Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chairperson

Amy Anderson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eleanor Shevlin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Justin Rademaekers, Ph.D.


The term “mnemotechnics” has been misinterpreted by scholars due to a lack of a clear and concise definition available for reference. Though there are contemporary scholarship references to mnemotechnics, these references avoid a definition and are often in a context that does not consider how ancient rhetoricians utilized the practice. Without a concise and unified definition, the term mnemotechnics takes on a variety of divergent meanings through different scholarship, preventing a similarity in terms to ideas and obscuring the practice of the rhetoricians who utilized mnemotechnics. In this thesis, the writings of Quintilian, Augustine of Hippo, and the anonymous author of the Rhetorica ad Herennium — referred to as Pseudo-Cicero — are evaluated alongside contemporary works by Mary Carruthers and Lina Bolzoni to create a clear definition for mnemotechnics in three parts. This newly clarified definition is then compared to works utilizing mnemotechnics to understand the impact that a lack of a clarified definition has caused. Scholarships relating to multiple disciplines that utilize mnemotechnics are then presented in which usages of mnemotechnics do not align with the clarified definition. Finally, scholarship that could benefit from this clarified definition is offered to illustrate points of clarity for where a long misinterpreted rhetorical practice can be understood and new academic conversations about mnemotechnics can be had.

Included in

Rhetoric Commons