From “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” by Nicholas Carr.
The Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus…who as a schoolboy had memorized great swathes of classical literature, including the complete works of the poet Horace and the playwright Terence, was not recommending memorization for memorization’s sake or as a rote exercise for retaining facts. To him, memorizing was far more than a means of storage. It was the first step in a process of synthesis, a process that led to a deeper and more personal understanding of one’s reading.
He believed, as the classical historian Erika Rummell explains, that a person should ‘digest or internalize what he learns and reflect rather than slavishly reproduce the desirable qualities of the model author.’ Far from being a mechanical, mindless process, Erasmus’s brand of memorization engaged the mind fully. It required, Rummel writes, ‘creativeness and judgment.’