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The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200 (Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature) Paperback – 26 Oct 2000

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The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200 (Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature) + The Medieval Craft of Memory: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (Material Texts) + The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (26 Oct. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521795419
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521795418
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.6 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 327,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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'This is a vigorous and learned book.' David Griffith, Expository Times

Book Description

The Craft of Thought, first published in 1998, examines medieval monastic meditation as a discipline for making thoughts, and discusses its influence on literature, art, and architecture, deriving examples from a variety of late antique and medieval sources, with excursions into modern architectural memorials.

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This study could be thought of as an extended meditation on the myth that Mnemosyne, "memory," is the mother of all the Muses. Read the first page
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. L. Ashcroft-nowicki on 17 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How I wish I had had this book to read years ago. As someone who has taught meditation /contemplation for over 40 years it gave me a whole new insight into these disciplines. Discovering the differences between how we approach meditation now and how it was taught and practiced hundreds of years ago has been a wonder and a delight. The main surprise being that their idea of meditation was closer to what my own school calls "Pathworking," than meditation as practised via the Eastern Approach.

Written with clarity and a richness of understanding this is a book to treasure and one I will be recommending to my advanced students, supervisors, and initiates.
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki
Director of Studies Servants of the The Light School of Occult Science.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Cultivating Mental Expertise 28 July 2005
By B. Madigan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This interesting but challenging book examines the disciplined mental habits of Christian monks in the period from late antiquity to the early middle ages. Christian monastic traditions evolved in a world quite alien to modern sensibilities. The monasteries themselves were isolated and insular. Daily life was austere and focused on paying homage to God through meditative prayer. Over time, the monks developed a meditative technology that included memory skills, emotional control, and creative expression. These practices are what Professor Carruthers means by The Craft of Thought, and she does an admirable job of helping moderns appreciate the accomplishments of these diligent and inventive ancients.

The book argues that monastic practices were rhetorical devices that lead their followers step by step to a point where they were able to meditate in ways that illuminated the canonical teachings of their faith. Her point that cultural practices can serve rhetorical functions is well illustrated in the book.

The monks were highly disciplined. They developed specialized memory techniques and applied them to learning scriptures. They were skillful in creating and recalling visual images. Meditation put these skills and others in play. First the monk established facilitating conditions - prostrating oneself while weeping, for example - then he recalled scriptures and used them to devise new visions to better capture the glory of God.

The book was a difficult read for me because of my weak background in medieval studies. Professor Carruthers wrote primarily for her colleagues in this area, and so she omitted contextual and historical background information. I also found the organization of her chapters somewhat loose so that the various bits and pieces did not always come together for me. However, overall I was pleased with the book. It gave me a learned scholar's insights into the cognitive techniques of medieval monastic life.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
All books by Mary Carruthers are great overviews of the topic and show a few techniques ... 19 Oct. 2014
By You'll Never Know - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All books by Mary Carruthers are great overviews of the topic and show a few techniques at memorization. The purpose of the book is not to teach the methods but rather place it in a cultural and historical perspective.
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