Nautilus

This Man Memorized a 60,000-Word Poem Using Deep Encoding

Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree,” John Basinger said aloud to himself, as he walked on a treadmill. “Of man’s first disobedience…” In 1992, at the age of 58, Basinger decided to memorize Paradise Lost, John Milton’s epic poem, as a form of mental activity while he was working out at the gym. An actor, he’d memorized shorter poems before, and he wanted to see how much of the epic he could remember. “As I finished each book,” he wrote, “I began to perform it and keep it alive in repertory while committing the next to memory.” 

The twelve books of Paradise Lost contain over

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