke of cultural evolution as being equivalent

to genetic evolution, which progressed by means of genetically stored infor-

mation. Havelock focuses on the "key element in Mayr's account," determin-

ing this to be the "role played by the accumulation of information and its

storage for re-use in human language" (55). This prompts Havelock to ask,

"How can orality store its information for re-use? How can it preserve its

11n "The Old Rhetoric: An Aide-M4moire," Roland Barthes also calls for a new rhetoric: "At
the source-or on the horizon-of this seminar, as always, there was the modem text, i.e. the
text which does not yet exist. One way to approach this new text is to find out from what point
of departure, and in opposition to what, it seeks to come into being, and in this way to confront
the new semiotics of writing with the classical practice of literary language, which for
centuries was known as Rhetoric. Whence the notion of a seminar on the old Rhetoric: old does
not mean that there is a new Rhetoric today; rather old Rhetoric is set in opposition to that
new which may not yet have come into being: the world is incredibly full of old Rhetoric" (11).
While Barthes may not necessarily be referring to the new rhetoric as a specifically electronic
rhetoric, his purpose in offering a seminar on "the old Rhetoric" is to prepare, as he terms it, a
"point of departure" for the new Rhetoric which, according to Barilli, will be a rhetoric that
incorporates electronic writing.

identity?" (56). Much of Havelock's and Ong's work sets out to answer these

In digressing to consider Greek orality, we return to the notion of
rhetoric in a narrower sense than normally considered but one which derives

from Havelock's work on orality: namely, rhetoric as the storage of informa-
tion for the purpose of subsequent retrieval. This sense is justified not only
by the anachronistic conception of Homer as an "oral encyclopedia"

(Havelock 57), but also by the notion of the loci communes, the common-

places, in which arguments were stored and could be found (via inventio,
which means "to come upon" in Latin) to develop a speech (Ong, Orality and

Literacy 110; Barthes, "The Old Rhetoric" 64-71). Indeed, even Winifred
Bryan Horner, a contemporary rhetorician and author of the composition
textbook Rhetoric in the Classical Tradition, conceives of rhetoric as informa-

tion storage and retrieval, taking into account contemporary forms of cultural
memorial: "As the classical rhetoricians devised ways to store and retrieve

information from the human memory, the modern rhetorician must also

consider ways to retrieve information from books, libraries, and computers"
(339). Horner acknowledges that the printed book--deriving ultimately from
the alphabetic literacy of the Greeks-is a form of information storage. Part of
our task as English instructors, as mentioned above, is to teach students how
to retrieve information from its source in the books and the place where
books are stored, libraries.

Computers now, as Horner also acknowledges, are quickly becoming
tools for information storage and retrieval, but their effectiveness has been
limited by literate "book" strategies of storage (with the use of the list, the

index, the "table" of contents, the menu, the desktop). Such limitations
impose unnecessary restrictions upon the storage potential of electronic

media. Applying a literate mode of consciousness to the use of computers,
however, is to be expected in this period of transition from an alphabetic

apparatus to an electronic apparatus. After all, Ong locates what he calls
"residual morality" within Western civilization from Greek tragedy up to the

Age of Romanticism, the time when he sees the transition to full-blown

literate consciousness as being completed (Rhetoric, Romance, and
Technology 294-295). But the transition period from an alphabetic to an
electronic apparatus within the educational institution need not take so long

if we work from an analogy of our present moment to these past moments of

technological breakthrough. Despite the newness of the electronic apparatus,

traditions exist within classical rhetoric as well as Medieval and Early Modern

textual production that will offer models for writing within the "writing

spaces" of electronic media.

One such tradition can be found in the Art of Memory. The highly

visual nature of the Art of Memory, in the various ways that it was practiced

from the time of antiquity to the sixteenth century, is well-suited to the new

technology of hypermedia, with its capacity for graphics, animation, and even

quicktime video.2 With the proliferation of video cameras and VCRs on the
one hand and flat-bed scanners and quick-time desktop video on the other,

the writing with images that teachers and scholars abandoned with the

forsaken art of building memory palaces has returned with a vengeance.

What was once considered science fiction in 1984 in the fiction of William

Gibson is now being theorized by cyberspace architects.3 One scholar writes of

the potential of drawing upon this earlier tradition of the Art of Memory:

2 In his video entitled Virtual Play: The Double-Direct Monkey Wrench in Black's Machinery
(1984), Steve Fagin acknowledges the potential of using the Art of Memory by directly alluding
to the memory palace. For an interview with Fagin, see Wollen, October 41 (1987): 75-100.
3 See Benedikt for the "first steps" of such theorization.

The practitioners of mnemonics, especially Bruno and Leibnitz,
had high hopes for a universal language based on spatial, visual
systems. We may realize their hopes through the displays of our
computers.... (Nickerson 390)
My purpose in this dissertation, in part, will be to explore these traditions in
order to discover the kinds of strategies available for composition in
hypermedia. The presence of technologies such as hypertext and virtual

reality, after all, is a challenge to current scholars in the humanities to
theorize compositional strategies for storing information in these new media.
Beyond the tradition of the memory palace, which, as I will show,

provides a method of organization particularly well-suited to hypertext, there
is need of a theory of composition that will maximize the potential of the

hypertext medium. Its characteristic of speed, its three-dimensional writing

space, and its capacity to connect information in a multi-linear network all
point to the philosophy of Deleuze as a foundation for this theory. If the
central question of this dissertation concerns the problem of how to write in
hypertext-the problem, that is, of establishing the foundation for an
electronic rhetoric-then, to use the language of classical rhetoric, the
tradition of the memory palace within the Art of Memory will provide

instruction for dispositio or arrangement within a hypertext program, while
Deleuze and Guattari's concept of the rhizome will provide instruction for
elocutio or writing.
But the steps of rhetoric will have to undergo revision to accommodate
the ways that compositional practice changes in an electronic medium such as
hypertext. The rhetorical procedure offered and justified in this dissertation
is specific to one hypertext program, Storyspace, which has characteristics
unique to itself; it may not be helpful for other kinds of hypertext programs
such as Intermedia, Hypercard, or the html coding that creates hypertexts

within the World-Wide Web. Storyspace allows for the fast generation of

textual nodes and links to and from those nodes. This speed allows one to
write as quickly as one is meant to when practicing brainstorming or
invention, so that the act of writing itself in Storyspace-elocutio, the third
step-collapses into invention in the process of composing. I suggest that this
characteristic of Storyspace should be foregrounded in compositional

pedagogy within Storyspace, such that, as one brainstorms, one is also writing.
Associational nodes that occur to writers as they write ought to be generated
as they occur to them and pursued either at that moment or left to be picked
up at some later point. In this way the metonymicc slide" of associational
logic will be privileged, and a multi-linear network of various pathways will
be generated. The primary thesis that starts a composition in hypertext may

be completely abandoned by the time the writer finishes, a practice that

should be encouraged in hypertext but that is discouraged in traditional
compositional practices confined to the tenets of print literacy.
Following the initial compositional process, a composer might then

begin to seek patterns that exist among the nodes already generated for the
purposes of dispositio or arrangement. One interesting feature of the
Storyspace program is that it provides the illusion of a three-dimensional

writing space, which challenges one to seek three-dimensional structures as
organizational models for this process of arrangement. I suggest that the
memory palace tradition within classical rhetoric can offer guidance with
such an endeavor, given its three-dimensional illusion of a space that one
fills with images meant to trigger one's memory. Of course, one might start

with dispositio, conceiving of a three-dimensional structure that will govern
the arrangement of the Storyspace before writing begins, as long as the

metonymic style of writing described above is not hindered by such a
The confusion of terms, the blurring of definitions, and the possibility
for variable ordering of these steps demonstrate the difficulties encountered
when one begins to consider rhetorical instruction in a hypertext environ-

ment such as Storyspace. My project in this dissertation constitutes an initial
attempt to rectify these difficulties by taking the medium's characteristics into
account as I try to identify the steps of a rhetoric that are determined by the

medium itself. My proposed procedures might be considered a mode or genre
of hypertext writing, in the same way that traditional rhetoric, as many teach
it today, identifies actions such as definition, classification, and narration as

modes or genres of expository writing. I will call this new genre of electronic
rhetoric that I am attempting to invent "rhizography" so as to invoke the
rhizome as its governing principle.
To arrive at that destination, however, a seemingly circuitous pathway
must be taken in order to demonstrate the connections between the sixteenth
century and the twentieth century. The sixteenth century saw a period of
transition similar to our own, with transformations in the technologies of
communication, in institutional practices (specifically in the realm of

pedagogy), and in subject formation. Like the printing press, twentieth-
century electronic technologies promise to transform the way texts are read,
written, disseminated, valued, and taught as well as the way we conceive of
our bodies, our selves, and our interaction with others. Though these latter
concerns are addressed by poststructural theorists who have worked to
implement such transformations, our present methods of instruction and
evaluation are still based in the values of print literacy, and, while they may

be slowly evolving away from such values toward a pedagogy more

appropriate to the electronic age, our discipline has been slow to respond to
the challenge posed by electronic media. This dissertation is an attempt to set

a foundation for remedying this state of affairs.

The theoretical framework that justifies a look to the past can be found
in grammatology, understood very simply as the history of reading and
writing practices. The grammatologist believes that technologies of commu-

nication, considered within particular social contexts and taking into account

the institutionalized modes of utilizing these technologies, have an effect

upon communication itself. Achieving an understanding of the dynamics of

these components as they interact in past configurations helps the gramma-
tologist with his or her primary purpose-the invention of new institutional
practices that will fully engage the present technologies of communication.

By finding examples of individuals who have negotiated a period of

transition, the grammatologist can discover in these dynamics heuretic

inspiration for such invention. A large part of this dissertation, then, focuses

primarily on the sixteenth century as a transitional moment similar to our
own. I believe that we can learn about our own moment and how to
negotiate the present transition by examining in detail that prior analogous


With this goal in mind, I start in chapter 1 to set out grammatology as a

particular application of poststructural theory which differs from strictly

deconstructive applications to literature. My task here will be to discuss
grammatology as a term, define it as a theoretical field of study, and then
situate it within Renaissance studies alongside other poststructural

approaches to the period. While the first section of chapter 1 will gesture
toward a definition of grammatology, it will be through the second and third

sections, in which I will discuss the deconstructive criticism of Jonathan

Goldberg and then the new historicist work of Louis Adrian Montrose and
Stephen Greenblatt, that I will more clearly define it as a term, using these
two poststructural approaches to clarify what a grammatological approach to

the Renaissance will be. While deconstruction and new historicism are not

the only established theoretical approaches to the Renaissance, these happen
to be closely akin to the tenets of grammatology.
Having worked in chapter 1 to legitimate grammatology as a viable
course of study and to demonstrate its relationship to other poststructural
approaches, chapter 2 takes on the problem of studying history from a
grammatological perspective. Its purpose is to identify institutional changes

in pedagogical practices-specifically in strategies of mnemotechniques-with
the intent of better understanding the possibilities for improving our current
use of electronic media. In the first part I work to resolve the orality-literacy

debate by positing grammatology as a theoretical solution to the problems that
deterministic histories cause. Doing so clears the way for a grammatological
history of the sixteenth century in the second part, one that looks at the

changing pedagogical practices and how these result in the decline of the
memory palace tradition as the primary art of memory. The transition was
facilitated by the effects of the printing press in conjunction with the rise of

Ramism as a new, literate mnemonic system more suitable to the print
technology of the day. The third part introduces a treatment of Edmund

Spenser that will be further developed in the third chapter; this third part

serves to show Spenser's awareness of the efficacy of the memory palace and
his use of the memory palace tradition in his epic poem The Faerie Queene.
The conclusion of the dissertation will provide an example of how I
employed this knowledge of Spenser's use of the memory palace as a way of
organizing a Storyspace hypertext that I authored.

Chapter 3 then performs close readings of Spenser's minor poems in

order to show his employment of the soon-to-be popular format of print,

which monumentalizes the once ephemeral status of mnemonics in its

permanence. These poems exhibit an understanding of prosopopoeia as the

tropic form that mnemonics takes in the era of print literacy, and one can see

Spenser persistently reminding his patrons of this as he pressures them for

funding. This treatment of Spenser's minor poems will include a detour

through the poststructural theory of prosopopoeia and will end with a

reading of Spenser's Prosopopoia, or Mother Hubberds Tale, as Spenser's

poetic manifesto that affirms his poststructural sensibility toward language.

The chapter will end with a recognition of the role that depth plays in

demonstrating Spenser's ambivalence toward the mnemonics of print

literacy, as the privileging of depth is a direct result of alphabetic (and

especially print) literacy.

Spenser's ambivalence is a direct result of his anxiety during this

transitional period of shifting mnemonic systems, an anxiety which is

equivalent to that being experienced today as our culture moves from the

familiar mnemonics of print literacy to the now emergent mnemonics of

"computeracy."4 Moments of transition cause anxiety, as in the transition

from a chirographic to a print culture that I will describe in chapter 3, or

4"Computeracy" is a term I will use throughout to denote the "electronic literacy" that Richard
Lanham calls for in Revising Prose. See especially chapter five of Revising Prose, entitled
"Electronic Literacy." For a source of the term, see R.A. Shoafs use of "computeracy" in "Gonzo
Scholarship: Policing Electronic Journals." This special issue of Surfaces, an electronic journal
based at the University of Montreal, publishes the proceedings of a panel held at the 1993
MLA meeting. Shoafs essay introduces the three contributors to the panel, whose essays
concern the impact of the Internet upon the profession as well as upon publishing. The essay by
James O'Donnell, in Shoafs words, works to perform the same task as this dissertation: "It is
the great merit of O'Donnell's contribution that he can analogize so clearly and helpfully
between the transition from literacy to computeracy and the transition from manuscripts to
print literacy five hundred years ago. The analogies are extraordinarily helpful in thinking
through the implications of the changes confronting us" (7).

Michael Near's description of how Beoiulf demonstrates an anxiety for early
Anglo-Saxon culture over the transition from orality to literacy. Near doses
his essay with a general statement that can be applied to any transitional

moment during which a new technology of communication challenges
established ideological practices: "[Beowulf ] anticipates the advent of an

intruding technology that promises to undercut the psychological founda-

tions of an entire way of life" (329). One can see a similar kind of anxiety in
current perceptions of virtual reality and its potential effects upon society.
Brenda Laurel writes of her investigation of virtual reality's reception by the

general public, an investigation which found people perceiving the new
technologies as intrusive and as a potential threat to people's psychological
well-being: "The callers were convinced that VR 'providers' are dealers of a

new and powerful drug, luring their hapless victims into a shadowy world of
un-life" ("A VR Field Report" 17). This anxiety is also indicated in the
reluctance of humanities educators to embrace the new technologies as

pedagogical and scholarly tools.
One perceived advantage of the permanence of print is that it also
provides the illusion that language can be controlled, and prosopopoeia

becomes one means for achieving this illusory power, both in the controlled
representation of the voices of the dead and in the dialogue with the book
that allows for hermeneutic closure. I will argue in chapter 3 that the desire

to control language-a desire characteristic of some twentieth-century critical
movements which claim access to a poet's intention, to the historical context
alluded to in a writer's work, or to some essential meaning that can be
determined by proper reading practices-begins with the era of the printed
book. This desire to control language is currently being challenged, however,
by the advent of electronic technologies that render the illusory permanence

of print entirely defunct. The ultimate purpose of this chapter is the

identification of the main features of print literacy as they are manifest both
in Spenser's texts and in the characteristics of prosopopoeia as the trope
which can provide within print a manner of controlling language. An
understanding of the dynamics of print literacy will better help us to
understand how computeracy can and should differ.
With chapter 4 comes the move to consideration of present-day

technologies of communication. The first part considers the poststructural
focus on language and how this has brought about a return of allegory and its
privileging of the surface, in opposition to the reign of symbol during the
centuries of print literacy and its privileging of depth. Allegory is shown to be
a surface phenomenon and is thus affirmed to be amenable to the emerging
electronic apparatus. Various poststructural philosophers speak of surface

effects, the turn to which results from a desire to find an anti-Platonic
philosophy that undermines logocentrism, and Deleuze is chosen from
among them as the representative theorist of electronic rhetoric. Before
providing that theory of electronic rhetoric in the fifth chapter, I first explore
the writing space of the computer screen as it is employed in hypertext, first

tracing the history of the organizing of information in space and then

asserting that, given the three-dimensional nature of hypertext programs, the
mnemonic practice of building memory palaces should be remotivated in our
current context. In order to minimize the hindrance of "residual literacy," in
order, that is, to fully engage the communicative potential within the new
electronic media, we must address hypertext as a medium with its own

characteristics that differ from those of print literacy. Chapter 4 amounts to a
contextualization of hypertext within the history of information storage and

retrieval and a brief analysis of book metaphors in electronic interface design

as an indication of our continued investment in the methods of print literacy.

Having chosen Deleuze as the spokesman of a philosophy of the
surface and of a return to allegory, I then set out in chapter 5 to define
"rhizography" as a method of writing in hypertext. This method is derived

from Deleuze and Guattari's concept of the rhizome, which embodies the
interconnected network that hypertext manifests in its presentation of a text.

I argue that three characteristics of the rhizome-speed, nomadism, and

density-should govern writing in Storyspace, a hypertext program that is
extremely user-friendly and promises to make the act of brainstorming the
primary aspect of writing, rather than just the first step, as in classical rhetor-
ical training. In its similarity to the neural networks of connectionist theory,
the rhizome can provide the bridge to a writing that more closely resembles
the workings of the mind, as some currently theorize.

This goal of achieving a kind of writing that manifests the associational
leaping of brain activity may seem to some a form of anti-rhetoric, since it
does not require the imposition of organization upon the jumble of thoughts
that is required for communicative efficacy. In such an approach, logos is
privileged over pathos and ethos as the significant defining feature that

makes of rhetoric a form of science akin to biology, geology, pathology, and so
on in that logic and logical development of a persuasive argument are taken
as the norm. This traditional sense of rhetoric emphasizes persuasion and
logical development and is oriented toward a single thesis or a particular goal
of moving an audience to action. Because hypertext allows for multiple
theses and lines of argument that might reach opposing conclusions to coexist
simultaneously in one document, this traditional criterion for the purpose of
rhetoric must be adapted, I am arguing, to allow for the new capacity of

communication that hypertext provides. To conceive of it in terms of the

three appeals, hypertext composition will privilege pathos as much as if not

more than logos, in following with the recent assertions of cognitive science,

which finds in the physiological workings of the brain a common denomi-

nator between logical thought and pathical feeling.5 Hypertext promises to

return to scholarly writing and compositional pedagogy in the humanities an

aesthetic emphasis which will by no means eclipse the anaesthetic impulse of

logical argument but which will supplement that impulse to make of reading

and writing a richer experience.

5See Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind, chapter 16.1: "In any case, our culture wrongly
teaches us that thoughts and feelings lie in almost separate worlds. In fact, they're almost
always intertwined. In the next few sections we'll propose to regard emotions not as separate
from thoughts in general, but as varieties or types of thoughts, each based on a different brain-
machine that specializes in some particular domain of thought" (163).


So long as literary studies are situated as they are now, the most one
can hope for (at least with respect to aims that are realistic) is that your
work will make a difference in the institutional setting that gives it a
-Stanley Fish

Towards a Definition of Grammatology

Thus Stanley Fish critiques the New Historicists' desire to enter the
political sphere and their expressed concern over their inability to do so in an

effective way. Their aims, he argues, are "unrealistic."

Fish's injunction to focus upon one's own institutional setting, to

work to make changes within it rather than elsewhere, returns to literary crit-
ics a modicum of social power. However limited this power may be within a

specific institution, an English professor, Fish suggests, can work to make

changes within the institution of literary criticism. The ability to intervene,

however, depends upon one's ability to determine where change might be

To the extent that one might want to institute such change, this ability
to determine where change is needed could come only from some awareness

of the history of given institutional practices. All of our current behaviors,

both as scholars and as pedagogues, have evolved over time. The extent to

which these are thought to be natural is the extent to which they have

become part of our ideological make-up, which complicates our ability to rec-

ognize how they have emerged from a particular cultural and historical
matrix. To some extent it is in the best interests of the institution for such

historical considerations to be ignored, as Samuel Weber notes: "Indeed, the

very notion of academic 'seriousness' came increasingly to exclude reflection
upon the relation of one 'field' to another, and concomitantly, reflection
upon the historical process by which individual disciplines established their

boundaries" (32). Given this difficulty, it is no wonder that a phenomenon I

will call "institutional inertia" occurs, one in which pedagogical and scholarly

practices as pursued within the university setting are perpetuated in estab-

lished customary procedures.

My use of "institution" here refers to only one of its elements, the
sense of the word that Renr Lourau sees as the now dominant conception:

"By emptying the concept of institution of one of its primordial components

(that of instituting, in the sense of founding, creating, breaking with an old

order and creating a new one), sociology has finally come to identify the insti-

tution with the status quo" (quoted in Weber xv). As such, it is meant to
indicate the kinds of relationships a university fosters between scholars and
their scholarship and between scholars and their students, relationships

which are determined by the drive to maintain the status of "professional."

Weber's comments about the professional are helpful here; he writes that

"the professional sought to isolate, in order to control.... In short, the

culture of professionalism drew much of its force, its 'social credit,' credibility,
from the cultivation and exploitation of anxiety" (27-28). The invocation of

anxiety here is related to Fish's critique of Montrose for being nervous over

his success1; it suggests that there is a structure of insecurity in professional-

ism which demands continual justification: "Once the professional has suc-

ceeded in gaining admittance to the 'field,' he can hope to enjoy a measure of

security unknown by other nonprofessional salaried persons: provided, of

course, that he continues to accept and to practice the game according to its

rules" (Weber 31, emphasis added).

Increased specialization within disciplinary pursuits-the desire to iso-

late certain elements of a discipline for specialized study, as Weber notes, in

the pursuit of an idealized notion of professionalism-results in control

wielded not only within the given field but also over students as well. Once a

niche is filled in a particular environment of textual studies, the professional

need not fear being challenged, for s/he is the expert, s/he is the one to con-

sult when questions concerning this narrow bandwidth of information arise.

Such a situation fosters a form of pedagogy that Paulo Freire has suggested

manifests the "banking concept of education," that is, a conception of the stu-

dent-teacher relationship which figures the student as a passive recipient of

"deposits" of knowledge and the teacher as the One Who Knows.2

One force which tends to work against institutional inertia is that of

technological change. At present, this change is coming so quickly that Alvin

Toffler has called it "Future Shock." "Cyberspace," the "Internet," and

"Hypermedia": each of these current technologies, getting press now even in

1 "It is hard to know whether such anxieties are a sign of large ambitions that have been
frustrated ... or a sign of the familiar academic longing for failure-we must be doing
something wrong because people are listening to us and offering us high salaries. But whatever
the source of the malaise, I urge that it be abandoned and that New Historicists sit back and
enjoy the fruits of their professional success, wishing neither for more nor for less." Stanley
Fish, "Commentary: The New Historicism," The New Historicism, ed. H. Aram Veeser (New
York: Routledge, 1989) 315.

2 Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (New York: Herder
and Herder, 1970) 57-74.

such journals as Time and Newsweek, is putting pressure upon the educa-

tional institution to reconsider its definitions of scholarship, pedagogy, disci-

plinarity, and even institutionality. In light of these changes, those profes-

sionals within the educational institution and within the discipline of textual

studies itself must begin to ask the questions that such technologies are rais-

ing: What is the role of the teacher? How will disciplinary boundaries be

reconfigured in the new electronic environment? What will scholarly

research become, and how will it change?

Answering these questions can be easier if one investigates the evolu-

tion of reading and writing practices as exercised within the educational insti-

tution. Doing so would provide data about past transitional moments that

might help in the negotiation of the present one. The Renaissance (or "Early

Modern"3 period) is known as a particularly significant moment in terms of

the history of technological and pedagogical change and would therefore war-

rant close investigation. The justification for such an investigation comes

from the field of grammatology, a variant form of Cultural Studies which

considers the traditional questions of subject formation and ideological posi-

tioning as understood in current theoretical treatments in light of the

electronic transformation of language and representation.

Grammatology offers, therefore, a way of thinking about the present

which can only be managed by recourse to a consideration of the institution's

past. Most would associate it with deconstruction, and specifically with

3 There is currently a shift to renominalize "Renaissance Studies" as "Early Modem Studies"
for various theoretical reasons. Jonathan Crewe believes that using the former is a
conservative gesture whereas using the latter is a more progressive one; he asks, "what implied
commitments remain unalterable as long as the category 'Renaissance' remains in force?" Trials
of Authorship: Anterior Forms and Poetic Reconstruction From Wyatt to Shakespeare
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990) 2. His goal is to achieve "representation [of
the Renaissance] radically otherwise" and so sees the use of "Early Modem" as challenging the
"tacit conservation of premises" that the term "Renaissance" carries with it.

Jacques Derrida's project in Of Grammatology. But even there it is a term

that refers to the history of reading and writing, and to the ways that such his-

tories have perpetuated certain ideologically motivated evaluations of pres-

ence, the origin, the telos. In the work of Gregory Ulmer, grammatology

becomes a theoretical practice which works to institute institutional change by

focusing upon past institutional practices and attempting to derive new prac-

tices for the use of the emergent electronic technologies. It draws its theoreti-

cal basis and inspiration not only from Derridean deconstruction but also

from contemporary French poststructuralism and twentieth-century literary

theory in general.4 As such, it is a theoretical practice that can be applied to

any text in any era. It will be my intention to explore the Early Modern period

as a grammatologist would, and in doing so demonstrate grammatology's

efficacy as a particularly pragmatic form of literary studies.

To explore the Early Modern period in this way, for the reason of

answering some of the questions posed above, I must first define grammatol-

ogy as a version of literary theory different from other such versions. In the

process of doing so, I will look at some of the contemporary applications of

theory-specifically the deconstructive work of Jonathan Goldberg and the

New Historicist works of Louis Montrose and Stephen Greenblatt-in order

to glean the ways that grammatology is both similar to and different from

current studies.5 This initial work is preliminary to the larger project both of

4 1 do not intend to claim here that the term "poststructuralism" denotes a unified theoretical
approach to literary and cultural studies. The grammatologist, however, does focus on those
common denominators among the theorists, for instance the experimental writing projects of
Luce Irigaray in The Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche, of Gilles Deleuze and Felix
Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus, or of Jacques Derrida in Glas, all of which challenge
institutionalized practices of book-literacy.

5 There is a tendency among literary critics to distinguish their own position in the process of
deriding others, as in Greenblatt's "Towards a Poetics of Culture" [The New Historicism, ed. H.
Aram Veeser (New York: Routledge, 1989) 1-14] in which he critiques Jameson's and Lyotard's
definitions of capitalism in order to suggest that his is more "complex": "If capitalism is

deriving compositional practices for hypertext from the sixteenth century and

of attempting to learn from the sixteenth century how to negotiate the

current transitional shift in technologies.

The term grammatology came to enjoy its recent theoretical status with

the publication of Derrida's Of Grammatology. While Derrida did not invent

the term, he remotivates it according to his deconstructive program. As he

writes, "Through all the recent work in the area, one glimpses the future

extension of a grammatology called upon to stop receiving its guiding con-

cepts from other human sciences, or, what nearly always amounts to the

same thing, from traditional metaphysics" (83). Following through with the

implications of Derrida's deconstructive work as well as attempting to incor-

porate Derrida's more experimental approach to writing philosophy in the

later works (Glas, The Postcard, The Truth in Painting ) into a pedagogy of

invoked not as a unitary demonic principle [as it is in Jameson and Lyotard], but as a complex
historical movement in a world without paradisal origins or chiliastic expectations [as it is in
Greenblatt's work], then an inquiry into the relation between art and society in capitalist
cultures must address both the formation of the working distinction upon which Jameson
remarks and the totalizing impulse upon which Lyotard remarks" (6). In another strategy
employed to create a niche for themselves in the ecology of textual studies, some critics, like
Derek Alwes in "'Who knows not Colin Clout?' Spenser's Self-Advertisement in The Faerie
Queene, Book 6," Modern Philology 88 (August 1990), 26-42, work to correct or emend a previous
reading. Alwes corrects Louis Montrose, who believes that Spenser defined himself as being the
Queen's adversary, contesting her authority through his poetry. Alwes believes, on the other
hand, that "the poetic role Spenser defines for himself in his works is that of accomplice, not
adversary"(29). Here, Alwes in effect employs Montrose's method to make a different
assertion. Perhaps the form of argument itself requires such embattled rhetoric, for in each
example the critic assumes he knows the truth and is working to reveal inadequacies in
preceding commentary.
Revelation, then, becomes the primary mode of procedure, as implied by the following
metaphor that Greenblatt employs at the end of "Towards a Poetics of Culture": "It is in
response to this practice [of constructing an interpretive model that will more adequately
account for the unsettling circulation of materials and discourses that is ... the heart of
modem aesthetic practice] that contemporary theory must situate itself: not outside
interpretation, but in the hidden places of negotiation and exchange" (13, emphasis mine).
Greenblatt works to reveal these "hidden places" to us in his essay. Rather than rely upon
such metaphors of excavation, a theoretical grammatologist works to invent, working
heuretically rather than hermeneutically. In this project, I will invent the institutional
practices (or, more precisely, an institutional practice) for working with hypertext/ hyper-
media in Early Modem studies.

Writing, Gregory Ulmer, in Applied Grammatology, further defines the term

in characterizing his application of Derridean (and, beyond Derrida, of

poststructural) theory to pedagogical concerns.6 My work in this dissertation

will build upon Ulmer's, but first I must briefly present the "original"

Derridean conception of the term.

Consistently, throughout part one of Of Grammatology, Derrida uses

grammatology to refer to the history of writing, his purpose in doing so being

to demonstrate what I will call the "cultural inertia" perpetuating philosophic

concepts that began with Plato and Aristotle and continuing within the writ-

ings of Rousseau and Saussure.7 So pervasive is this historical sense of his

work that he frequently uses the term "epoch" to denote the centuries that

logocentrism-the privileging of speech over its writing-has permeated the

foundations of Western philosophical thinking. At one point he states, "This

logocentrism, this epoch of the full speech .." (43), and thereby demonstrates

through apposition the historical breadth of logocentrism's reign.8 One gets a

real sense that Derrida detects our time as a time of change, of paradigmatic

6 Ulmer writes in the preface of Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy from Jacques
Derrida to Joseph Beiys "The applied phase of grammatology, which I introduce here, is
meant to be the pedagogical equivalent of this scripting beyond the book, adequate to an era of
interdisciplines, intermedia, electronic apparatus" (xiii). Ulmer indicates this special form of
Derridean writing by capitalizing Writing.

7 See also "The Pit and the Pyramid: Introduction to Hegel's Semiology," Margins of
Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982) 69-108, in
which Derrida writes, "The process of the sign has a history ..." (71). His purpose in this
essay, as he states, is to analyze the system of "the coordination of the theory of the sign and
the light of parousia... .whose constraints) are exercised, in constitutive fashion, over the
entire history of metaphysics" (72).

8 Of course, this use of history is qualified and itself put into historical perspective; that is,
history itself is seen to be a product of the logocentric dominion: "This phoneticization has a
history, no script is absolutely exempt from it, and the enigma of this evolution does not allow
itself to be dominated by the concept of history. To be sure, the latter appears at a determined
moment in the phoneticization of script and it presupposes phoneticization in an essential way"
(Of Grammatology 88).

upheaval in which a shift is occurring between two epochs-between that of

logocentrism and that which poststructuralism is heralding:

The end of linear writing is indeed the end of the book, even if,
even today, it is within the form of a book that new writings-
literary or theoretical-allow themselves to be, for better or for
worse, encased. It is less a question of confiding new writings to
the envelope of a book than of finally reading what wrote itself
between the lines in the volumes. That is why, beginning to
write without the line, one begins also to reread past writing
according to a different organization of space. If today the
problem of reading occupies the forefront of science, it is because
of this suspense between two ages of writing. Because we are
beginning to write, to write differently, we must reread
differently. (emphasis mine, 86-87)

As we shall see, although writers like Derrida and others have pio-
neered, in book form, how such "new writings" will be fashioned, the new

technologies now available to the humanities-in the form of hypertext and

hypermedia programs-will generate the kind of "nonlinear writing" that
Derrida calls for in Of Grammatology. 9

The sense of grammatology, then, that Ulmer adopts from Derrida is
this historical sense, the sense that grammatology refers to the history of read-
ing and writing. He rereads Derrida's "oeuvre from a perspective that turns

attention away from an exclusive concern with deconstruction." In doing so,

Ulmer substitutes "grammatology" for "deconstruction," as he writes in his

preface to Applied Grammatology, in order to privilege Writing, "in order to

explore the relatively neglected 'affirmative' (Derrida's term) dimension of

grammatology, the practical extension of deconstruction into decomposition"
(x). Defining a sense of the "apparatus" as that which not only maps the

9 On the equivalence of "nonlinear dynamics" (as an aspect of what recent breakthroughs in
physics are labelling "chaos theory") with deconstruction, see N. Katherine Hayles, Chaos
Bound: Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and Science (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1990):
"Deconstruction and nonlinear dynamics appear isomorphic, then, because the concepts with
which they are concerned form an ecology of ideas" (185).

intersection between the various technologies of writing practices and the

institutional incorporations of these practices but also considers the resultant

subject formation that emerges from these intersections, Ulmer is able to

expand the sense of grammatology to include reflection upon these broader

concerns. His ultimate purpose in doing so is to glean pedagogically relevant

institutional practices from the provinces of deconstruction, practices which

he works to show are employed directly by Derrida himself.10

As such, Ulmer's position on grammatology enables one to consider

the history of pedagogical practices as codified by educational institutions,

specifically how technologies of writing inform and are informed by these

practices. Sharon Crowley might also be called a grammatologist in the sense

that she too takes the broad view of composition instruction and finds, in her

Methodical Memory: Invention in the Current-Traditional Rhetoric, that

current instruction has, as its epistemologicall underpinnings," a logocentric

epistemology which emerged in the eighteenth century. She writes, "One of

my book's central points is that current-traditional rhetoric is a historical

hangover. Its epistemology, and the pedagogy associated with it, need

rethinking" (xii).11 Both Crowley and Ulmer find it necessary to consult

10 As Ulmer writes, "The ultimate deconstruction of the logocentric suppression of writing is not
to analyze the inconsistency of the offending theories, but to construct a fully operational mode
of thought on the basis of the excluded elements (in the way that the non-Euclideans built
consistent geometries that defied and contradicted the accepted axioms)" (Applied
Grammatology xii). According to Ulmer, Derrida works to construct this mode of thought: he
"systematically explores the nondiscursive levels-images and puns, or models and
homophones-as an alternative mode of composition and thought applicable to academic work,
or rather, play" (xi). See Text Book by Scholes, Comley, and Ulmer for an experimental
deconstructivee" composition textbook for teaching writing about literature.

11 In A Teacher's Introduction to Deconstruction (Urbana: National Council of Teachers of
English, 1989), an introduction to high school instructors explaining deconstruction and its
implications for writing instruction, Crowley concludes that many instructors now contradict
themselves by teaching traditional rhetorical strategies for writing based on the logocentric
mode while at the same time espousing, in their reading practices and interpretive work, a
more progressive poststructural epistemology.

history in their attempt to critique current pedagogical practices so that the

discipline of English can move beyond, in whatever ways this is possible, the

confines of a logocentric epistemology.12

What is at stake here is the state of educational practices in the late

twentieth century, in the impending (or already present) "age of informa-

tion," the age of data highways and cyberspatiality which is now upon us. As

a dissertation on the ways in which academic scholarship in Early Modern

studies may change when pursued in hypermedia, this "book," a manifesta-

tion of linear writing which Derrida views as being on the way out, will dis-

cuss a nonlinear form of writing in a linear manner, simply because the insti-

tutional inertia surrounding Ph.D. work will not allow me to submit a hyper-

text as partial fulfillment of the requirements for a doctoral degree. I could

compose a hypertext, but it would have to be submitted in addition to a full-

length manuscript of a dissertation. Such a state of affairs provides no moti-

vation for a doctoral candidate to do the extra work of composing in a new

and alien medium, thus perpetuating the institution's love-affair

with/reliance upon the book. The institution will not yet accept electronic

essays as a legitimate form of scholarship because it is still bound up within

the practices of literacy. Stuart Moulthrop notes the absurdity of working dur-

ing this transitional time, during which we read and write about hypermedia

in printed books:

Why aren't you reading this document in a hypertext system?
How is it that those of us who analyze hypertext, even those of

12 Of the two, Crowley is more pessimistic about the possibility of doing so than Ulmer is. In A
Teacher's Introduction to Deconstnrction, she writes, "The performance of this 'reading' of
traditional pedagogy may be as far as deconstruction will take us. I am not sure that a
deconstructive pedagogy can be realized-the term is itself an oxymoron" (45). Despite this
disclaimer, she does go on to suggest ways that instructors implementing a deconstructive
pedagogy would conduct themselves, many of which are similar to those proposed by Stanley
Aronowitz and Henry A. Giroux in Postmodern Education: Politics, Cldture, and Social
Criticism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991).

us who promote and proselytize for it, carry on our
communications primarily in print? What does this preference
imply, both about the organizations interested in hypertext and
about the systems they develop and study?13

One question that this dissertation intends to propose concerns the

relationship of hypermedia to Early Modern studies: how will the forms of

writing that Early Modern scholars engage in as well as the kinds of questions

posed about Early Modern texts change when hypertext composition becomes

the norm rather than the exception? Because a new technology of writing

exists, one that radically changes the ways that writers compose, scholars pub-

lish, students and instructors interact, and, perhaps most importantly, the

way that readers read, the question of how this new technology will be

implemented and what such implementation will mean for how teaching

and scholarship are conducted must be further explored.14

My look at the sixteenth century is motivated thus by the recognition

that this period not only harbors potential practices for disposition within

hypertext compositions but also offers an historical analogy of a pedagogical

crisis brought on by a new technology. One example of the degree of this

crisis is Peter Ramus who, as a theorist of the page who invented a

mnemonic method intended to exploit the communicative potential of the

printed page, was murdered as a result of the upheavals he created in

13 Stuart Moulthrop, a pioneer in hypertext studies who has already begun to compose texts in
such hypermedia systems as Macintosh's Hypercard and Eastgate System's Storyspace, here
implies that the features of hypertext will reconstruct institutional relationships to such an
extent that the institution will resist its adoption. The piece cited here appeared in an essay
entitled "The Shadow of an Informand: A Rhetorical Experiment in Hypertext," Perforations
3: After the Book, spring/summer 1992, ed. Richard Gess.

14 Initial explorations have been made by George Landow in Hypertext: The Convergence of
Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1992) and also
in a book edited by Landow and Paul Delaney entitled Hypermedia and Literary Studies
(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991).

education. A parallel has been drawn between Ramist's effect on the

sixteenth century and Derrida's effect upon our own in terms of pedagogical
upheaval.15 While Derrida does not specifically employ the new technologies

nor has the ostensible purpose of influencing pedagogy in the ways that

Ramus did, the implications of his work have begun to trickle down into

composition textbooks and pedagogical treatises.16 Embracing the grammato-

logical frame, then, with its consideration of the history of reading and

writing and of how this history has determined current pedagogical practices,

allows for a more self-conscious procedure to take place, one in the spirit of

postmodernism and poststructuralism.

The adoption of such a self-conscious attitude toward the way we con-

duct ourselves as professionals will enable us to recognize the epistemological

metaphors underlying our methodologies which unconsciously shape our

(institutional) behaviors.17 Part of the value of a deconstructive approach is

this very detection and exposure of foundational metaphors. The grammato-

logical approach I am attempting to describe here goes beyond mere exposure,

however: again, to repeat a previously cited passage from Applied

Grammatology, it tries to develop the "relatively neglected 'affirmative'

dimension of grammatology." What this means is that, after exposing a par-

ticular metaphor, an alternative one is offered in its place, one that provides a

15See Ulmer's recent publication, Heuretics: The Logic of Invention, pp. 18-19.

16For one example beyond the already mentioned work of Crowley and Ulmer, see Writing and
Reading Differently: Deconstruction and the Teaching of Composition and Literature. Eds. G.
Douglas Atkins and Michael L. Johnson. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985. See also
the special issue of College Literature entitled Literary Theory in the Classroom 18.2 (1991).

17 See Paul de Man, "The Epistemology of Metaphor," Critical Inquiry 5: 1 (Autumn 1978), 13-
30, in which he exposes how major Western philosophers, in trying to avoid the use of
metaphor, cannot do so: "All philosophy is condemned, to the extent that it is dependent upon
figuration, to be literary ..." (28).

conceptual framework other than that which already exists, one that permits

a transgression of boundaries previously held to be insurmountable or

assumed to be natural.18

It is curious, to say the least, that the computer I am using at present

has a "desktop," that information is stored in the form of "documents"

within "files," when in reality the resemblance of the computer's desktop to

my own is slight, and the computer always seems much faster at locating

documents in files than I am.19 And the documents in my desk files are

permanent items (barring a fire), whereas this document, at present stored as

a series of ones and zeroes (a coding system that informs an electronic

machine when to turn certain switches on and when to leave them off) is

much more ephemeral. The point here is that we have entered the age of

computers carrying the metaphoric baggage of alphabetic literacy, baggage

which, while perhaps expedient for the moment, may weigh us down more

than is necessary. The metaphor of "baggage" is appropriate since, as a

grammatologist, I am concerned with the storage and retrieval of informa-

tion, how this was done in the past, how it is done now, and how it might be

done in the future.

18 This is precisely what Derrida does in his overall project, according to Ulmer: upon
undermining the primary metaphors governing cognition-the senses of distance (sight and
hearing)-Derrida provides an alternative, an alternative discovered in the neglected
possibilities of the vehicle: the chemical senses of proximity (taste and smell). That is, in
recognizing the complicity of visual metaphors of cognition (implicit in the Latin "videre"
which means both "I see" and "I understand") in the hegemony of logocentrism, Derrida
suggests that using the chemical senses as alternatives can provide a way to undermine
logocentrism. See Ulmer, Applied Grammatology, 30-67: "The philosophemes are to be
deconstructed by an examination of their metaphorsspecifically, the vehicles, the senses or
sensible aspect of the organs. The goal is the conceptualization of the chemical senses, excluded
thus far from theory" (54).

19 The limitations of the "desktop" metaphor in computer interface design have been noted.
See especially Alan Kay's article "User Interface: A Personal View" in The Art of Human-
Computer Interface Design. ed. Brenda Laurel (New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing
Company, Inc., 1990) 191-207.

So a grammatologist might approach the Early Modern period with the

purpose in mind of finding metaphors that could serve as an alternative to
current metaphors of information storage practices, metaphors that are per-
haps more suitable to the potential capacities of the computer interface. The
mnemotechnics of the sixteenth century, as I intend to suggest, may provide

just the alternative to existing mnemographies-to methods of storing and
retrieving information. But before entering such an investigation, which

will begin in chapter 2 by recounting the history of the memory palace and
continue in chapter 3 with a close look at Spenser's use of the memory palace
in The Faerie Queene, I must further define grammatology and will do so by
discussing two of the more systematic applications of contemporary French
theory to Early Modern studies-that is, deconstruction and new
historicism-in order to show, by contrast, how grammatology compares.
This approach to the problem seeks not only to define grammatology as a
consistent and focused theoretical approach but also to legitimate it as an
application of theory that is particularly amenable to the sixteenth century.
This chapter, then, works to define; the next chapter demonstrates an
exemplary application of grammatology to the sixteenth century in general

and to Edmund Spenser in particular.

Deconstruction in Early Modern Studies
Despite the apparent flowering of theoretical investigations of the Early
Modern period, a conservative strain still lingers, a strain that is quite perva-
sive, as Jonathan Goldberg notes in a review essay on "The Politics of
Renaissance Literature": "I cannot close without remarking the persistence of
older modes of criticism, and the sad fact that these represent a historicism
vitiated of the vitality and intelligence and moral seriousness of the work of

Douglas Bush or Helen Gardner and devoid too of the rigor of a Cleanth

Brooks" (538).20

Within this landscape of Early Modern studies, a landscape seemingly

barren of theoretical work, one comes upon deconstruction, which some

would consider an oasis of pure water and others would view as a deadly trap

of quicksand. With critics as erudite as Kenneth Gross, Patricia Parker, David

L. Miller and Jonathan Goldberg-all of whom adopt a deconstructive

approach, some to a greater extent than others-able to invent21 the

moments of deconstruction that they write about in texts of the Early Modem

period, one might view this period as inherently receptive to such a critical

and philosophical perspective.22 Given that historical moment, at which

time no standardized English dictionaries or grammars of English existed,23

20 Despite the fact that this essay is now over a decade old, the condition Goldberg describes
does not seem to have changed much, as Louis Montrose notes in his more recent essay entitled
"Professsing the Renaissance: The Poetics and Politics of Culture," in The New Historicism, ed.
H. Aram Veeser (Routledge: New York, 1989) 15-36: "Until very recently-and perhaps even
now-the dominant mode of interpretation in English Renaissance literary studies has been to
combine formalist techniques of close rhetorical analysis with the elaboration of relatively
self-contained histories of 'ideas,' or of literary genres and topoi-histories that have been
abstracted from their social matrices" (17-18). Montrose goes on to describe "two other
traditional practices of 'history' in Renaissance literary studies," practices which reflect what
I have called the conservative strain, and then proceeds to point out what is "new" about the
new historicism. Montrose is perhaps the most helpful in understanding the history of new
historicism and its emergence on the critical "scene."

21 I use "invent" here to invoke both the sense of coming upon or finding (the classical rhetorical
conception) as well as the more modern conception of fabricating or making. It is widely
acknowledged, in the poststructural paradigm, that critics no longer uncover the Truth of any
given text but that they take part in constructing the meanings that are generated from their

22 Goldberg says that, "as Foucault shows, the very shape of knowledge in the Renaissance is
deconstructive" (Endlesse Worke 11, note 5).

23 William Caxton, the renowned printer, critic and translator best known for introducing the
printing press into England in 1476, bemoaned this state of affairs in a prologue to his
translation of the French poem Eneydos (1490) and called for standardization in spelling and
punctuation so that printers like himself could do their job that much easier: "Loo what sholde
a man in thyse dayes now wryte egges or eyren / certainly it is harde to plays euery man / by
cause of dyuersite & change of language Quoted in W.F. Bolton, A Living Language: The
History and Structure of English (New York: Random House, 1982).

one could argue that the state of the language itself was a breeding ground for

linguistic behaviors that would later come to be recognized as deconstructive:

fluidity, instability, indeterminacy.24 If deconstruction could emerge during

the twentieth century-the age of linguistic standardization par excellence

with the OED and the Harbrace Handbook-to describe the supposedly

inherent instability of language then imagine what things were like at a time

when one could sign one's name seven different ways.

Perhaps one of the best-known practitioners of deconstruction in the

Early Modern period is Jonathan Goldberg, whose earlier writings include a

full-length deconstructive study, entitled Endlesse Worke, of the fourth book

of Spenser's Faerie Queene as well as an innovative book of essays entitled

Voice Terminal Echo, which covers a range of Early Modern writers, essays

attempting to go beyond the rational hermeneutics of some versions of

deconstructive criticism.25 While the former is more characteristic of the

kind of work done when applying deconstruction to an author's text, the

latter is a significant departure from standard textual studies, one which

24 In fact, many of these critics seem to work with this as an underlying assumption, since they
seem to present their discoveries of deconstructive characteristics within Spenser's texts as
though Spenser himself were a Derridean. Of course, this is a common critique of any
theoretical application, one which may even be unavoidable despite the gestures that even
self-reflexive critics like Gross, Miller, Greenblatt Montrose, and Goldberg make toward
acknowledging their presence in the critical mediation of Spenser's texts.

251 choose Jonathan Goldberg as an exemplary representative of deconstructive criticism in the
Early Modem period as a conscious act of reduction, since to cover the critics mentioned above
alone would cost space I do not have. The trajectory of his career, too, is most interesting: going
from Endlesse Worke to a book on James I and then on to the deconstructive essays in Voice
Terminal Echo, he follows these with a historical study I will later argue is
"grammatological," entitled Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance, and
his most recent book, Sodometries, which is classified in the ascendant category of "gay
studies." In his career, therefore, one sees a nomadic progression, one which is sensitive to the
changing possibilities that poststructuralism has allowed and which has responded to these
possibilities with works that continue to demand attention.

challenges the means and the ends of scholarship as it is practiced today

within the academy.

In Endlesse Worke: Spenser and the Structures of Discourse, Goldberg

offers a poststructural reading, as he assumes what most traditional critics

fight to suppress-that Spenser's Faerie Queene is a broken text, a fractured

text.26 For this reason, he views the Faerie Queene as a text whose narrative,

because broken, concerns the nature of narration.27 So, rather than trying to

account for the frustrating moments in the text, providing hermeneutic clo-

sure wherever such closure is lacking, Goldberg privileges frustration, asking,

"What are the virtues of, the pleasures offered by, a broken text?" (1). His pro-

ject, then, offers "a way of reading Spenser," one which describes the "narra-

tive principles that induce frustration, that deny closure .... [T]he generation

of the text and its production is my subject" (xi-xii).

Goldberg's language reveals his essentializing gesture: he wants to find

the "narrative principles," to clarify the "nature" of narrative progress. In

doing so, he is naturalizing the features of the deconstructive analytic mode

by suggesting that the denial of closure is a feature inherent in narrative

26 Louis Montrose, in "Professing the Renaissance: The Poetics and Politics of Culture,"
adequately summarizes two "traditional practices of 'history' in Renaissance literary studies:
one comprises those commentaries on political commonplaces in which the dominant ideology of
Tudor-Stuart society-the unreliable machinery of socio-political legitimation-is
misrecognized as a stable, coherent, and collective Elizabethan world picture, a picture
discovered to be lucidly reproduced in the canonical literary works of the age; and the other,
the erudite but sometimes eccentric scholarly detective work which, by treating texts as
elaborate ciphers, seeks to fix the meaning of fictional characters and actions in their reference
to specific historical persons and events" (18). For an example of both the former and the latter
types of traditional practices that Montrose mentions, see William Nelson's The Poetry of
Edmund Spenser. New York: Columbia University Press, 1963.

271n describing the altered 1596 ending and introducing its deconstructive qualities, Goldberg
writes, "It seems arguable, and I will want to maintain the point, that this revision clarifies
the nature of narrative progress throughout the poem and suggests the peculiar pleasures this
text offers" (2, emphasis added).

itself.28 One could argue that, given the generic mode within which Goldberg

works-the academic essay-he cannot avoid such a gesture. As a genre

which privileges the explanatory, the academic essay reinforces the logocen-

tric foundations of its formulation: in it, Goldberg claims and argues for a

truth, the truth of narrative's nature, despite his investment in the tenets of

deconstruction and poststructuralism.29

Thus, Goldberg's talk of Spenser's text "clearly conveying" the fact that

writing comes before representation reveals his investment in a conven-

tional, rationalist, scientific manner of proceeding which, in the end, perpet-

uates the entire logocentric model and its institutional manifestations that

the philosophy seeks to undermine.30 By engaging the metaphor of sight in

280ther critics make similar gestures. Patricia Parker, in Inescapable Romance: Studies in the
Poetics ofa Mode (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1979), defines romance as being "characterized
primarily as a form which simultaneously quests for and postpones a particular end, objective,
or object..." (4). She isolates the key strategies of romance as being "deferral" and "delay,"
both falling under the notion of "dilation." Parker demonstrates how Spenser's texts perform
such dilatory strategies: "by repetition and doubling, by the proliferation of the fragments of
one episode into others..." (70). With her focus on "dilation," she, like Goldberg, provides a
way of discussing Spenser's narrative in terms of Derridean differencee." Kenneth Gross, too, in
Spenserian Poetics: Idolatry, Iconoclasm, and Magic (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985), carefully
foregrounds his discussion in a reading of Hebraic, Kabbalistic, and New Testament texts so as
to claim that Spenser had an attitude toward language very similar to recent deconstructive
theories of language. Like Goldberg, Gross works to explain why Spenser would approach
language as uncertain and duplicitous, why he would intentionally confuse beginnings and
endings and mystify their origins.

29N. Katherine Hayles, in Chaos Bound: Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and
Science, writes of how the deconstructionist can be more totalizing than those texts s/he
deconstructs: "There is a growing inclination within literary circles to regard deconstruction in
these terms, as a theory of local knowledge more totalizing than the totalizing theories it
criticizes" (227). She goes on to praise Paul de Man for his brilliance in recognizing this fact in
his essay "The Resistance to Theory": "When Paul de Man creates a global theory of local
knowledge, he simultaneously repudiates and practices mastery in this sense, for he resists
totalization by totalizing.. The ideology of local knowledge, pushed to the extreme, is thus
inextricable from the totalitarian impulses it most opposes. The unflinching honesty with
which de Man faces this paradox is admirable, for it implies a profound awareness that
impulses toward mastery are still masterful even when they are directed against mastery"

301 will quote the passage in its entirety, a passage from a footnote: "The reversal here is
extremely significant since a normative boundary is crossed. The opposition of speaking and
writing is analogous to the opposition of nature and culture, of interiority and exteriority. As

"clearly," Goldberg relies upon the ultimate sense of objectification, sight-

that which the entire metaphysics of the West relies upon, that which serves

as the primary trope of understanding-to make his claim about the post-

structural nature of Spenser's text. Such a metaphor elicits de Man's study in

"The Epistemology of Metaphor" of the Early Modern philosophers Locke

and Condillac, who sought to skirt the inherent metaphoricity of language to

write a "plain" and "clear" style, one unhindered by the ornaments of lan-

guage, one transparently conveying the meaning along reductively con-

structed two-dimensional vectors.31 By raising the standard of transparency,

of clarity, Goldberg perpetuates the privileging of clarity as a metaphorical

term laden with culturally attributed value.

While it is true that Derrida himself employs a rational and logical

approach in his deconstructions of the major Western philosophers-after

all, one cannot avoid participating in that which one deconstructs-we see

Derrida gradually move away from such a straightforward approach toward

more radical experimental texts like The Post Card, The Truth in Painting,

and Glas. Ulmer is helpful here in distinguishing between the two

approaches that Derrida takes:

The difference between Writing and deconstruction may be seen
most dearly in the ways Derrida treats philosophical works
(which he deconstructs) and literary or artistic texts (which he

Derrida argues in Of Grammatology (pp. 6 ff.), this opposition is weighted in terms of value
and sequence, so that the terms nature-inside-speech are granted priority and value,
spirituality. However, they can be reversed, and Of Grammatology is intent upon the reversal
that allows writing-culture-exteriority to precede or replace the opposing terms. When we
approach Spenser's writerly text, one thing we mean-and one thing that Spenser's text clearly
conveys- is that writing comes before representation. Voice in the proem is an artifact, a
cultural construct, an echo of other texts; nature is made by art" (15, note 7, emphasis added).

31"In all three instances, we started out from a relatively self-assured attempt to control tropes
by merely acknowledging their existence and circumscribing their impact.... But, in each case,
it turns out to be impossible to maintain a clear line of distinction between rhetoric, abstraction,
symbol, and all other forms of language" ("The Epistemology of Metaphor," 26).

mimes). The methodologies in the two instances bear little
resemblance to each other: the philosophical work is treated as
an object of study, which is analytically articulated by locating
and describing the gap or discontinuity separating what the work
"says" (its conclusions and propositions) from what it "shows"
or "dis-plays" (its examples, data, the materials with which it, in
turn, is working). Literary or plastic texts (a "new new novel" by
Sollers, or drawings by Adami, for example) are not analyzed but
are adopted as models or tutors to be imitated, as generative
forms for the production of another text. (Applied
Grammatology x-xi)
Understood in these terms, Endlesse Worke privileges the mode of decon-
struction rather than the mode of Writing. In doing so, it reinforces the

explanatory mode of academic writing which works within the metaphoric

structure of seeing as understanding.

Voice Terminal Echo comes closer to privileging the mode of Writing,

demonstrating Goldberg's refusal to repeat mundanely the formulaic gesture
of conventional deconstructive application. What makes Voice Terminal
Echo different is the fact that Goldberg chooses to emulate Derrida's texts
rather than merely to explicate them. One sees this immediately at the open-
ing of the book, where Goldberg begins by playing with the various senses of

"terminal," a word which now can refer to a computerized telephone as well

as evoke the more common notion of something ending or "terminated":
"Receiver and sender are at their terminals, voice terminated. The end of the
voice and the beginning of the terminal: a technological image of the text, of
this text, too, with its images of relays and circuits-of the short-circuiting of
the voice" (1). This is verbal play characteristic of Derrida, unfolding the
metaphors inherent in the word, using his titles to suggest something of the
essay to come: do we read the title as "Voice: Terminal Echo," or "Voice:

Terminated Echo," or perhaps "Voice Terminated-Echo"?32 He also unveils

his method, relieving me of the need to describe it; it is actually a part of his
argument: "The project of these pages, to be brief: to show in the Renaissance

text voice-as-text, and to show it through a practice of voice terminated" (1).
The crucial words here are "show" and "practice": Goldberg will

"show" us rather than tell us; he will engage in a "practice," a word which

bears within it a sense of performance, the act of doing something. Soon
after this lively opening, Goldberg explicitly reveals the source of his method
(or what some would call "madness"): "In another light, they are a set of

readings of texts that are ... demonstrations of techniques of reading conse-

quent upon the work of writers like Maurice Blanchot or Jacques Derrida" (5).

As such, "the voice on these pages is not singly determined to a procedure of

logical demonstration. Multiple and fractured, it responds to texts and

recounts them, pursuing and permitting disseminative practice" (4).
Ultimately, by abandoning argument as his procedural strategy, Goldberg pro-

poses here a radical departure from traditional critical practice: "What fol-

lows is not structured as an argument and resists such structures, eschewing

(so far as possible) the critical impulse to totalize and the historical drive

towards teleological closure" (4).
So Voice Terminal Echo avoids the strictly explanatory mode practiced

in Endlesse Worke and in this sense is "radical," that is, starts at the root of

what constitutes academic scholarship: the desire to clarify and explain in

flawlessly logical argumentative writing. As such, it is a book that can be as

frustrating to read as Goldberg claims that Spenser's The Faerie Queene is,

perhaps because of its almost poetic quality: we are asked to read Goldberg's

32 See, for instance, the untranslatable titles and subtitles of "White Mythology: Metaphor in
the Text of Philosophy," Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press, 1982) 207-271, untranslatable because of the cluster of puns they radiate.

book of essays as poems which employ a style that is "allusive, disconnected,

multiple, lyrical, fragmentary, dense, insubordinate-a challenge, in short, to

logical discrimination" (VTE 8). This is Goldberg's description of Derrida's

styless, but it equally describes his own in Voice Terminal Echo -as it

should, given his attempt to demonstrate Derrida's techniques of reading.

Ultimately, for Goldberg's work to be effective in the academy, the goal of

producing literary criticism must change from hermeneutic closure to

heuristic (or, as Ulmer would call it, "heuretic") opening.33

It would be useful at this point to begin seeking, through comparison

with these Goldberg texts, something of how a grammatological approach will

differ. I delineate above the difference between Endlesse Worke and Voice

Terminal Echo: whereas the former seeks to explain how deconstructive

concepts work within Spenser's text, the latter seeks to employ deconstruc-

tive concepts as a means to generate (critical) essays which show as well as

tell. Like Goldberg in Voice Terminal Echo, the grammatologist desires to

displace logical argument from its dominance within the hierarchy of aca-

demic genres of writing in order to institute a "metarational" discourse,

which Derrida claims, at the end of his consideration of "Grammatology as a

Positive Science," will be a result of his meditation on writing: "The meta-

rationality or the meta-scientificity which are thus announced within the

meditation upon writing can therefore be no more shut up within a science

of man than conform to the traditional idea of science" (Of Grammatology

87, my emphasis).34 Such a "meta-rational" discourse would avoid the

33 In Ulmer's latest book, entitled Heuretics: The Logic of Invention Ulmer defines heuretics
as "the branch of logic that treats the art of discovery or invention."

34 1 take "meta-rationality" to refer to the "logic" of the rational, to a desired goal which
avoids the binaristic thinking of rational thought. The major philosophers of
poststructuralism work to undermine the hegemony of reason within modem philosophy (and
this is perhaps why their work is considered so alien and therefore shunned in many

violence of classification, a pejorative term which the sciences are known for

among poststructuralist thinkers.35

So grammatology is similar to Goldberg's work in Voice Terminal

Echo, both arguing against the current mode of critical practice, offering an

alternative in its stead. But while both seek guidance for how to proceed in

the major texts of poststructural philosophers, the grammatologist does not

seek to emulate their difficult and impenetrable style, as Goldberg ends up

doing in his book of essays (a fact demonstrated by DeNeef's comments indi-

cating their potential difficulty). While Goldberg's text engages a different

and radical approach, it has the air of inaccessibility that many texts labelled

"poststructural" have. A grammatological criticism, on the other hand,

wants to prepare texts that are accessible to others, not only texts that can be

read but also texts that generate the desire to write in the same transgressive

manner that they embody.36

quarters). Barthes, in A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, trans. Richard Howard (New York:
Hill & Wang, 1978), looks forward to "the glorious end of logical thinking" (61); Deleuze and
Guattari offer a "new logic of the AND" [A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 1987)
25]-the rhizome-which is opposed to the binary logic of the tree; and Derrida speaks of the
"logic of the abyme" as the "figurative ruination of logic" ("White Mythology" 262).

35 Part One of Of Grammatology ends with a consideration of how difficult it is to comment
upon the epoch of logocentric domination within this tradition itself, using the very conceptual
paraphernalia Derrida is attempting to deconstruct, of how his revision of grammatology
cannot be called a science: "What seems to announce itself now is, on the one hand, that
grammatology must not be one of the sciences of man and, on the other hand, that it must not be
just one regional science among others" (83). And elsewhere: "A science of the possibility of
science? A science of science which would no longer have the form of logic but that of
grammatics?" (27-28). See also "The Law of Genre," in which Derrida reads Blanchot's La
Folie du lour as a direct challenge to the violence of classificatory thinking, the "madness of
law-and, therefore, of order, reason, sense and meaning, of day" (228). Barthes, too, writes, "I
enable you to escape the death of classification" (A Lover's Discourse 221), and Reda
Bensmaia, in his forward to Deleuze and Guattari's Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, writes,
"Deleuze and Guattari give the modern reader a means by which to enter into Kafka's work
without being weighted down by the old categories of genres, types, modes, and style.... These
categories would imply that the reader's task is at bottom to interpret Kafka's writing"
36 Ulmer says as much in his chapter on Beuys in Applied Grammatology: "...a further
pedagogy of creativity is also set in motion, intended not only to show people the principles of

An example of such an experimental text, one that is accessible even to

freshman English students, can be seen in Text Book, a writing-about-litera-

ture text informed by poststructural principles. One of the optional tracks in

chapter four of this text, co-authored by Robert Scholes, Nancy Comley, and

Gregory Ulmer, prepares the students to write a "signature" essay, which is

based on the theoretical writing of Derrida. The text that they model their

assignment after, "A Jarrett in Your Text," was written by James Michael

Jarrett, a former student of Ulmer's. In my experience of teaching this

textbook, students can successfully emulate Jarrett's experiment,37 using their

own names. They therefore employ sophisticated philosophical concepts of

language developed by a leading poststructural philosopher, some greatly

enjoying themselves in the process. The fact that this is at all possible stands

as a tribute to the goal of democratization which the grammatologist adopts.38

creativity and how to put them into practice but also-and here is the particular power of the
new pedagogy, beyond deconstruction-to stimulate the desire to create ..." (264).

37 See Ulmer's essays that conceptualize pedagogy in the humanities in terms of the pedagogy
of the sciences, essays that propose assignments in which students are asked to replicate the
great experiments of avant garde literature in the same manner that chemistry or physics
students are asked in the sciences to replicate the great experiments of those disciplines:
"Textshop for Post(e)pedagogy," Writing and Reading Differently, eds. G. Douglas Atkins and
Michael L. Johnson (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985) 38-64; and "Textshop for an
Experimental Humanities," Reorientations, eds. Bruce Henricksen and Thais E. Morgan
(Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990) 113-132. See also the "Discussion" that follows
the reprint of "Grammatology (in the Stacks) of Hypermedia, a Simulation: or, When Does a
Pile become a Heap?" Literacy Online, ed. Myron Tuman (Pittsburg: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1992) 159-164.

38 As Ulmer writes, "In the process [of expanding images of quotidian objects like a postcard, an
unlaced shoe, etc. into models for writing], he [Derrida] reveals a simplicity, an economy,
underlying the so-called esotericism of intellectual discourse which, if properly tapped, could
eliminate the gap separating the general public from specialists in cultural studies" (Applied
Grammatology xii). While such a goal of "democratization" may come across as a lofty one-
and one perhaps fraught with ideological traps-the example of undergraduate success that I
described seems to offer some hope for making a writing based upon poststructural principles
accessible to the "non-expert."

Ultimately, Ulmer's goal is to make theory a potential hobby that any-

one can adopt. One can see this in his work-in-progress entitled the "Theory

Hobby Handbook," three of the lessons of which have appeared in print.39

Craig Saper, guest editor of the special issue of Visible Language in which

"Lesson Five" appears, writes about this aspect of Ulmer's grammatological


Gregory Ulmer exposes the process of making knowledge
specialized and unreceivable. In this way, he does not abide by
traditional pedagogy's separation between the popular and the
theoretical or the instant and the accumulated. This orientation
of theory toward thought rather than information allows us to
translate a specialized knowledge into a popular idiom. (390-91)

As Ulmer himself writes in "Lesson Ten," "Anyone can make a theory, when

theory is approached as a craft rather than as a specialty for experts" (85).

While the stated goal is for "anyone" to make a theory, Ulmer's work

occurs within the academy and so is directed specifically toward students.

Here we see the pedagogical emphasis of the grammatological approach, and

this becomes a key component differentiating Ulmer's use of poststructural-

ism from Goldberg's. Goldberg's work, at least in Voice Terminal Echo,

"concerns matters of critical practice," thereby attempting to inaugurate

change at the institutional level; Ulmer's work, on the other hand, while also

gesturing toward institutional change at the level of academic and scholarly

practice40, wishes to revolutionize the scene of pedagogy as well. This

39 "Lesson Five" appears in Visible Language 22 (1988) 399-422 (a special issue entitled
"Instant Theory: Making Thinking Popular"), "Lesson Eight" appears in Art and Text (Fall
1990), and "Lesson Ten" appears in Exposure 28 (1991) 85-90.

40 Ulmer's two major books, Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy from Jacques Derrida to
Joseph Beuys, and Teletheory: Grammnatology in the Age of Video, are concerned with, among
other things, changing the way scholars in the humanities conduct their work. Applied
Grammatology works to cull the twentieth century experimental arts for alternative pedagogic
strategies: "The task of applied grammatology is to introduce this [picto-ideo-phonographic]
Writing into the classroom (and eventually into research communication in the form of video
tapes)" (242). Though Applied Grammatology primarily focuses on the pedagogic level of

dissertation follows Ulmer in this respect: it explores the possibilities not

only of doing serious academic research in hypertext and hypermedia formats

and how such writing can change what our discipline calls research but also

of how students might write about the Early Modern period in hypertextual


The "New Historicism" of Grammatology

Though I have discussed Jonathan Goldberg in the above section pri-

marily as a deconstructive critic, he has done work that has been labeled in

critical articles as "New Historicist." Perhaps this label comes from his review

essay published in English Literary History entitled 'The Politics of

Renaissance Literature: A Review Essay," which Montrose writes is one of

two "influential and generally sympathetic early surveys/critiques of New

Historicist work."41 More likely, however, the title comes from his work in

James I and the Politics of Literature: Jonson, Shakespeare, Donne, and Their

Contemporaries, the publication of which followed shortly after the review

article.42 The confusion, if it could be called this, is appropriate in that the

applying grammatology, of introducing into the classroom the "picto-ideo-phonographic
Writing" Ulmer sees Derrida using, Teletheory begins the discussion of introducing this
Writing into academic research, ending with an experimental research project. Ulmer himself
says in an interview that "When I finished Teletheory I was surprised by the extent to which
it is a sequel to the first book [i.e. Applied Grammatology ]" (9). "The Making of 'Derrida at
the Little Bighorn': An Interview," Strategies #2 (1989), 9-23.

41 See "Professing the Renaissance: The Poetics and Politics of Culture," 32, note 7. While
Goldberg is certainly kinder to Montrose and Greenblatt than he is to Fredric Jameson and to
those practicing "older modes of criticism" (538), he does comment upon various shortcomings of
the method. See "The Politics of Renaissance Literature: A Review Essay," ELH 49 (1982),

42 This title is grouped with the more "consistent" New Historicists (like Montrose and
Greenblatt) in various disparaging assessments of the New Historicist method. Alan Liu, for
instance, includes it in a list of "examples of such paradigmatic or 'anecdotal' openings, which
since the time of Howard's essay have become a favorite stalking-horse for readers critical of
the New Historicism" ["The Power of Formalism: The New Historicism," ELH 56 (1990), p.757
note 2]. Christopher Kendrick, too [in "Anachronisms of Renaissance Postmodernism: On the
Textuality Hypothesis in Jonathan Goldberg's Voice Terminal Echo, Boundary 2 15

New Historicism is known to result from a poststructural approach to the his-

toriographical study of Renaissance texts.43 Montrose calls it a

(Spring/Fall 1988), 239-69], writes of "the exemplary quality of Goldberg's criticism, which
has worked both sides-philosophical and culturalist-of the divide opened up by the
textuality hypothesis, and participated in both the 'New Historicist' and deconstructive
tendencies that characterize much recent Renaissance criticism" (240). And even as late as the
Winter 1990 issue of New Literary History, we see Goldberg defending himself against the
attack of Richard Levin's "Unthinkable Thoughts in the New Historicizing of English
Renaissance Drama," in a special issue on "New Historicism, New Histories and Others"
which produced quite a heated exchange among the participants.

43 There is some debate-or disagreement-over the precise relationship between
deconstruction and New Historicism. Joel Fineman, for instance, equates the two critical
approaches in terms of their attention to the "textuality" of their texts (see his essay "The
History of the Anecdote: Fiction and Fiction" in The New Historicism, 65, note 6), while
Howard Felperin distinguishes New Historicism as a contextual approach from deconstruction
as a textual approach ["It is, rather, because post-structuralism, in both its contextualist (or
neo-historicist) version and its textualist (or deconstructive) version, is not, philosophically
speaking, a 'realism' at all but a conventionalismm."' "Making it 'neo': the new historicism and
Renaissance literature," Textual Practice 1 (1987), 263.]. Liu, on the other hand, writes of New
Historicism as in between these two categories: "Fearing total commitment to either contextual
or textual understanding, it pauses nervously in between" (768, note 62). Gayatri Chakravorty
Spivak views conflict between the two and attributes this to a turf battle ["As I believe
Derrida himself surmised at the conference, the conflict between New Historicism and
deconstruction can now be narrowed down to a turf battle between Berkeley and Irvine, Berkeley
and Los Angeles" ("The New Historicism: Political Commitment and the Postmodern Critic,"
The New Historicism 278)], and Stanley Fish views the dilemma of New Historicism, which
on the one hand undermines the ability to know the past except through the filter of the
present and on the other hand wants to assert a particular kind of knowledge about the past as
being true, as "a tension between the frankly political agenda of much New Historicist work
and the poststructuralist polemic which often introduces and frames that same work"
("Commentary: The Young and the Restless," 304). Finally, Stephen Greenblatt seems to want
to distance his practice from poststructuralism as he situates himself "in relation to Marxism on
the one hand, and poststructuralism on the other" ("Towards a Poetics of Culture" 1-2). He
finds that in both (represented by Fredric Jameson in The Political Unconscious and Jean-
Francois Lyotard in "Judiciousness in Dispute or, Kant after Marx") "History functions... as a
convenient anecdotal ornament upon a theoretical structure, and capitalism appears not as a
complex social and economic development in the West but as a malign philosophical principle"
(5). Greenblatt's assumption here is that any single theory cannot fully describe something as
complex as capitalism: "I propose that the general question addressed by Jameson and
Lyotard-what is the historical relation between art and society or between one institutionally
demarcated discursive practice and another?-does not lend itself to a single, theoretically
satisfactory answer of the kind that Jameson and Lyotard are trying to provide" (5). This,
then, justifies the theoretically eclectic approach of the New Historicism.

"poststructuralist orientation to history," the various modes of which "can be

characterized by ... a shift from History to histories."44

It can be difficult to talk about the way that New Historicism manifests

poststructural theory in its approach to the Renaissance simply because it does

not have an established theoretical practice to which one can point. This defi-

ciency is even admitted by its most celebrated practitioners and apologists.

Greenblatt, for instance, quite frankly confesses to this in the inaugural essay

of the anthology The New Historicism:

One of the peculiar characteristics of the 'new historicism' in
literary studies is precisely how unresolved and in some ways
disingenuous it has been-I have been-about the relation to
literary theory. On the one hand it seems to me that an
openness to the theoretical ferment of the last few years is
precisely what distinguishes the new historicism from the
positivist historical scholarship of the early twentieth century...
On the other hand the historicist critics have on the whole
been unwilling to enroll themselves in one or the other of the
dominant theoretical camps.45

Montrose, too, makes the same kind of statement in the essay that follows

Greenblatt's in the same anthology:

In the essay of mine to which I have already referred, I wrote
merely of a new historical orientation in Renaissance literary
studies, because it seemed to me that those identified with it by
themselves or by others were actually quite heterogeneous in
their critical practices and, for the most part, reluctant to theorize
those practices. ("The Poetics and Politics of Culture" 18)

44 "The Poetics and Politics of Culture," 20. If the New Historicism is a "poststructural"
history, then Goldberg's later work in Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English
Renaissance might be called "New Historicist." But he takes great pains to establish and
carry out a deconstructivee history" which avoids the "vulgar concept of time" which
linearizes history, a problem he found with the kind of historicizing Greenblatt does in
Renaissance Self-Fashioning: "To label history in hindsight means to narrativize history in a
certain way, to view its course as linear and teleological and to assume that one can read back"
("The Politics of Renaissance Literature" 534). Others have found this tendency in New
Historicist work, as will be seen. So there appears to be a rift in the field of "poststructuralist
history," thereby problematizing the use of that label.

45 "Towards a Poetics of Culture," 1-14.

And in his survey of Renaissance New Historicist scholarship, which claims

to be "an Apology or apologetics for the New Historicism complete with

incorporated criticisms" (771 note 95) and ends with a call for a full-scale the-

ory of New Historicism, Alan Liu writes, "in most works that follow a New

Historicist approach it ["the diverse body of structural or quasi-structural

thought" indicative of New Historicist study] is surprisingly underthought at

the theoretical level" It is, he later says, a "wonder-cabinet of ill-sorted


Much discussion of the actual methods and implications of New

Historicism has occurred, so that there seems almost as much said about

New Historicist practice as there is actual New Historicist practice, both by

practitioners and commentators alike. 47 To the extent that those critical of

New Historicism's practices homogenize the varied approaches, they are able

to isolate themes or motives that recur.48 Rather than recount what has

46 See p. 743. In note 5 (758-59), Liu shows what the contents of this "wonder cabinet" are in an
extensive documentation of the theoretical sources of New Historicist vocabulary: "In the
main, the method bears the imprint of a massive borrowing from New Criticism ... from
deconstruction ... from 'dialectic' and its components ... and from complementary terminologies
in Foucault, Geertz, and Althusser."

47 Besides the essays already mentioned by Alan Liu, Howard Felperin, Louis Montrose,
Stephen Greenblatt, Stanley Fish, Christopher Kendrick, Richard Levin, and Jonathan
Goldberg, see also Louis Montrose, "Renaissance Literary Studies and the Subject of History,"
ELR 16 (Winter 1986), 5-12; Jean E. Howard, "The New Historicism in Renaissance Studies,"
ELR 16 (Winter 1986), 13-43; and David Norbrook, 'he Life and Death of Renaissance Man,"
Raritan 8 (1989), 89-110. Fish makes a similar comment concerning the essays anthologized in
The New Historicism: "For the most part (and this is a distinction to which I shall return)
these essays are not doing New Historicism but talking about doing New Historicism, about the
claims made in its names and the problems those claims give rise to ... ("Commentary: The
Young and the Restless" 303).

48 As Montrose writes, "But neither has it become any clearer that'The New Historicism'
designates any agreed upon intellectual and institutional program" ("The Poetics and Politics
of Culture" 18). He goes on to detail the conflicted terrain that "New Historicism" designates,
concluding that "Inhabiting the discursive spaces traversed by the term 'New Historicism' are
some of the most complex, persistent, and unsettling of the problems that professors of literature
attempt variously to confront or to evade ..." (19).

already been more than adequately documented, I will instead try briefly to

describe the poststructural "sources" of the New Historicism and then go on

to discuss some of the most notable comments made concerning its virtues

and vices before proceeding to further delineate the grammatological pro-

gram in which I am engaged.

One concise statement of the poststructural paradigm useful for the

purpose of clarifying the poststructural sources of New Historicism can be

found in Roland Barthes' essay "From Work to Text."49 In this essay, which

serves as an inaugural enunciation of the changes undergone (and, in some

ways, still being undergone) in the "paradigm shift" from modernism to

postmodernism, Barthes invokes the etymological sense of "text" in working

to define "Text": it is a "weave of signifiers" (159) which is "woven entirely

with citations, references, echoes, cultural languages .." (160). The root of

text, a metaphor latent in the original Latin "texere" which could mean both

"to weave" as well as "to compose" (speech or writing), helps to define the

new poststructural sense of the pervasiveness of language as a determinant

feature structuring the way humans think. "The metaphor of the Text is that

of the network (161), Barthes writes, and it is within the network of signi-

fiers that cultural agents are born and raised.50 The Text, that is, does not

refer to a single book or enunciation in the language (as the term "work"

does) but to the entire field of language itself: "the work can be held in the

hand, the text is held in language" (157). As such, distinctions between

49 In Image Music Text, tr. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977) 155-64.

50 Lacan is best known for formulating the sense of how cultural agents are "separated" from
their mothers by the "Name-of-the-Father," that is, how the in(tro)duction into language
constitutes an entry into a cultural "field" of language governed by the "paternal signifier."
His work with linguistics in the area of psychoanalysis exemplifies the general way that
considerations of linguistics have infiltrated almost every field of study.

particular genres cannot be evaluatively hierarchized since they are all partici-

pants in the same textual field. As Barthes writes, "the Text does not stop at

(good) Literature; it cannot be contained in a hierarchy, even in a simple divi-

sion of genres. What constitutes the Text is, on the contrary (or precisely), its

subversive force in respect of the old classifications" (157).

It is this sense of text that New Historicists embrace in their approach to

the Renaissance. As critics like Howard Felperin and Alan Liu have noted,

New Historicists treat various kinds of texts in the Renaissance as being part

of a larger con-text which serves as a substrate of ideological axioms that find

expression in particular articulations.51 This justifies, for instance,

Greenblatt's celebrated glance in "Invisible Bullets" at Thomas Hariot's A

Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia -one of the vari-

ous travelogues representing the "New World" inhabitants-as a way of talk-

ing about Shakespeare's history plays, or his exploration of the reiterations by

the culture of the important elements of the Bower of Bliss episode in The

Faerie Queene .52 Letters, travelogues, diaries-texts not considered "literary"

in the more traditional sense of that term-become loci for the kind of cul-

tural production that critics more typically look for in canonical authors like

51 Alan Liu, in fact, suggests at the end of his powerful critique of the New Historicist
methodology (or lack thereof) that: "That which needs to be unthought, in other words, is the
very concept of the 'text' itself" (756). His portrayal of the New Historicist as a postmodem
intellectual so embarrassed by his social and political impotence that s/he finds vicarious
reassurance in identifying with those Renaissance figures who subversively fight the
oppressive forces of monarchical rule-an account no less dramatic than the New Historicists
he critiques-ends with a call for a "New Historicist study of New Historicism" (752), "a full-
scale theory of New Historicism" (754), "a renewed rhetoric" (755), and a prophecy of a "new
rhetorical historicism' now making its advent" (771, note 95)-i.e. an historicism that is active
in a rhetorical sense rather than being the passive hermeneutic practice that it is under the
present circumstances. I have John Murchek to thank for clarifying some of these issues for me.

52 For "Invisible Bullets," see Shakespearean Negotiations (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1988) 21-66. For the essay on Spenser's "Bower" episode, see Renaissance Self-
Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980) 157-

Shakespeare or Spenser. So the New Historicist tries to trace the "serial

movement of disconnections, overlapping, variations" that occurs within

the "field of the text" (Barthes, "From Work to Text" 158), and this helps to

explain the interdisciplinary, intertextual emphases that one embraces when

engaged in the New Historicist project.

Accompanied by this poststructural sense of textuality is the postmod-

ern penchant for the self-reflexive. No longer will work in the humanities

attempt to mimic the (questionable and questioned) status of the objective,

the claim to which the sciences used to boast; rather, it will foreground the

subjective, the subject's effect upon the object of inquiry. The "observer's

effect" is recognized and embraced whole-heartedly. Both Greenblatt and

Montrose openly admit to this: Greenblatt writes that "methodological self-

consciousness is one of the distinguishing marks of the new historicism in

cultural studies as opposed to a historicism based upon faith in the

transparency of signs and interpretive procedure" ("Towards a Poetics of

Culture" 12). Montrose acknowledges as well the cultural specificity of the

project, noting the inescapable nature of the observer effect: "The project of

the new socio-historical criticism is, then, to analyze the interplay of culture-

specific discursive practices-mindful that it, too, is such a practice and so

participates in the interplay it seeks to analyze."53 Methodological

53 Montrose in fact closes by admitting to having a purpose which grows out of this perspective:
"If, by the ways in which we choose to read Renaissance texts, we bring to our students and to
ourselves a sense of our own historicity, an apprehension of our own positioning within
ideology, then we are at the same time demonstrating the limited but nevertheless tangible
possibility of contesting the regime of power and knowledge that at once sustains and constrains
us" (31). While some have questioned the extent to which the New Historicism empowers its
students, many have noted the phenomenon that the New Historicism communicates more about
itself in the present, by means of using the past as a mirror, than it reveals about the
Renaissance. See, for instance, Alan Liu: ... the New Historicist interpreter is thus a subject
looking into the past for some other subject able to define what he himself, or she herself, is;
but all the search shows in its uncanny historical mirror is the same subject he/she already
knows: a simulacrum of the poststructuralist self insecure in its identity" (733); Howard
Felperin: "For all the Renaissance erudition in Greenblatt's work, its command of historical

self-consciousness, however, is not equivalent to a theoretical foundation

upon which such a method should be based, according to some critics.

Stanley Fish notes the peculiarly rhetorical quality of this notorious


Some New Historicists outflank this accusation [of doing what
they critique other "older historicists" for doing] by making it
first, and then confessing to it with an unseemly eagerness. In
this way they transform what would be embarrassing if it were
pointed out by another into a sign of honesty and methodolog
ical self-consciousness. (The New Historicism 306)

Fish proceeds to suggest that such a maneuver is an unnecessary escape, a

"false dilemma" that he attempts to reconcile in the writing of his essay. He

separates the general question of historical practice or procedure from specific

questions of historical inquiry to argue that the "observer effect" (to put it

briefly) does not change the fact that things happened, only the way we

perceive them to have happened. The New Historicism sometimes confuses

the two, Fish argues. When the paradigmaticc parergon" (to fuse the concepts

of Kuhn and Derrida) is challenged, "the result will not be an indeterminacy

of fact, but a new shape of factual firmness underwritten by a newly, if tem-

porarily, settled perspective" (308).54

detail, richness of peculiar anecdote and attentiveness to contemporary texts, it is his own
culture that he broods on and depicts. If we want to understand the historical nature of
Greenblatt's achievement, we must look finally beyond the Renaissance context he so
painstakingly constructs and into his own cultural and institutional context" (276); and David
Norbrook: "In an era of escalating competitiveness for academic posts in an increasingly
market-oriented career structure, academics are no longer allowed the luxury of an earlier
generation's idealization of the disinterested quest for truth, and it is not surprising that their
discourse should betray such pressures" (107-08). Liu even suggests that this feature should
become foregrounded as a primary part of a fully delineated theory of New Historicism: "A
concept with eminently academic overtones, 'acknowledgement' of the present's intervention in
the past should blossom into disciplined study. We should see our own prejudices and concerns
in such constructs as the 'Renaissance' ..." (753).

54 N. Katherine Hayles makes a similar argument in discussing gender encoding in the science
of fluid mechanics. She attempts to account for the reason that complex flows in hydraulics
were ignored (because unsolvable)-and their subsequently being gendered as feminine--by
examining the initial assumptions of the differential mathematics used to solve such

The assumption that Fish makes, enabling him to draw such a conclu-

sion, concerns the way that historical inquiry-or, for that matter, academic

research in general-is conducted. For Fish, one will not answer a specific

historic question differently if one believes that historical events are con-

structed as opposed to found, because the means of construction are similar:

historical narrative is still linear and tries to define cause-effect relationships,

drawing upon the epistemology of rationality and scientific inquiry.55 Fish

says as much soon after examining Jean Franco's anthologized essay on "The

Nation as Imagined Community":

Not that I am faulting Franco for falling into the trap of being
discursive and linear; she could not do otherwise and still have
as an aim (in her terms an allegorical aim) the understanding
-the bringing into discursive comprehension-of anything. In

equations. Before the advent of fractal geometry and chaos theory, complex flows were
considered aberrations, but now, within the new mathematical framework, scientists are
finding the complex and nonlinear to be the norm. Hayles' explanation is like Fish's in its
explanation of how conclusions can still be valid (like scientific laws, for instance) yet be in
conflict with other conclusions (for example, Newton's Laws of Gravity vs. Einstein's Laws of
Relativity). She writes, "It is not that the 'laws' are untrue, but rather that they represent
formulations which can be verified when one is standing at a certain position and looking at
things in a certain way. Despite their names, conservation laws and continuity principles are
not inevitable facts of nature but constructions that foreground some experiences and
marginalize others (31, my emphasis). See "Gender Encoding in Fluid Mechanics: Masculine
Channels and Feminine Flows," Differences 4.2 (1992), 16-44.

55To repeat a line already quoted in note 40 from Jonathan Goldberg: "To label history in
hindsight means to narrativize history in a certain way, to view its course as linear and
teleological and to assume that one can read back" ("The Politics of Renaissance Literature
534). Liu also comments upon the point of narrativizing as a New Historicist habit: "One way
to approach the problem of New Historicist 'paradigms' might thus be to recognize that they
are first and foremost highly sophisticated exercises in storytelling" (767, note 55). His astute
comment holds significant intimations concerning the status of New Historicist practice as being
anything really new when the implications of being labelled "narrative" are considered. As
Jerome McGann (whom Liu refers to in the same footnote) writes, "In the discourses of criticism,
and most typically in philosophy and literary discourse, narrativized forms are so common
that their narrativity is often not even noticed" [Social Values and Poetic Acts: The Historical
Judgment of Literary Work. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988) 133]. McGann
invokes Hayden White's question of what a non-narrative history would be and proceeds to
provide two models-what he calls "criticism as array" and "criticism as dialectic"-that
already exist and that can serve as alternatives to the ideological axiomatic inherent in
narrative's emphasis on continuity.

the end you can't "defy categorization," you can only categorize
in a different way. (312)

This is a critical point that must be highlighted, as it will serve as one major

crux of my argument: understanding, as we understand understanding, as

the paradigm that is currently being challenged understands understanding,

depends upon linearity for its epistemological underpinnings.56 Understand-

ing as it is used here by Fish implies the kinds of comprehension that are

figured in the metaphors of seeing as understanding, grasping or

apprehending as comprehending, of theoria and "idea" as words

etymologically rooted in the sense of sight. And he is right: within this

framework, this paradigm, even New Historicists committed to engaging a

poststructural practice cannot help but be "discursive and linear."57

The grammatologist would agree with Fish's criticism but would work

to put his understanding into a perspective informed by the history of com-

municative technologies and of the practices that institutions adopt in

employing these particular technologies. Along with Derrida, as the primary

exemplar of the historical grammatologist in his earlier, more traditional

work (when compared to works such as The Post Card and Glas, for

instance), the theoretical grammatologist views the discourse of rationality as

56Disciplines that are currently challenging epistemological assumptions include
poststructural philosophies, theories of chaos, fractal geometry, cognitive science and neural
network research. Each of these emphasizes non- or multi-linearity as fundamental to its

57Hayles begins her essay on "Gender Encoding in Fluid Mechanics" by discussing the
differences between Donna Haraway and Luce Irigaray in their approach to writing about the
sciences. The fundamental difference is that Haraway's arguments "challenge scientific
objectivity from within the rules of the game ... Positioning oneself at the periphery [as
Haraway does] is not the same, however, as leaving the game altogether. Leaving the game is
the move Irigaray makes..." (18-19). She later characterizes Irigaray's discourse as being
"fractured, elliptical, nonlinear (19, my emphasis). This is, in part, the goal of the
grammatologist as well: to escape the game, the game of narrative criticism that only adds
more stories to the overstuffed shelves of libraries, a game which engages the ideology of
continuity and linearity. But the new game is not supposed to be so intimidating (as is
Irigaray's) that nobody will want to play.

being part of the "epoch of logocentrism," an epoch governed by the meta-
physics of presence that Derrida sets out to undermine, and s/he wishes to

contribute to the kind of "meta-rational" thinking that the poststructural
philosophers are forecasting as an effect of their work. One might even be
inclined to call grammatology a kind of "new historical" approach.
As such, it shares certain qualities with the New Historicism as delin-
eated above. Like the Renaissance New Historicists, the grammatologist will
work to establish a self-conscious relationship to the past and to past practices
in the history of reading of writing, but its purpose of doing so is to seek
potential alternatives to current rhetorical practices. Writing was not always
entirely alphabetic, with pages and pages of straight text, but in fact
incorporated imagery as mnemonic and/or decorative devices, as in the
emblem books of the Renaissance or the illuminated manuscripts of the
Middle Ages. Derrida himself has sung the praises of the hieroglyph, a kind
of writing that he claims can be multilinear in its signifying practice. The
grammatologist will cull from these and other past writing practices strategies
for writing in the multilinear formats of the electronic media. In the process
of doing so, s/he will self-reflexively discuss, in the manner of Montrose and
Greenblatt, the current institutional practices-with an emphasis more on
how they have come to be and how they affect perceptions of subject

positioning than on the relative power(lessness) of the academic with a
"frankly political agenda" (as Fish says)-as well as the historical contexts of
those past institutional practices being drawn upon analogically as s/he begins
to invent rhetorical practices for the electronic era.
Grammatology in the age of the Early Modern period will differ from a
strictly New Historicist practice, however, in that it has a theoretical position

that one can locate, and part of the purpose of this dissertation will be to

delineate, exemplify, and enact this theoretical practice as it would be applied

to the Early Modern period. While it is perhaps just as vague as the New

Historicists' articulation of their theoretical grounding to say that gramma-

tologists draw upon "twentieth century French literary theory/philosophy" as

a theoretical basis, they desire not to engage in the debates over interpreta-

tions of these writers as much as they wish to look to them as models for how

to "write" electronically. This may be taken as a polite sidestepping of signifi-

cant issues, but they do not define grammatology in a way that requires

critique and therefore see it as being outside of this realm, insofar as engaging

in such debate can be taken up as a primary focus for academic work. For the

grammatologist does not wish to fall into the same trap that Fish claims the

New Historicists' did; that is, rather than continue in the realm of

hermeneutics, of interpretation and description, the grammatologist seeks to

cultivate an heuretic approach, one which does not necessarily entirely

abandon the hermeneutic but which does not privilege it either, as s/he

works to invent heuretically the new practices for an electronic age.58

To cultivate such an approach will be to escape (to whatever degree it is

possible) the linear, rational, narrativizing of most current critical practice in

order to elaborate a more richly specified practice of the meta-rational.

Grammatological practice will invent, that is, the practice of invention-

58 Ulmer might not call his work newly historical but newly "mystorical," as he invents a new
genre called the "mystory," the title of which intends to parody "history" and juxtapose
against the obvious patriarchal pun a rubric for this particular heuretic work in Teletheory.
He himself writes about the necessary suspension of the hermeneutic impulse in order to allow
for the heuretic, inventive process to occur. As he notes, the interpretive process can come
afterwards: "The mystery learns from the psychoanalytic interview the strategy of suspending
critical analysis, temporarily, in order to bring into appearance, into representation, the
pattern that inevitably arises when texts are juxtaposed. 'Derrida at the Little Bighorn' is
classified as a 'fragment' in Teletheory because it remains to be interpreted. It was generated
heuretically by juxtaposing the three discourses that constitute my 'life story.' in fact, the
main purpose of this interview is to begin the interpretive process" ("The Making of 'Derrida at
the Little Bighorn': An Interview" 13).

insofar as invention is a metarational process-and will work to institute a
pedagogy that can teach this practice to those unacquainted with the difficult
poststructural philosophies upon which it is grounded. Before beginning to
do so, however, before beginning to derive ways of composing in the new
medium of hypertext from the sixteenth century, I must provide more
groundwork in the next chapter by situating grammatology in the recent
orality versus literacy debates, looking especially at Jonathan Goldberg's
negotiation of that debate in Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English
Renaissance, as well as point to what precisely in the Early Modern period
can yield to a grammatological look by considering two histories of the period,

The Art of Memory by Francis Yates and Ramus, Method, and the Decay of
Dialogue by Walter Ong. Such a consideration will identify the sixteenth
century as a site of educational transition caused in part by technological
change, and will end with a preliminary consideration of Spenser as a writer
in the midst of this transitional moment who was affected by the educational

changes that took place.


This, I believe, is one of the earliest examples of the extreme
fascination with deploying words in a kind of abstract space which was
to be a characteristic of the Ramist age, and which is still so much a part
of us that we can hardly realize it has an origin and a history.

-Walter Ong

We choose our past in the same way that we choose our future.

-Hayden White

One goal of historical exploration in a grammatological project is to
understand the extent to which current institutional practices are cultural, to
understand, that is, that they have been invented at some point in history.

Such is the motivation behind Ong's work on Ramus, as he writes in the

above quotation; as such, his work engages in a grammatological exploration

which examines the effects of a particular technology of the word-the print-
ing press-upon the contemporaneous practices of rhetorical oratory. If the
outline-the "deployment of words in an abstract space"-was invented at a

particular moment in history, then knowing of its status as invention gives

us the option of continuing its usage or inventing new practices. Ong enjoins
us, then, to become aware of the origins of our current practices so that we are
not bound unconsciously to employ methods that may no longer be suitable
to the new media now available. Grammatological deconstruction, it could
be argued, works in a similar way: it identifies the metaphors underlying

certain "concepts we live by" so that we can consider alternatives, thereby

empowering us in our use of language.'

My primary purpose in this dissertation, then, involves the question of

hypertext composition, of how this new electronic medium might be used

within the educational institution by both scholars composing academic

articles about poets like Edmund Spenser and English instructors training

students to write about and with literature in a hypertext program like

Storyspace. This chapter plays the role of examining the history of peda-

gogical practices as they existed during the transitional period spanning the

Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Knowledge of how pedagogical

practices changed then can help current pedagogical reformers generate

innovative instructional curricula by providing an understanding of both the

dynamics involved in a period of transition and the defining characteristics of

the print and electronic apparatuses. Such knowledge, I hope to show by the

end of this dissertation, can be most fruitful in negotiating our current

transitional shift. After providing a brief history of sixteenth-century

pedagogical practices and demonstrating how the printing press was one of

the central causes of the shifts in educational methods, I look at the work of

Edmund Spenser as a representative example of one writer in the midst of

these changes. The chapters following this preliminary groundwork will

11 allude in this sentence to Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By, and intend by doing so
to suggest that their work provides a model for the work of deconstruction. Early in the first
chapter of the book, the authors present an example of one pervasive metaphor we live by-
"argument is war"-and then proceed to suggest how difficult it would be to conceive of
argument in terms of an alternative metaphor: "Try to imagine a culture where arguments are
not viewed in terms of war ... Imagine a culture where an argument is viewed as a dance, the
participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically
pleasing way" (4-5). Implicit in this suggestion is the potential that deconstruction has for
empowering us-to the extent that we can be empowered-by providing alternatives and
choices. Ultimately, though, the poststructuralist knows that one is confined to work within
language, unlike those literary critics who believe that language is merely a transparent
medium to a meaning that transcends the language itself.

then explore what I have learned about hypertext composition from the

sixteenth century and apply this learning in solving the problem of how to

compose in hypertext in a manner that exploits its full potential for

communicative efficacy.

The task of writing a history, though, is not without its problems, since

the discipline of history, as of late, has come under attack. It is no longer

viewed as the unproblematized revelation of the past, but is now seen to be

mediated by language and by language-users. The notion of the "observer

effect," while originating in anthropological study or perhaps even in such

scientific thought-experiments as Schr6dinger's Cat, quantum mechanics or

relativity, has colored the methodological strategies of the liberal arts and

social sciences as well. The conclusions of Hayden White are now well-

known, conclusions which clarify the extent to which histories are literary

constructions, interpretations framing a set of facts. As he writes, "But in

general there has been a reluctance to consider historical narratives as what

they most manifestly are: verbal fictions, the contents of which are as much

invented as found and the forms of which have more in common with

their counterparts in literature than they have with those in the sciences."2

While White's call for historiological sophistication is specific to the

discipline of history, his call to action is similar to Ong's in that it requires

21n Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1978,
82. Elsewhere, White writes of the "burden of history" as being the need to identify how
history itself was invented at a particular point in history, how it was a cultural phenomenon:
"Thus, historians of this generation must be prepared to face the possibility that the prestige
which their profession enjoyed among nineteenth-century intellectuals was a consequence of
determinable cultural forces. They must be prepared to entertain the notion that history, as
currently conceived, is a kind of historical accident, a product of a specific historical situation,
and that, with the passing of the misunderstandings that produced that situation, history
itself may lose its status as an autonomous and self-authenticating mode of thought. It may
well be that the most difficult task which the current generation of historians will be called
upon to perform is to expose the historically conditioned character of the historical
discipline . (29).

historians of any discipline to consider the invented nature of the discipline

itself. The implications of his claims extend, therefore, to historical explora-

tion in any discipline, but especially to literary criticism, as so much of its
endeavor involves history. Jerome J. McGann comments on the extent to
which an "ideology of continuity" in narrativized literary histories governs

the sphere of literary criticism: "If one is interested in critical knowledge, one

has to be wary of this impulse to generate continuities .... In the discourses of

criticism, narrativized forms are so common that their narrativity is often not

even noticed."3 McGann calls attention, like Ong and White, to what is

forgotten or overlooked in our current practices, and therefore his work, in
that it looks to identify the origin of a specific cultural behavior within an

invisible ideology, qualifies for the title of "cultural criticism" as well.

The work of scholars like Jack Goody, Walter Ong, and Eric Havelock,

who could be called "grammatologists"-historians of reading and writing

practices-has recently come to be scrutinized by cultural critics who find in it
the tendency to generate continuities in the historical movement from orality
to literacy. Before proceeding to explore the sixteenth century for the ways in

which some institutional practices were abandoned and others were initiated,

I must first discuss the debate over the history of orality and literacy in order

to situate grammatology within this debate and to show how grammatology

can resolve the problems that Goody, Ong, and Havelock pose for a gram-

matological representation of history. Insofar as this dissertation is a his-
torical exploration of past reading and writing practices, of past strategies for

3Social Values and Poetic Acts: The Historical Judgment of Literary Work. Cambridge:
Harvard UP, 1988, 132-3. McGann proceeds to offer alternatives to narrativizing for historical

"information storage and retrieval"4 as they have been carried out in oral and

literate cultures, I am writing the next chapter in this history, the chapter

concerning the move from literacy to "computeracy." The goal, ultimately, is

to work toward deriving scholarly and pedagogical strategies for information

storage and retrieval in electronic media based on past practices of building

memory palaces that, as I intend to show, are more suitable for electronic

dispositio than current literate or "book" strategies.

The Orality-Literacy Debate

The scholarship surrounding questions of oral cultures and how such

cultures compare to literate cultures has become quite extensive in recent

decades, so much so that Cambridge University Press has instituted a series of

books entitled "Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture." Such schol-

arship explores a number of different aspects of the problem, from the points

of view of various disciplines: anthropological studies of tribal African cul-

tures, historical studies plotting various points along the line marking the

transition from strictly oral practices to current literate practices, sociological

studies describing the effects of writing upon interpersonal relationships.

4By offering this potentially reductive equation of reading and writing practices with the
notion of "information storage and retrieval," I do not intend to overlook the ways that
poststructuralism complicates and problematizes the whole notion of reading and writing as
processes controllable by an author. In one sense, the phrase captures the implied logocentrism
in the rhetorical tradition of the commonplaces, which identify topics of various subject
matters as being located in certain places that can be plumbed for the purpose of making an
argument. But information here must be understood as any form of textuality in the broadest
sense of the term, such that the information that a writer stores in the form of narrative or epic
poetry (or any other form, for that matter) may be unconscious representations of pervasive
cultural norms that the writer unwittingly manifests in the writing. The mere act of storing
information does not, of course, assure its accurate and immediate retrieval, even when it is
within an individual's own esoteric mnemonic system. Given the characteristics of signs that
deconstructionists recognize, a text of "stored information" might be retrieved differently by
different readers; information perhaps unknown to the author might thus be released at a later
point in time. A poststructuralist critique of the logocentric topology of the memory palace,
taking into account these issues, is to come in chapter five.

While much data were gathered on these and other topics, only recently have

the methodology and assumptions governing these studies come under ques-

tion. The "debate," then, concerns the extent to which some of these scholars

have succumbed to an ideological bias which enables them to conclude that

literate culture is superior to or more advanced than "primitive" oral

The central question of the debate as I see it is as follows: does alpha-

betic literacy inherently change the capability or the capacity of the mind to

think? Each of the three grammatological scholars mentioned, Ong,

Havelock and Goody, have all been guilty of making this claim in their work,

overtly suggesting in the process that this change makes the literate
cognitively advanced or superior. Ong, for instance, defining writing as a
"technology of the word," writes that "Technologies are not mere exterior

aids but also interior transformations of consciousness . ."5 Writing, in his

view, becomes indispensable to the kinds of progress that humankind has

managed to make since its advent: "Nevertheless, without writing, human

consciousness cannot achieve its fuller potentials, cannot produce other

beautiful and powerful creations. In this sense, orality needs to produce and

is destined to produce writing" (14-15). Havelock, too, sees the potential of

human rationality as being unlocked by writing. In his study of the effects of

the Greek alphabet upon communicative efficiency, he claims that literacy

literally changed our minds, allowing for logical thinking to emerge.

Havelock therefore suggests that all logical thinking was a result of Greek
alphabetic literacy.6 Goody as well, in his Domestication of the Savage Mind,

50rality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. New York: Routledge, 1982.

6 Havelock writes, in The Muse Learns to Write: Reflections on Orality and Literacy from
Antiquity to the Present (New Haven: Yale UP, 1986), "A more radical question would be to
ask: May not all logical thinking as commonly understood be a product of Greek alphabetic

written in part as a corrective to Havelock's disregard of chirographic cultures

existing prior to Greek civilization, makes the claim that writing practices

such as the recipe, the list, and the table or chart helped in the "development

of cognitive structures and processes" which emerged "subsequent to the

advent of writing" (36-37).

Each of these writers views the technologies of writing as devices that

enable users to realize the "fully human" potentials of rational thought

which are characteristic of modern-day civilization. Assumed in this point of

view is the belief that the technologies of literacy-first the invention of the

vowel in Greek culture, the emergence of chirographic culture, and finally

the invention of movable type-are implicitly progressive, leading in an

inevitable "march of time" toward the development of individuality, democ-

racy, freedom. Literacy, in and of itself, comes to be a civilizing force: the

progressive technologizing of the word is an emancipatory development.7 In

a sense, proponents of this view hold that this process of technologizing is

naturally progressive, rather than seeing the assumption that literacy liber-

ates as a culturally imposed valuation.8

literacy?" (39). Later, he comments on how thought patterns themselves were changed: "A
special theory of Greek literacy involves the proposition that the way we use our senses and
the way we think are connected, and that in the transition from Greek orality to Greek literacy
the terms of this connection were altered also, and have remained altered, as compared with
the mentality of oralism, ever since" (98).

7Michael Warner challenges the conclusion that print enabled democracy to occur in his book
The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America
(Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1990). He begins by citing a text by John Quincy Adams, in which
"Adams assumes that printing's purposes, uses, and meaning do not themselves undergo change.
The press is a powerful instrument for enlightenment precisely because its nature is not
contingent" (4). For the sake of his study, Warner believes that "we have to assume that the
purposes, uses, and meaning of print do change" (4).

8One can see the notion that literacy is naturally progressive in the advertisements for PLUS
("Project Literacy U.S."). In opposition to such programs of literacy, Freire's "Pedagogy of the
Oppressed" attempts to teach literacy in such a way that students become empowered to work
politically, an approach that suggests the teaching of literacy can somehow be opposed to the
goal of liberation.

This position has come under attack by such scholars as Brian Street
and Mary Carruthers. In Literacy in Theory and Practice, Brian Street

addresses the tendency described above as an ideological assumption; he sees

a problem in a position which represents technology as a neutral agent. The

appeal of this position, according to Street, is that it allows one to avoid the

charge of "discrimination" in the politicized sense most commonly used


They can argue, whether implicitly or explicitly, that this new
version of the "great divide"-the division between literate and
non-literate-does not discriminate between cultures but simply
between technologies. Since technologies are "neutral," then no
aspersions are being cast on individual members of cultures
which happen to lack a particular technology and are thus taken
to lack certain intellectual advantages .... The suggestion is no
longer that a culture is intellectually superior, as earlier racist
theories had argued. Rather, it is claimed that a culture is
intellectually superior because it has acquired that technology.
Mary Carruthers has a similar problem with the haphazard use of the word

"technology." In The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval

Culture, in which she reveals medieval mnemonic practices to be a mixture

of oral and literate practices, Carruthers calls for care in the use of the term

technology, specifically care in the assumption that cognitive processes are

[S]ome modern historians of technology seem to assume that
there is a direct and simple correlation between the form some-
thing takes in writing and the way a person is able to think about
it, in the same way that a washing-machine's design determines
how clothes washed in it will be washed. The fashion for
defining writing as a technological innovation of the same sort
as television and the automobile, or the heavy plow and
moveable type, seems to me fraught with difficulties.9 (96)

9Carruthers is critical, among other things, of the reductive nature of labeling practices by
certain scholars involved in the orality-literacy debate. Ong, for instance, is guilty of
suggesting that memory is obliterated by the advent of literacy, that somehow human memory

Street labels this position that views technology as a neutral agent the

"autonomous model" of literacy, a position which privileges one particular

form of literacy as a universal practice, as the sole form of literacy.10 He

writes, "The model tends, I claim, to be based on the 'essay-text' form of

literacy and to generalise broadly from what is in fact a narrow, culture-

specific literacy practice" (1).11

As an alternative to the reductive autonomous model, Street offers

what he calls the "ideological model" of literacy, one which recognizes that

practices of literacy fulfill different purposes in different social contexts and

atrophies with the storage of information in written form. Her research in medieval mnemonic
practices, in which the act of writing involved an extensive process of inventio during which
the composer "discovered" the commonplaces stored in his/her memory, suggests that the book
in medieval culture helped to enhance individual memory but that it in no way obliterated
memory: "I think it will become clear in my discussion [of how one making a text proceeded]
that the terms 'oral' and 'written' are inadequate categories for describing what actually went
on in traditional composition" (194).

10Street in fact suggests that this autonomous model is politically motivated in order to
perpetuate the current schooling practices: "[E]ducation systems are to be justified on the
grounds that they develop 'intellectual competence that would otherwise go largely
undeveloped.' They conjecture that literacy plays a central part in this process. The qualities
which they attribute to literacy thus take on the more general significance of justifying the
vast expense on western educational systems. Seen in this perspective, the claims already have
political and ideological significance. .." (19).

1Jonathan Goldberg, in Writing Matter: From the Hand of the English Renaissance (Stanford:
Stanford UP, 1990), locates the origin of this narrow conception of literacy-what he calls at
one point the "ideology of literacy" (205)-in sixteenth-century pedagogical practices. Like
Street's assessment of the politically motivated nature of the autonomous model, Goldberg
finds the aim of humanistic pedagogical programs, which focused on creating the notion of high
literacy by means of training in handwriting, to be the securement of employment in courtly
settings for intellectuals otherwise marginalized from such positions of power. Mulcaster's
pedagogical treatise The First Part of the Elementarie, for instance, attempted to define the
requirements for minimal literacy in such a way that the institution which he was inventing
was the only means of acquiring high literacy, the idealized italic style of handwriting.
Citing Francois Furet and Jacques Ozouf (Reading and Writing: Literacy in France from Calvin
to Jules Ferry ) in order to compare the situation in sixteenth-century England with their
assessment of the situation in France, Goldberg concludes with an assertion that undermines the
position of those upholding the autonomous model: "Hence, the spread of literacy always
correlates with social and economic inequalities. Literacy, they conclude, 'represented the key
to entry to the cultural model of the upper classes. Wherever we look, in every period, social
stratification presides over the history of literacy' (303).... Extensions of literacy redefine, but
do not abolish, structures of class" (48).

that it is necessary, therefore, to attend to the specific setting in which a par-

ticular form of literacy exists in order to identify how it works for that culture.

Carruthers's example of the washing machine is helpful here: rather than
viewing literacy as a "technology" that works in one way and one way only, as

those upholding the autonomous model assume, the ideological model

assumes that the way literacy "works" in a culture depends upon the culture

in which it is working: "The model stresses the significance of the socialisa-

tion process in the construction of the meaning of literacy for participants and

is therefore concerned with the general social institutions through which this

process takes place and not just the explicit 'educational' ones" (Street 2).

The emphasis here on the institutional makes Street's argument

similar to a grammatological one, which seeks, as part of its position, to

recognize the place of institutional practices in the employment of

technologies of communication. The notion of the "apparatus" does not

reduce literacy to a neutral technology but considers technology in relation to

the institutional practices governing its usage. The use of "technologies of

the word," that is, must be learned in specific social settings, institutional

settings, by individuals. Furthermore, the institutional training received by

students as a means of employing these technologies within particular social

settings results in an ideological formation that crystallizes into a particular

form of subjectivity.12 Havelock, for instance, writes of how a sense of

selfhood emerged subsequent to the invention of the alphabet, a recognition

12See, for one example of this phenomenon in the sixteenth century, Goldberg's third chapter:
"The individual produced by writing is not an individualized subject but one conforming to the
characters inscribed-the words and the letters of the copytexts clad in royalty" (164). See
also the fifth chapter: "Hence (as Cressy knows), statistics about literacy (including his own)
that depend on counting signatures err; moreover, as was emphasized earlier, they reproduce
the more modern notion of what constitutes literacy-the ability to sign the name and thereby
to produce the individual" (242-3).

that Ulmer includes as part of his definition of grammatology: "Subject

formation-subjectivation-is itself subject to invention."13 Subjectivity

thus becomes part of what defines Ulmer's notion of "the interactive matrix"

of the apparatus, which in his conception is constituted by technologies of

communication, institutional practices as well as subject formation.14

Grammatology, therefore, provides the theoretical framework for an

approach to the effects of language technologies which fits Street's

"ideological model," supplying with its definition of the apparatus what

Michael Warner, in The Letters of the Republic, believes has been lacking:

"But to my mind the material studied in this book derives much of its

interest from the reciprocal determination it shows between a medium and

its politics. This is a historical relation of causation that remains relatively

untheorized and resists the ways we usually narrate the past" (xii).'5

13From Ulmer, Heuretics: The Logic of Invention, 92.

14Heuretics, 17. Havelock locates the emergence of selfhood in early Greek culture; in this
view, it has dominated in the apparatus of literacy for over 2500 years. While others locate
the moment of invention at other points (for instance, after the invention of moveable type), the
sense of the self as something invented is the common denominator. Contemporaneous with the
emergence of the new electronic media has been the poststructuralist questioning of the unified
self. See, as only one example of this, Foucault's conclusion that "As the archaeology of our
thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end"
(The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, New York: Vintage Books,
1970, 387).

15Friedrich Kittler is said to have a conception of discourse which is similar to the
grammatological definition of apparatus, as one can see in David E. Wellbery's foreword to
Discourse Netuorks 1800/1900, trans. Michael Metteer and Chris Cullens (Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1990): "While Kittler accepts the Lacanian dictum that the unconscious is
the discourse of the Other, he reads this formula from the standpoint of Foucault. That is to
say, the term discourse no longer refers, as in Lacan's rendering, to the linguistic and therefore
abstract notion of extended speech, but rather to positive modes of existence of language as
shaped by institutions of pedagogy, technical means of reproduction, storage and transfer,
available strategies of interpretation, and so on. Likewise the Lacanian Other is for Kittler
not the general and sovereign instance of the one Law, but rather (and again, with Foucault) the
network of forces and resistances, commands and addresses, that constitute historically specific
configurations of domination" (xxi). The "discourse network" as presented here is comparable to
Ulmer's notion of the "interactive matrix."

Given the debate as set forth above, however, it is clear that the notion
of "technology" must be clearly and carefully defined. While other possibili-
ties for defining this term have been opened up by such theorists as Theresa

De Lauretis-with her "technologies of gender"-and Deleuze and Guattari-
with their notion of the "abstract machine"-the grammatologist focuses on
technology as a tool of communication. This would include not only specific
technologies themselves (such as video, radio, typewriters, or printing
presses) but also other implements not normally considered technologies,
like a pencil, for instance, or a book. Conceiving of technology as a tool here

avoids the limited view of technology exemplified in Carruthers' "washing
machine" metaphor, which she employs to question the sense of a neutral
machine that only works in one way. A tool can be used in a variety of ways
for a variety of different reasons, though it may have one specified function,

for example the use of a screwdriver as a chisel: it will work as a chisel in

certain situations, but its intended function was to drive screws into wood.

This definition of technology, then, would allow for context-specific employ-
ment, for which Street's ideological model calls.
Carruthers offers an alternative term etymologically related to technol-
ogy: technique. She writes of these two almost interchangeably, as one can

see in the following passage, in which she warns about reifying technique and

refers to the abuse of this word in the same terms she uses when discussing

the reductive use of technology by other scholars:

Similarly, neither the prevalence nor the form of written
materials in a culture should, I think, be taken as any sure
indication of those people's ability to think in rational
categories, or of the structures those categories may take. I
am not suggesting that technique and technology have no
effect upon human culture; this study is concerned to
identify and describe a number of distinctive features in
medieval literary culture which are sometimes expressed in

particular techniques, such as page layout. But I try not to
reify technique, and in particular I think it very important to
recognize that the form in which information is presented to
the mind does not necessarily constrain the way in which such
information is encoded by the brain nor the ways in which it
can be found and sorted. (32)

A third possible synonym for defining the technology of communica-

tion in a grammatological fashion is to view it as a mnemonic prosthesis.

Grammatology might be considered as the study of the history of reading and

writing, or more precisely the study of how information is "stored and

retrieved" ("information" here not merely indicating neutral facts and figures

but also referring to cultural axioms concerning gender relations, class

distinctions, racial stereotypes, national mythologies, and any other

ideological assumptions that are woven within its text), of how societies

remember.16 Storage and retrieval can be seen as aspects of memory, and

memory becomes the crux: "Learning is regarded as a process of discovering

more effective, efficient, inclusive mnemonics-for memory, as Hugh of St.

Victor says, is the basis of learning" (Carruthers 106). Technology, then, can

be viewed as anything that improves the efficiency of memory, whether it be

a tool like a pencil to write a grocery list or a technique like page lay-out that

enhances recall of entire book pages.17 A library filled with books can be

16This latter phrase intentionally alludes to the title of Paul Connerton's sociological study
entitled How Societies Remember (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989). The notion of
"information storage and retrieval" stems from Havelock's The Muse Learns to Write, in which
he writes, "Once the necessity to preserve cultural identity through linguistic storage, on the
one hand, and the oral character of early cultures on the other, are brought into conjunction and
viewed together, the question arises: How then, can orality store its information for re-use?
How can it preserve its identity?" (56).

17At the same time, caution still must be practiced in using the term efficiency to avoid
ethnocentric views of technological determinism. Even the notion of "artificial memory" or
mnemonic prosthesis must be carefully employed so as to avoid what Levi-Strauss warns about
in Tristes Tropiques: "One might suppose that... [t]he possession of writing vastly increases
man's ability to preserve knowledge. It can be thought of as an artificial memory, the
development of which ought to lead to a clearer awareness of the past, and hence to a greater
ability to organize both the present and the future. After eliminating all other criteria which

conceived of as a technology, when technology is defined as mnemonic pros-


With this sense of technology, then, I look in the next section at two

grammatological histories, Frances Yates' The Art of Memory and Walter

Ong's Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue, with the intent of explor-

ing how the sixteenth century was a transitional period for pedagogical prac-

tices, such that a different mnemonic system-the Ramist method of outlin-

ing-replaced the traditional mnemonic system of the memory palace. But

the memory palace, as I will show in subsequent chapters, is more amenable

to electronic media and will therefore provide a model for electronic

dispositio. This will be one part of the prolegomenon for an electronic

rhetoric, the second part consisting of specific strategies for writing within


Sixteenth-Century Mnemonic Practices

Writing of the effect of Hayden White's conclusions concerning histo-

riographical narrativization in the context of literary criticism, Jerome

McGann says, "White explores a type of critical narrative which he calls the

'narrativized' text, where the writer builds into the discourse an illusion

have been put forward to distinguish between barbarism and civilization, it is tempting to
retain this one at least: there are people with, or without, writing; the former are able to store
up their past achievements and to move with ever-increasing rapidity towards the goal they
have set for themselves, whereas the latter, being incapable of remembering the past beyond
the narrow margin of individual memory, seem bound to remain imprisoned in a fluctuating
history which will always lack both a beginning and any lasting awareness of an aim. Yet
nothing we know about writing and the part it has played in man's evolution justifies this
view" (298).

181n her textbook of rhetoric organized via the five parts of rhetoric, Winifred Bryan Horner,
in Rhetoric in the Classical Tradition (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988), writes of libraries
as the repositories of cultural information: "Where classical rhetoric limited the study of
memory to cultivating the natural memory, modem rhetoric must consider memory in terms of
the resources available through books and databases . ." (339).

which suggests that completion is inherent to the historical events rather
than to the narrative of those events" (Social Values and Poetic Acts 140).
Any past event or practice, then, is always open to recycling in a new

(historical) narrative that reinterprets the past in terms of the present. Such is
my purpose in this dissertation: to re-open the history of the memory palace,

which came to an apparent end in the sixteenth century, and remotivate its
mnemonics in the context of late twentieth-century technologies. My
purpose in this section will be to review the institutional changes in
pedagogical procedure which are said to have brought about the decline in the
use of the memory palace as a popular mnemotechnique. This review will
suggest that scholars and students responding to changes in communications

technology at the present moment can bring about its return. Insofar as the
changes in the sixteenth century were caused, in part, by the advent of a new
technology-the printing press-I will suggest that the recent advent of new
technologies, such as video, interactive multimedia, and virtual reality or
"cyberspace," will impose the same pressure upon the educational institution

to adapt to the changes with revised institutional practices. This dissertation,
ultimately, will offer some possibilities for such practices.
First, I will review the history of the memory palace. The legendary

origin of the mnemonic strategy of remembering images in particular
places-the fundamental principle of the memory palace--occurred at a ban-

quet given by Scopas. The poet Simonides, present at the banquet to enter-
tain the guests, was called outside by two men, presumably the twin gods
Castor and Pollux in praise of whom part of his songs were sung. During his
absence the roof caved in, killing all of the dinner guests and mangling them
beyond recognition. Simonides, however, was able to identify the guests, as
he had remembered the places at the table at which each guest sat. From this

experience he extrapolated the fundamental principle of the memory palace,

and so is said to have invented the art of memory.'9

This story is often recounted in conjunction with discussion of the

fourth part of rhetoric-memoria. The three Roman sources for rhetorical

practice each include strategies for memorization based on Simonides' inven-

tion: Cicero's De oratore, Quintilian's Insititutio oratoria and the anony-

mous Rhetorica ad Herennium. The purpose of this discussion of memorial

was to present methods for memorizing speeches once written, for the most

effective means of delivery. As such, the focus of these early treatises

remained rhetorical, and its instruction remained confined to the improve-

ment of one's oratorical abilities.

A shift in emphasis occurs in the Middle Ages, when in the highly

Christianized context of the time, different goals were pursued by the institu-

tions of education. Yates locates the shift in a particular reading of Cicero's De


That is to say, they [Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas]
knew only the Ad Herennium on the artificial memory, and
they saw it, through a tradition already well established in the
earlier Middle Ages, in the context of the "First Rhetoric of
Tullius," the De invention with its definitions of the four
cardinal virtues and their parts. Hence it comes about that the
scholastic ars memorativa treatises-those by Albertus Magnus
and Thomas Aquinas-do not form part of a treatise on rhetoric,
like the ancient sources. The artificial memory has moved over
from rhetoric to ethics. (57)20

19See Frances Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1966) 1-2
for a detailed account of this moment.

20Yates qualifies this statement soon after by suggesting that the "ethical or prudential
interpretation" of the Art of Memory already existed in the Middle Ages and that Albertus and
Thomas were merely following suit. She then proceeds to trace the origin of this "momentous
transference," as she puts it, by looking at Boncompagno da Signa's pre-scholastic treatise, the
Rhetoric Novissima. See 57-60.

The same mnemonic strategies were applied to a different purpose: the

memorization of virtues and vices so as to keep monks focused on the

rewards of virtuous behavior and reminded of the punishments for bad

behavior. In this vein, Dante's Divine Comedy is possibly a poem based on

the Art of Memory.21

Another institutional force which maintained the need for memoriza-

tion concerned the new mendicant orders, members of which would preach

as they wandered as part of their service. Yates recounts Beryl Smalley's study

of fourteenth-century friars who memorized allegorical personifications of

the sins in order to facilitate recall of material for purposes of preaching. The

strategies offered in the various texts have their origins, Yates suggests, in the

practices of the classical Art of Memory.22 Furthermore, the dominant

instructional mode until the sixteenth century was the oral disputation, in

which degree candidates would have to engage to demonstrate their prowess

in arguing. "As late as Ramus' own day, (as John Standonck's 1503 statutes

for the College of Montaigu show), such disputations were the sole exercise

of all students."23 Those engaged in a disputation would not only need to

memorize their own portion of the dialogue but also needed to "store" in

memory the arguments of their opponents, so as to be able effectively to

refute those points.

21"That Dante's Inferno could be regarded as a kind of memory system for memorising, Hell and
its punishments with striking images on orders of places, will come as a great shock, and I must
leave it as a shock. It would take a whole book to work out the implications of such an
approach to Dante's poem" (Yates, The Art of Memory 95).

22Yates suggests, too, that "The preference of these English friars for the fables of the poets as
memory images, as allowed by Albertus Magnus, suggests that the artificial memory may be a
hitherto unsuspected medium through which pagan imagery survived in the Middle Ages"

23Walter J. Ong, Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the
Art of Reason, (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1958) 154.

These disputations occurred very frequently in the setting of a

medieval university. "Besides the types of disputation connected with the

'graduation' ceremonies of both bachelor and master, there were the frequent

disputation conducted by the master in his own classes."24 These would sim-

ply be questions posed by either the master or by a student, with the subse-

quent oral response. Another student, appointed as the "respondent," would

then summarize both the answers to the question and the objections raised.

In another, more common version of the disputation, known as "public and

'ordinary' disputations, the respondent and opponent were students or bache-

lors, while the one who summed up and gave the final solutions was the

master, who thus 'determined' the question" (Daly 157). At Oxford, for

instance, these were quite frequent: "in the medical faculty, the rules call for

weekly disputations, and in the faculty of arts the new master was to dispute

on every 'disputable day' for forty continuous days" (157). The disputation

was, in fact, considered to be one of the duties of a master or doctor, besides

the task of "professing."25

24Lowrie J. Daly, S.J. The Medieval University, (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1961), 156.

25While Daly provides useful general information about the university setting itself, Mary
Carruthers provides specific details about how mnemonics were taught to the students,
mnemonics specific to the memorization of written texts. For instance, in answering how
medieval bestiaries were used, she writes, "What the Bestiary taught most usefully in the long
term of a medieval education was not 'natural history' or moralized instruction (all instruction
in the Middle Ages was moralized) but mental imaging, the systematic forming of 'pictures'
that would stick in the memory and could be used, like rebuses, homophonies, imagines rerum,
and other sorts of notae, to mark information within the grid" (127). Other strategies, which
she recounts in detail, concern the use of "sets" of images students were assumed to have, such as
the alphabet, numbers, and the zodiac. These were deployed within a numerical grid system
imposed upon the book pages, a practice which was common: "There are a number of other
sources and practices current throughout the Middle Ages which indicate that both the
numerical grid system and mnemonic value of page layout were well known..." (95). These
methods are consistent with the practices presented in the classical rhetoric, but they
demonstrate practices taught to help students memorize written texts. As such, Carruthers
delineates a mixed practice, one that fuses oral and literate strategies.

But a gradual decline in the use of the medieval mnemonics occurred,

in particular the memory palace, for various reasons. For one, a complete text

of Quintilian's Institutio oratoria was discovered in the early fifteenth cen-

tury, so by the sixteenth century his version was available. This is an impor-

tant development because Quintilian is the only one of the three Latin

sources to criticize the efficacy of the memory palace, suggesting in its stead

the strict rote memorization that we are more familiar with today.

Furthermore, since Thomas Aquinas himself wrote of the Art of Memory,

the memory palace became associated with scholasticism, which was attacked

by humanist philosophers like Erasmus and Melanchthon.26

The practice of building memory palaces-in which loci were made

available for the placement of remarkable imagery that would stimulate one's

memory-did not, however, become completely discontinued but became

marginalized to the Neoplatonist movement, which adopted its mnemonics

for the purpose of enhancing the Hermetic philosopher's magical grasp over

nature. Much of Yates' work revolves around recounting the Hermetic and

Cabalist traditions as they are incorporated into the memory palace tradition

practiced by the Hermetic philosophers that she researches, especially

Giordano Bruno.27 While the Hermeto-Cabalist tradition may have been

26As Yates writes, "The distinctly cool and Quintilianist attitude of Erasmus to the artificial
memory develops in later leading humanist educators into a strong disapproval of it.
Melanchthon forbids students to use any mnemotechnical devices and enjoins learning by heart
in the normal way as the sole art of memory.... Erasmus did not like the Middle Ages, a
dislike which developed into violent antagonism in the Reformation, and the art of memory
was a mediaeval and a scholastic art" (127).

270ne area that Yates neglects is the use of the memory palace by the Jesuits in their
militaristic response, as the "shock-troops of the Counter-Reformation," to the successes of the
Protestant Reformation. We know that the memory palace was practiced among them from
Jonathan D. Spence's history of The Memory Palace ofMatteo Ricci (New York: Penguin Books,
1984). Spence even provides an explanation for why the practices in this traditional art of
memory were particularly well-suited for the Jesuits: "This vivid restructuring of memory was
also a fundamental component of the edifice of discipline and religious training that the
converted Spanish soldier Ignatius of Loyola developed for the members of the Society of Jesus,

strong in the sixteenth century, it eventually becomes discounted by the end

of Bruno's life, resulting in his burning at the stake in 1600.28 Yates recounts

a debate which took place between a Brunian, Alexander Dicson, and a

Ramist disciple, William Perkins, in 1584. While the debate was ostensibly

about opposing arts of memory, it was, as Yates writes, "at bottom a religious

controversy" (267), and this is part of the reason why the Hermetic version,

perceived as subversive and pagan, failed to maintain any influence over

future mnemonic practices.29

At the same time that such religious and intellectual controversies

were playing themselves out, pedagogical changes were occurring, changes

which he founded in 1540; he had been marshaling his arguments in writing the early drafts of
the Spiritual Exercises" (15). The memory palace tradition was also useful, to be sure, in the
extensive rhetorical training that the Jesuits received, training which enabled them to go forth
and re-convert the Protestants to Catholicism in rhetorical street-fights. See Francesco C.
Cesareo, "The Collegium Germanicum and the Ignatian Vision of Education," The Sixteenth
Century Journal 24 (Winter 1993), 829-841 for an account of the Jesuit emphasis on winning back
those lost to Protestantism.

28In her book-length study of Bruno, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Yates writes
of how Bruno was burned as an "impenitent heretic" (349). She writes of how "Bruno takes a
radical step, which puts him outside the pale of normal Christian Hermetism, by abandoning
the Christian interpretation, and above all, by going wholeheartedly for the magic as the
chief thing, the core of Hermetism" (230). The extent to which Hermetism did survive in that
period depended on how veiled its truly pagan origins were, or how convincingly a proponent
presented its interpretation as not being antithetical to a Christian vision, as in the case of Pico
della Mirandola. Yates demonstrates, in The Art ofMemory, how Hermetism managed to
survive until the time of the scientific revolution, which she suggests was influenced in part by
Hermetic principles: "And such a study might demonstrate that all that was most noble in the
religious and philanthropic aspirations of seventeenth-century science was already present, on
the Hermetic plane, in Giordano Bruno, transmitted by him in the secret of his arts of memory"

29Evelyn Fox Keller writes of how alchemy, the practice and goal of hermetism, lost on
another front: that of science. She recounts the conflict between the Baconian and hermetic
conceptions of how humankind should relate to nature, finding the sexual metaphors that each
opposing side used to incorporate its attitude toward nature: "His [Bacon's] central metaphor-
science as power, a force virile enough to penetrate and subdue nature-has provided an image
that permeates the rhetoric of modem science .... If the root image for Bacon was a 'chaste and
lawful marriage between Mind and Nature' that will 'bind [Nature]to [man's] service and
maker her [his] slave'... the root image of the alchemists was coition, the conjunction of mind
and matter, the merging of male and female. As Bacon's metaphoric ideal was the virile
superman, the alchemist's ideal was the hermaphrodite." Reflections on Gender and Science,
(New Haven: Yale UP, 1985) 48.

caused by both internal institutional pressures and external technological

shifts. Within the institution, more and more emphasis was placed upon
writing as the oral disputation declined in its status as the sole means of
showing one's learning. The advent of a "curriculum" was part of the reason

for this trend. The current sense of "curriculum" as meaning the set of peda-
gogical tasks to be completed within a given period of time seems to have had
its origin in the late medieval/early modern university setting, and the

underlying metaphor of the "road race" (curriculum in Latin means "a con-
test in running") was as much a problem then as it is now. Ong writes of how

an element of discourse as simple as class discussion became abbreviated so
that the road race of curriculum could be run: "Even partial dialogue with
the class, in which the pupils volunteered questions or objections, was neces-
sarily severely restricted, or one would never get through the material at all"
(Ramus 155).

The move to a coverage model of education also encouraged stan-

dardization of education, such that teacher's guilds began to determine
guidelines for course content. This trend also affected the degree of orality in
the university setting, resulting in increased reliance upon writing. Again,
Ong is helpful here:

The normal-school tradition itself [a disputation-based
curriculum], however, had prepared the way for the humanist
assault on the oral disputation. Insofar as knowledge was
standardized by being put in the keeping of teachers' guilds,
where it inevitably became more and more a commodity, it
tended to retreat from the evanescent world of discourse (verba
volant ) to the more stable world of writing scriptaa manent ).
The dreaded teacher's exam, which every new public school teacher must
pass before becoming a bona fide certified teacher, had its origins in this pro-
cess of standardization that the teachers' guilds enacted. This exam ensured a

degree of competence but at the same time shifted the conception of

knowledge to that of a commodity:

[K]nowledge naturally tended to be viewed less as a wisdom
transmissable only in a context of personal relationships than as
a commodity. It could be measured-indeed, had to be-which
meant that it could be manipulated in terms of quantitative
analogies. We have not yet arrived, but we are well on the way
to report cards.... (Ramus 152)

The problem of teaching complicated philosophy to young teenagers

also contributed to the institutional reshaping that participated in the decline

of discourse practiced within education. This in fact goes to the heart of Ong's

treatment of Ramus's educational reforms. As part of the historical ground-

work that Ong provides for demonstrating the conditions under which

Ramus revises the constitution of rhetoric and dialectic, he relates the process

of simplification that occurs for pedagogical purposes. This promoted the

transmission of less than accurate material and initiated the pairing-down

process that culminates in Ramus's revised logic.30 In fact, Ramus justifies

his "natural dialectic" by appealing to its practicality:

Ramus flaunts his reason for the superiority of this practical
analysis with a disconcerting frankness: it is the best possible
method for enabling the schoolboy to memorize the twenty-
eight lines of Ovid in question! .... Ramus' preoccupation with
dichotomization has its real origin largely in the pedagogical
appeal of the tidy bracketed tables of dichotomies which he

300ng writes of Peter of Spain, "Why is it that our manualist, moving through all this maze,
thrusts aside by a kind of sleight of hand all question of probability and regards the concern of
dialectic or logic to be certainties alone? Basically, because he is a manualist, supplying the
need for a handbook for the teen-age medieval student" (62). Later he writes of the same
phenomenon: "Not satisfied with equating dialectic and teaching, Melanchthon also must
solve problems external or peripheral to dialectic on a pedagogical basis. Thus, he defends the
long-standing distinction between dialectic which controls 'plain' speech and rhetoric which
controls 'ornamental' speech on the grounds that, while not necessarily accurate, the distinc-
tion must be held to because it is teachable. He is hewing here to the Agricolan line, for, when
Agricola had dismissed a logic of predication in favor of a topical logic, he too had done so
because the former is hard to teach and the latter easy" (Ramnus 159).

studied in the printed commentaries and epitomes of Agricola's
Dialectical Invention. (194, 199)

Ultimately, this appeal to practicality proved to be the crucial blow in the

demise of the memory palace as a mnemonic strategy: because one had to

work at discovering visual puns to situate in carefully created places, often-

times generating elaborate and esoteric connections in the hope of stimulat-

ing the memory, the procedure seemed too complicated and unnecessary.
The Ramist dichotomies were arguably more efficient and less complicated.31

As the framework of grammatology suggests, though, institutional

changes were not the only factor involved. The new technology of the print-

ing press also aided in this process, in that it participated in fostering the

advent of the Ramist dichotomies. Ramus, of course, was not the first to fab-

ricate elaborate charts mapping the mind and its workings. But charts made

prior to the printing press were reproduced like all documents were before

the printing press: by hand. Besides the inaccuracies that such a procedure

promoted, oftentimes this process was tedious to say the least, as well as com-

plicated. With the new "age of mechanical reproduction" that the printing

press engendered, multiple copies of complicated charts like Ramus'

dichotomies could be reproduced with minimal inaccuracy. As Ong writes,

"The Agricolan and Ramist dialectic was to prove itself unexpectedly conge-

nial to printing techniques" (97). The value of Ong's thesis lies in his

31Of this Frances Yates writes, "Amongst the complexities of which Ramus made a clean sweep
were those of the old art of memory. Ramus abolished memory as a part of rhetoric, and with it
he abolished the artificial memory. This was not because Ramus was not interested in
memorising. On the contrary, one of the chief aims of the Ramist movement for the reform and
simplification of education was to provide a new and better way of memorising all subjects"

explanation of the power of the technology to initiate wide-reaching cultural

change-given the proper institutional setting.32

Insofar as the printing press was congenial to Ramism, it facilitated its

expansion as a mnemonic system. The printed book, too, helped contribute

to the decline of the memory palace, as the process begun in the Middle

Ages-the storing of information in book form-became that much more

easy.33 Mass production was now possible; no more did one have to wait for

a human hand to transcribe completely an entire tome. "The schematic lay-

outs of manuscripts, designed for memorisation, the articulation of a summa

into its ordered parts, all these are disappearing with the printed book which

need not be memorised since copies are plentiful" (Yates 124). This plenitude

was significant, as Carruthers indicates in speaking of why medieval scholars

required a good memory: "Scholars have always recognized that memory

necessarily played a crucial role in pre-modern Western civilization, for in a

world of few books, and those mostly in communal libraries, one's education

had to be remembered, for one could never depend on having continuing

access to specific material" (8). The need for a good memory was no longer as

urgent as it once was, and so the mnemonic practices that cultivated a phe-

nomenal memory were less and less engaged.

32The primary thesis Ong offers shows that the move away from oral discourse and toward the
more visual medium of writing helped to bring about the emergence of science: "In its long-term
effects, Ramism, with the topical logic which it exploits, is favorable to the emergence of
modem science, experiment included, because of the way it loosens up the field of knowledge in
encouraging visualist approaches to this field" (269).

331n distinguishing between "books" and "texts," Carruthers comes to define a book as a
mnemonic tool: "A book is not necessarily the same thing as a text. 'Texts' are the material out
of which human beings make 'literature.' For us, texts only come in books, and so the distinction
between the two is blurred and even lost. But, in a memorial culture, a 'book' is only one way
among several to remember a 'text,' to provision and cue one's memory with 'dicta et fact
memorabilia.' So a book is itself a mnemonic, among many other functions it can also have" (8).

The irony in Ramus' aim to create a better way of memorizing with his

dichotomies becomes apparent: in promoting a written, visual form of

memory which serves as a mnemonic prosthesis on paper, he superceded the

more oral form of the memory palace, one in which human memory itself

was more directly engaged. The Ramist method institutes an age of rhetoric

or anti-rhetoric in which the latter two steps-memoria and pronuntiatio-

drop out of consideration, and memory in itself becomes incorporated in

writing. The resulting hybrid of memory and method-what Sharon

Crowley calls "the methodical memory"-can only be expressed in writing:

A written outline, then, was a graphic representation of the
categories contained in the memory. The discursive outline
simply was a graphic representation of the processes of analysis
and amplification. The workings of the methodical memory
could now be put on display for all to see!34

This state of affairs has developed over the centuries since the sixteenth cen-

tury, and only now, with the relatively recent advent of electronic and mass

media, is the hegemony of exposition being challenged. Barilli's diagnosis of

contemporary rhetoric suggests the need to reconsider rhetoric in light of

twentieth-century breakthroughs in communicative technology.

The current challenge, then, is to view the electronic media as

mnemonic prostheses, as new tools for storing information, tools which have

characteristics that differ from the book as a storage medium. I am claiming

that our discipline has much to learn from the sixteenth century concerning

the employment of a three-dimensional writing space such as the Storyspace

hypertext medium, specifically from the storage strategies of the memory

34The Methodical Memory: Invention in Current-Tradional Rhetoric, 82. In Crowley's history
of the discipline of rhetoric and composition, she finds the five-paragraph theme to be the last
stage of an evolutionary trend that began with Ramus: "The five-paragraph theme was the
most thoroughgoing scheme for spatializing discourse that had appeared in rhetorical theory
since Peter Ramus' method of dichotomizing division rendered all the world divisible by
halves" (135).

palace as well as from the individual authors who were negotiating a time of

transition as fluid as ours is now. I will now consider from a grammatolog-

ical perspective the sixteenth-century context of Edmund Spenser, one of the

first "authors" to be paid as an author.

Spenser and the Memory Palace

Whether conscious or not, Spenser lived in a transitional period

during which mnemonic practices, pedagogical practices, political power

relationships, class relationships, and subjectivity were undergoing changes

that oftentimes were contradictory in their implications: the "secret" self

writing a variety of different signatures, the Protestant reformer employing

an iconographic mnemonic system,35 the impoverished sizar, with a

homosexual mentor, whose course of study and, consequently, his poetry

were affected, in part, by the advent of the printing press.36 The previous

35For an example of this phenomenon other than Spenser, see Catharine Randall Coats,
"Reactivating Textual Traces: Martyrs, Memory, and the Self in Theodore Beza's Icones
(1581)," Later Calvinism: International Perspectives, ed. W.Fred Graham (Kirksville,
Missouri: Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies XXII) 19-28. Beza, Calvin's friend, successor, and
biographer, wrote a text composed of many imaged representations of various confessors and
martyrs he wished to have remembered. Coats explores the conflicted forces which informed
the text's composition-some of them originating in the Protestant fear of the Art of Memory
and its iconic mnemonic-and suggests that Beza's self-revelation was his motivation: "By
incorporating images, Beza provoked an attack from the Jesuits, who accused him of succumbing
to the very idolatry Calvinists claimed to abhor. Beza's motivations in choosing to include
woodcuts must therefore be examined. I maintain that its effect was to produce a new form of
emblematic text, in which word and image both compete and conjoin to construct a living
portrait of the self: that of its author. ... Through the selection, ordering, and exposition of his
material, Beza reveals, primarily, himself" (20).

36Goldberg tells of Spenser's relationship with Harvey and how it reflected a mentor-student
relationship that goes back to classical Greece: "Within that spacing, which, for Elizabethans
like Spenser and Harvey, takes the historically specific situation of the apparatuses of a
homosocial pedagogy, the Spenserian career-in life, in letters-is launched" (Sodometries
80). Goldberg shows that the Renaissance approach to pedagogy is in this fashion traditional,
in that it establishes the student as one who identifies with the teacher. At the same time,
however, the kinds of changes that Ong reports in Ramus, and the political and religious
conflicts that figure in Ramus's pedagogical reformation, are working to bring about
institutional changes as well.

section of this chapter recounted the history of mnemotechnics as a set of

institutional practices that changed as a result of the effects of the printing

press, and, as the next section will show, Spenser's poetry reveals his

participation in the outgoing practice of the memory palace. The chapter to

follow will then explore how Spenser embraces the incoming practices of

print literacy and what the implications of this embrace are for the subsequent

development of the "mnemonics of literacy," as I shall call it.

It remains now to demonstrate how Spenser's allegorical impulse

shared in the tradition of the memory palace. The goal of returning to

Spenser as a grammatologist, at a time when allegory is on the rise again both

as a topic and as a practice in literary theory, at a time when the "electronic

word," to quote the title of Richard Lanham's recent book on "electronic

literacy," is as visual as it is verbal, will be to learn from him strategies for

composing in and conceiving of a medium like hypertext, a three-

dimensional writing "space" that has been described as a dungeon and a

castle. These strategies will be recounted in the final portions of this

dissertation. Ultimately, I intend to reconfigure Spenser and the memory

palace tradition in a heuretic equation with the present moment, to perceive

a new constellation that includes Spenser, the memory palace, literary theory

and the electronic storage and retrieval of information.37 The pattern that

emerges will take the form of a poetics of hypertext composition.

37"Historicism contents itself with establishing a causal connection between various moments in
history. But no fact that is a cause is for that very reason historical. It became historical post-
humously, as it were, through events that may be separated from it by thousands of years. A
historian who takes this as his point of departure stops telling the sequence of events like the
beads of a rosary. Instead, he grasps the constellation which his own era has formed with a
definite earlier one." Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History," Illuminations,
trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1968) 263.

While there is no direct evidence that Spenser learned the art of

remembering by building memory palaces or theaters in his mind, as a

student of rhetoric, learning the fourth step of memorial, we can suppose he

would have read the recommendations that Roman rhetoricians made about

its efficacy. For a poet who wanted to be remembered, whose laureate

ambitions are all but a commonplace among contemporary criticism,38 these

strategies may have seemed appealing, even indispensable. And the

allegorical nature of the memory palace certainly would not have escaped

Spenser. For these reasons, The Faerie Queene, as the major work of allegory

in the English Renaissance, is a good place to look for evidence of Spenser's

mnemonic strategies.

The most striking moment of Spenser's use of the memory palace

comes in the proem to Book Two. Spenser begins by defending his choice of

the romance as a vehicle for his matter in the rhetorical ploy of

anthypophora, or response to anticipated objections.39

Right well I wote most mighty Soueraine,
That all this famous antique history,
Of some th'aboundance of an idle brain
Will iudged be, and painted forgery,
Rather then matter of just memory,
Sith none, that breatheth liuing aire, does know,
Where is that happy land of Faery,
Which I so much do vaunt, yet no where show,
But vouch antiquities, which no body can know. (

38While critics agree that he was ambitious and that his ambitions are seen in the poetry,
some recent discussion concerns the extent of his obsequiousness. Derek Alwes, for instance, takes
issue with Louis Montrose and tries to argue that "the poetic role Spenser defines for himself in
his works is that of accomplice, not adversary. He understands the ideology of the state as
espoused by Elizabeth and those who speak in her name; he knows he can make a valuable
contribution to it (hoping, of course, that the value of his contribution will be recognized and
rewarded," '"Who knows not Colin Clout?' Spenser's Self-Advertisement in The Faerie
Queene, Book 6," Modern Philology 88 (August 1990), 29.

391 derive my definition from Richard Lanham's A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms: A Guide for
Students of English Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968).

Here Spenser feels the need to justify the memory that he invokes by
"vouching" antiquities. The emphasis on memory is significant, for Spenser

must defend his use of legendary material as relevant subject matter in a
poem meant to praise the queen, since this "famous antique history" might

be judged, as he writes, as "th'aboundance of an idle braine" and "painted
forgery" rather than "matter of just memory." And this is the book in which
the Arthurian legends come to play their most significant role: later, in canto

nine, Arthur and Guyon enter the chamber of Eumnestes ("good memory")
in the House of Alma and find two important books stored there, one titled

Briton Moniments, and the other titled Antiquitie of Faerie. Arthur reads

the former, Guyon the latter, throughout canto ten. The writings in these
memorial texts nourish the two heroes ("alma" in Latin means
"nourishing") in that they are strengthened to go forth with their quest.

Alma, therefore, as the source of a book learning that provides national
identity, is the ultimate "alma mater."

Spenser answers this potential objection raised in the first stanza of the

proem by invoking the startling discoveries that voyagers to the New World
were making, finding places never thought to exist: "But let that man with
better sence aduize,/That of the world least part to vs is red:/And dayly how
through hardy enterprize,/Many great Regions are discouered,/Which to late
age were neuer mentioned" ( The poet "logically" concludes that

just because something has never been seen does not mean that it does not
exist: "Why then should witlesse man so much misweene/That nothing is,
but that which he hath seene?" ( The following stanza reveals
where the "land of Faery" is:
Of Faerie lond yet if he more inquire,
By certain signes here set in sundry place
He may it find; ne let him then admire,

But yield his sence to be too blunt and bace,
That no'te without an hound fine footing trace.
And thou, O fairest Princesse vnder sky,
In this faire mirrhour maist behold thy face,
And thine own realmes in lond of Faery,
And in this antique Image thy great auncestry. (

The inquirer can find Faerie lond by certain signed here set in sundry place.

These lines figure the entire poem, The Faerie Queene itself (the here ), as
the memory p(a)lace in which the poet, the architect of this palace, has placed
"signs" of Fairy Land. In the epic poem, metaphorically represented here as a

mirror, Elizabeth can see her face, and in the antique image she can find her


Here Spenser is using the language of the Art of Memory: images or

signs set in places in order to call forth the memory of what was stored by
means of the memory image. Yates recounts the instructions for using the

Art of Memory:

The first step was to imprint on the memory a series of loci or
places.... The images by which the speech is to be remem
bered . are then placed in imagination on the places which
have been memorised in the building. This done, as soon as the
memory of the facts requires to be revived, all these places are
visited in turn and the various deposits demanded of their
custodians. (The Art of Memory 3)

Spenser, in other words, provides in The Faerie Queene a guided tour of

Fairy Land, of the Queen herself-the virtues to be upheld, the vices to be

The final stanza of the proem specifically connects this language of the

art of memory to the act of allegorizing, demonstrating Spenser's conscious-
ness of the allegorical nature of the mnemotechnique. It continues directly
from the fourth, apologizing for the use of allegory:

The which O pardon me thus to enfold
In court vele, and wrap in shadows light,

That feeble eyes your glory may behold,
Which else could not endure those beames bright,
But would be dazled with exceeding light. (
The "antique Image" in which Elizabeth will behold her ancestry must be

veiled in allegory, for she is so stunningly beautiful that persons beholding

her would go blind. This circuitous way of praising Elizabeth's glory is

framed in the language of allegorizing: the covert veil, the wrapping in

shadow's light, refers to the "speaking other" of allos agoreuei. 40 Spenser
admits to this strategy also in his Letter to Ralegh, again invoking the "places"

in which she appears in the poem:

In that Faery Queene I meane glory in my general intention, but
in my particular I conceiue the most excellent and glorious
person of our soueraine the Queene, and her kingdom in Faery
land. And yet in some places els, I doe otherwise shadow her.
(Poetical Works 407).
The structure of allegory itself suggests the mnemonic procedure
inherent in placing images in places to trigger the memory. Craig Owens says

that, in allegory, "the image is a hieroglyph; an allegory is a rebus-writing

composed of concrete images" ("The Allegorical Impulse" 209), and one can

view this dynamic in the following description of a "memory for things"

image, in which a defense lawyer mnemonically inscribes the following in
his memory place:

We shall imagine the man in question as lying ill in bed, if we
know him personally. If we do not know him, we shall yet take
some one to be our invalid, but not a man of the lowest class, so
that he may come to mind at once. And we shall place the
defendant at the bedside, holding in his right hand a cup, in his
left, tablets, and on the fourth finger, a ram's testicles. In this
way we can have in memory the man who was poisoned, the
witnesses, and the inheritance. (Yates 11)

40Spenser uses the same "shady" language in the Letter to Ralegh, in which he again is in the
mode of apology: "To some I know this Methode will seeme displeasaunt, which had rather
haue good discipline delivered plainly in way of precepts, or sermoned at large, as they use
then thus clowdily enwrapped in Allegorical deuise" (Poetical Works 407).

The scene here visually represents all of the elements that the lawyer wishes

to recall; most notable is the grotesque depiction of the ram's testicles, which

is a visual pun on the Latin testes, meaning "witness." In her work on

allegory, Maureen Quilligan points to the relationship between the pun and

allegory as well when she calls attention to "the essential affinity of allegory

to the pivotal phenomenon of the pun, which provides a basis for the

narrative structure characteristic of the genre" (Quilligan 32).41

The vivid image of the ram's testicles also identifies the importance of

violence or grotesquery in the fabrication of these images. It was believed that

resorting to such methods facilitated image recall. Eugene Vance, following

consideration of Yates' work, writes, "Violence may be seen not only as the

'subject' of oral epic narrative, but also as an aide-memoire or as a generative

force in the production of such narrative. In a commemorative culture,

events of violence ... are given great prominence so that the collective

memory will be duly impressed with the pathos of 'history' as it is deployed:

violence as semiosis."42 One can easily see this aspect of the Art of Memory

in Spenser's The Faerie Queene, as David L. Miller points out in The Poem's

Two Bodies: "The mnemonic value of such vividness is a standard topic of

Renaissance rhetoric and poetics, and forms a basic strategy of Spenser's

41This is, in part, the grammatologist's interest in the memory palace tradition, as it calls for a
kind of writing that embodies the picto-ideo-grammatical Writing that Derrida tries to
encourage: "The images for a word or term were generated by techniques similar to those
Derrida uses for his rebus or cartouche writing-antonomasia, puns, paragrams" (Ulmer,
Applied Grammatology 73). The visual puns employed in the memory palace tradition
provide the kind of rebus-writing for which grammatology strives.

42Eugene Vance, Mervelous Signals: Poetics and Sign Theory in the Middle Ages (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1986) 54. Vance's chapter on the Song of Roland is in itself a
grammatological study of the poem as a manifestation of the effects of a shift from orality to
literacy in relation to the purpose of memory: "Though it would be silly to insist that the Song
of Roland is first and foremost a Song of Writing, we have every right to examine its implicit
models of self-representation for indices of an epistemological crisis rooted in the competing
cultural functions of speech and writing" (81).

gothic extravagance in The Faerie Queene. (24). One need only think of the
more "memorable" moments of the poem, for instance when in Book One
the dragon Errour is described as an "vgly monster plaine,/Halfe like a
serpent horribly displaide,/But th'other halfe did womans shape
retaine,/Most lothsom, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdaine" (I.i.14.6-9),
who daily feeds "A thousand yong ones ... /Sucking vpon her poisonous

dugs, eachone/Of sundry shapes, yet all ill fauored" (I.i.15.5-7), or at the end of
Book One canto eight when Duessa is stripped naked, she is described in the
following vivid terms:
Her dried dugs, like bladders lacking wind,
Hong down, and filthy matter from them weld;
her wrizled skin as rough, as maple rind,
So scabby was, that would haue loathd all womankind.

Her neather parts, the shame of all her kind,
My chaster Muse for shame doth blush to write;
But at her rompe she growing had behind
A foxes taile, with dong all fowly dight:
And eke her feete most monstrous were insight;
For one of them was like an Eagles claw,
With griping talaunts armd to greedy fight,
The other like a Beares vneuen paw:
More vgly shape yet neuer liuing creature saw. ( 1.8.48)
Despite the influence of his "chaster Muse," Spenser manages to follow

through with this detailed description of Duessa's weatherr parts" with the
purpose, I am arguing, of providing a memorable image in the same way that
one was trained to do in learning the Art of Memory.
There is also evidence in the tradition of the Art of Memory indicating
that the personification that suffuses allegorical writing and representation
was employed as part of the process of memorization. Yates again is helpful:
here she tells of an illustrated memory-image of Lady Grammar found in
Johannes Romberch's book, published in 1520: "Though devoid of aesthetic

charm, Romberch's Grammar is of importance to the student of artificial

memory. She proves the point that personifications, such as the familiar

figures of the liberal arts, when reflected in memory, become memory

images" (120). The personifications in The Faerie Queene are so pervasive a

part of Spenser's allegory that it would be tedious to catalogue them all.

These personifications, combined with the number of memorable "places" in

which they occur (for example, Errour in her cave or Acrasia in the Bower of

Bliss), fall within the tradition of the memory palace. The poem thus has an

overall effect of being structured like a memory palace: each book has its hero

who wanders from memory place to memory place, encountering person-

ifications of vices and virtues that are meant to be easily remembered:

Errour's den, the House of Lucifera, Orgoglio's castle, the House of Holiness,

the Castle of Medina, the Cave of Mammon, the House of Alma, the Bower of

Bliss, etc.43

Probably the most obvious example of a memory palace occurs in the

latter part of Book Two, when Arthur and Guyon visit and defend the House

of Alma. The knights tour the allegorical body of the castle, entering through

the mouth and then traversing the digestive tract, the heart, and finally the

head. In the head (the tower), they visit three compartments presided over by

three guardians: Phantastes (representing foresight and fantasy), an unnamed

steward that some give the name Judgment, who manages the other two

faculties, and Eumnestes (representing memory). The description of these

43Nico van den Boogaard, in his treatment of the Roman de la Rose, finds evidence that
Guillaume de Lorris employed the "habit of mind" one finds in artificial memory practices,
which involve locating striking images in particular loci. He finds in particular the passage
enumerating the various species of birds inside the garden as employing this technique: "Je ne
vois qu'un seule explication: l'auteur a donn6 cette description sous 'influence de certaines
habitudes de pens6e. II imaginait des loci diffdrents et il plaqait dans chaque lieu une espoce
d'oiseau. Je ne crois pas qu'il ait trouv6 cette disposition dans la tradition du locus amaenus"

loci and the relationships of the custodians constitute an allegory of the

mnemonic process one finds in the memory palace tradition.

The structure of the turret itself can be seen as a mnemonic of the three

parts of the mind as conceived in medieval philosophy and personified by the

above figures44: they are described as rooms in which allegorical personages

Therein were diuerse roomes and diuerse stages
But three the chiefest, and of greatest powre,
In which there dwelt three honorable sages,
The wisest men, I weene, that liued in their ages. (II.9.47.6-9)

The room, or "cell," was a typical part of a memory palace, a room in which

some memorable image was stored. "Celia, the word used by Geoffrey of

Vinsauf for the memory, also means 'storeroom,' as indeed its derivative

form, cellarium, English 'cellar,' still indicates" (Carruthers 35). The

descriptions of each of the chambers, too, invoke the memory palace

tradition. Phantastes' chamber was "dispainted all within,/With sundry

colours, in the which were writ/Infinite shapes of things" (I1.9.50.1-3). The

walls of the second room, too, "Were painted faire with memorable gestes,/Of

famous Wisards, and with picturals/Of Magistrates, of courts, of tribunals .

(I.9.53.3-5). And though Eumnestes' chamber is not described in terms of


His chamber all was hangd about with rolles,
And old records from ancient times deriu'd,
Some made in books, some in long parchment scrolles,
That were all worme-eaten, and full of canker holes. (
The books and scrolls, the "memorable gestes / Of famous Wizards," the

"Infinite shapes of things" written on the walls all suggest the characteristics

44See Mary Carruthers's The Book of Memory, chapter two on "Descriptions of the neuro-
psychology of memory" for an in-depth presentation of medieval conceptions of cognitive

of mnemotechnics. These are memory places that store information in the
form of visual and written material.

Another clue pointing to this tradition resides in Phantastes' chamber,
which is filled with flies "Like many swarmes of Bees assembled round/After
their hiues with honny do abound" (I1.9.51.3-4). Carruthers speaks of the
conflation of bees and memory:

The compartments made by bees for their honey are called
cellae (still called "cells" in English).... Bees and birds are also
linked by persistent associations with memory and ordered
recollection. Indeed there is a long-standing chain or, perhaps
the better word, a texture of metaphor that likens the placement
of memory-images in a trained memory to the keeping of birds
and to the honey-making of bees. Trained memory is also
linked metaphorically to a library. And the chain is completed
by a metaphoric connection of books in a library both to
memories placed in orderly cells and to birds and bees in their
coops and hives. (35-36)
The presence of bees in this passage, then, is consistent with traditional

representations of the arts of memory, as is Eumnestes' library, full of rolls,

scrolls, and books. But here in this library are two important books, books
that the heroes of Book Two will read throughout the next canto. These
books, one called Antiquitie of Faerie lond, the other Briton Moniments,

serve a mnemonic function for Spenser's representationn of British history.
The contents of the books themselves, selected as they were by Spenser,
become evidence of their import in terms of the allegorical function of the

three guardians Phantastes, "Judgment," and Eumnestes.
According to David L. Miller, the most important of these figures is
Judgment, as he is the only one among them, in stanza 54, said to "meditate"
("There sate a man of ripe and perfect age,/Who did them meditate all his life
long"). Miller points out the parallel to Diet, who is similarly described in
stanza 27 as being "rype of age,/And in demeanure sober, and in counsel

sage" (27.8-9), and he suggests that the numerological coincidence (27 doubled

is 54) is no accident, and as such constitutes an allusion to Spenser (as Diet is a
"dispenser"): "Certainly there is an analogy between the functions performed

by Diet and Judgment: each within his own sphere chooses and directs, and
so shadows the poet's responsibility for the allegorical dispensation of his
narrative" (185). Miller calls this relationship among the three guardians a
"radical allegory of Spenserian poesis insofar as "the meditative function of

the sage who operates [in the middle chamber] implicitly gathers memory
[Eumnestes] and imagination [Phantastes] into itself" (188). Such is the stated

purpose of The Faerie Queene as Spenser states in his "Letter to Ralegh": "a
Poet thrusteth into the middest, euen where it most concerneth him, and
there recoursing to the things forepaste [the stated realm of Eumnestes], and
diuining of things to come [the stated role of Phantastes], maketh a pleasing

Analysis of all" (Poetical Works 408).
And this becomes the purpose of the apparently haphazard representa-
tion of the histories: "In his treatment of the history Spenser therefore

implants certain patterns that invite the reader to exercise the synthetic
faculty of the middle chamber .. ." (Miller 200). This reading of Spenser the
dispenser of his allegory, implanting patterns for readers to discover, though
invoking the intentional fallacy, serves my reading of Alma's castle as a
memory palace. Part of the memory palace tradition involves choosing what

to remember and storing it in a particular place in the palace with an image.
This is the role of Spenser and Judgment: the selection and arrangement of
imaginative elements allegorizing the memorial texts of British history, into
which Spenser writes Queen Elizabeth as rightful heir and successor.45

45The irony of this arrangement can be seen in Spenser's description of the flies/bees swarming
in Phantastes' chamber, a description which figures the anxiety Spenser feels about employing
allegory for his purposes: "All those were idle thoughts and fantasies,/Deuices, dreams,

Spenser becomes the palace architect of the books (memory "palaces" in

themselves), of Alma's Castle, of The Faerie Queene itself. As such, Spenser

engages the tradition of the memory palace in his attempt to inscribe the

Queen, as well as himself, in (literary) history.

Ralegh recognizes this project of inscription in his Commendatory

Verse, posing a rhetorical question which serves as a warning to the poet:

If thou hast formed right true vertues face herein:
Vertue her selfe can best discerne, to whom they written bin.
If thou hast beautie praysd, let her sole looks diuine
ludge if ought therein be amis, and mend it by her eine.
If Chastitie want ought, or Temperance her dew,
Behold her Princely mind aright, and write the Queene anew.
(Poetical Works 409; emphasis added)

Ralegh warns Spenser to re-write his poem if it does not please the Queen, if

he has not, that is, formed herface properly. He recognizes here the nature

of Spenser's act as an act of prosopopoeia, of "face-making." Insofar as The

Faerie Queene is an act of memorializing, of remembering the Queen before

her death, this act of prosopopoeia takes on a mnemonic function. I will

explore in the next chapter the extent to which prosopopoeia is a mnemonic

device and the various ways that Spenser, as memorial poet, as architect of

memory palaces, employs this device and what this means in terms of

Spenser's position within the transitional period of the sixteenth century.

opinions vnsound,/Shewes, visions, sooth says, and prophesies;/And all that failed is, as
leasing, tales, and lies" (II.9.51.6-9). The Faerie Queene is filled with leasingg, tales, and
lies." Much has been said about Spenser's anxiety concerning his allegorical project. See, for
instance, Kenneth Gross: "This double valence of the imaginative work, its mingling of tyranny
and freedom, is something that the poem confronts with a certain anxiety.... [T]he poet seems
to work through such conflicts by the nearly obsessive repetition of scenes in which icons,
statues, phantasms, illusions and so on are first elaborately described and then summarily
transgressed, broken, dissolved" (16). See also Jacqueline Miller in Poetic License, in which she
corrects the failure in other readers to locate the source of Spenser's anxiety within the
fundamental basis of allegory. See page 100-101.


Spenser, with his use of the memory palace tradition in his writing,

comes at the end of a long tradition of rhetorical pedagogy. The memory

palace was effective for centuries as a method of organizing information that
one wished to access in one's mind. During the Middle Ages, however, this
process began to be externalized somewhat upon the page, so that the

grotesque images that one once generated as a means of recalling information
come to be placed in the margins of medieval manuscripts to facilitate

memorization of entire pages for the purpose of remembering entire books.

The book becomes a mnemonic prosthesis at this point, a "technology of the
word" as Ong might call it, a tool of information storage and retrieval. After
the advent of the new technology of the printing press, further development
of mnemotechniques occurred, when Ramus developed his mnemonic

system based on outlining dichotomies, spatially arranging words only on the
page. This resulted in a transformation of mnemonic practices which
dropped the pre-print strategies of the memory palace for the new Ramist
methods such that for centuries the memory palace tradition has been
ignored as a viable means of information storage and retrieval.
With the advent of electronic technologies at the end of the twentieth
century, however, a new technology of information storage and retrieval has
come upon the scene of rhetorical pedagogy, one demanding a reconsidera-

tion of information storage strategies as they have been practiced with past

"technologies of the word" and how they might be practiced with new

technologies such as hypertext, video, and virtual reality. Acknowledging

this current state of transition, this dissertation addresses the problem of

storing and retrieving information in the electronic medium of hypertext.

Strategies for storing information within this medium will involve practices

that will differ somewhat from storing information in print form. For this

reason, alternative strategies must be sought to employ the maximum

potential of the medium. One realm for such researching, I am suggesting, is

the Early Modern period, a time similar to our own in that a new mnemonic

system was coming into being-the print-driven Ramist system of

outlining-which displaced the classical tradition of the memory palace. The

sixteenth century saw the culmination of mnemonic practices that began with

the Greeks and truly flourished in the centuries preceding it, during the

Middle Ages, when the emphasis on visual stimuli for mnemonic recall

found its expression in the monastic artistry of marginalia.1 While the

ancient mnemotechnique of establishing a fixed set of places in which one

stored esoteric, often grotesque images meant to trigger the memory took the

backseat to the Ramist method, the current technologies are such that these

practices, abandoned as they were by the educational institution during the

sixteenth century, may have something to offer in solving this current


1Mary Carruthers tells of a set of glossed books of Psalms made in the twelfth century that
manifests this property of mnemonic marginalia: "One of their more original features is the use
of painted figures to help fix the page as a mnemonically functional visual image. These
figures usually inhabit the outermost margins of the page.... In addition to these figures,
several of the psalms have emblematic pictures painted next to their opening words; unlike the
citational figures, these can occur in the inner margin where the gloss itself is written, as well
as in the outermost one, suggesting that they too were considered essential in the gloss, and
acted as markers for these particular psalms" (216).