CFP: Memory and Poiesis between Aesthetics and Rhetoric

Submission deadline: November 30, 2023

Topic areas


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Memory and Poiesis between Aesthetics and Rhetoric

Edited by Amalia Salvestrini and Fosca Mariani Zini

Among the various fields that have historically contributed to the constitution of Aesthetics as an autonomous discipline in the 18th century is rhetoric, from which Aesthetics has taken terms, concepts and problems that it later develops and transforms (Saint Girons; Franzini; etc.). One of the themes with which the relationship between Aesthetics and Rhetoric can be investigated is memory, understood in its poietic dimension that concerns various fields of human productive and artistic activity.

The issue will be divided into two sections: the first will specifically explore the theme of memory, the second will open the debate around the possibility of the relationship between Aesthetics and Rhetoric.

Section I

Memory, the fourth part of rhetoric after inventio, dispositio, elocutio and before actio, has not only a receptive dimension, so to speak, in which experiential data are deposited, and in particular, as far as rhetoric is concerned, the elements of the discourse to be delivered are deposited in an organised manner. Memory also has a poietic, creative dimension, which is in some ways connected to inventio and which reworks acquired data. Thanks to its structure, whether natural or artificial, memory not only provides the places within which to organise discourse, but also the inventive basis for the creative elaboration of data. In the interaction between inventio and memoria, i.e. between the ability to find the appropriate arguments and the reasoning schemes that structure the rhetorical memory, the poietic and creative activity is generated, and enables the production of something new, a work, such as speech in the case of the rhetorician. The dislocation of rhetorical concepts in different disciplines, visible for example in the use of the rhetoric conveniens or decor in other disciplines such as theology or architecture, makes one reflect on the possibility that rhetorical memory, and specifically the poietic meaning of memory, also goes to structure cognitive and productive processes in other spheres.

In classical rhetoric, and Ciceronian rhetoric in particular (see F. Yates, The Art of Memory), the poietic value of memory emerges in the possibility of arranging in “artificially” reorganised mental spaces the material of discourse and thereby constructing it. Poiesis thus occurs as much in the construction of a memory building, as attested to by the numerous architectural metaphors that delimit the spaces ready to accommodate the discursive material. For example, it happens in the composition of the discourse itself, when its elements are first found (inventio) among the available loci, to be later fixed in the memory building, once congruously arranged according to the rules of the aptum and ornatus.

Mary Carruthers’ studies have amply shown how in the early Middle Ages memory techniques were used for meditation on the sacred page, contributing to the construction of veritable edifices of thought in which material was not only neatly conserved, but also available and rearranged in a variety of ways. There is the fabrication of mental images or cognitive frameworks for thinking and composing, but also monastic art develops in the sense of an "aesthetic of memory" rather than representation and mimesis. In addition, memory acquires the role of a "cogitation matrix" in order to retrieve and reconfigure memories according to a "random access mnemonic scheme", following a "memorial architecture".

In the light of these premises, the central question arises around which this call intends to gather contributions in order to outline possible answers: to what extent have the modes of poiesis been given according to a rhetorical space, inventive rather than receptive, of memory?

We welcome contributions on any historical period, from antiquity to the contemporary, and in any philosophical and artistic sphere (painting, music, architecture, etc.) that intend to pay attention to poietic forms that have enacted rhetorical structures and strategies of memory. This kind of enactment can be found both at the level of the project, i.e. of conception, and at the level of the work and its aesthetic fruition, where for example an element of the (art)work is assumed as a place of memory with a precise “persuasive” purpose.

The main question concerning the rhetorical scope of human poiesis can thus be articulated in the following areas:

-        Memory in the process of poietic conception

-        The work as sedimentation of memory and inventive openness

-        The sites of memory and the rhetorical effects on the passions

-        Memory and rhetoric in the arts (painting, architecture, music, etc.)

Section II

The issue also includes a more general section aimed at stimulating theoretical and historiographical debate around the possibility of the relationship between aesthetics and rhetoric. The dialectic between reason and sensibility, demonstration and argumentation is one of the theoretical points on which the debate has been conducted at least in the last century (e.g. Perelman and Preti), even though it has its roots in history. Reflections on the relationship between aesthetics and rhetoric have also resulted around specific aesthetic concepts of rhetorical origin, such as the sublime and metaphor, but have also involved issues both relating to knowledge in the context of postmodern perspectives on the undermining of truth (Gruppo µ), and relating to the rhetorical (social and artistic) strategies of the postmodern (Baudrillard).

The issue welcomes contributions that want to deepen the following themes, or others inspired by the perspective outlined here.

-        Demonstration/argumentation

-        Reason/feeling

-        Text and image

-        Sublime between aesthetics and rhetoric

-        Metaphor and knowledge

-        Rhetoric and postmodernism

-        Arts (painting, music, theatre, cinema, etc.) and rhetoric

Both articles and short notes on this topic will be accepted for this section.

Article deadline: 30 November 2023

Expected release: July 2024

Articles can be written in Italian, French and English

Articles should be sent to the following addresses:

- Amalia Salvestrini ([email protected])

- Fosca Mariani Zini ([email protected])

The texts, prepared according to editorial standards (, will be between 25,000 and 40,000 characters.

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