Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road (2006) and Chilean artist Demian Schopf’s photographic exhibits embody the Baroque’s notorious contradictory nature: the baroque is at once joyful and sad. One wing of baroque expression, with historical roots in the Catholic religious baroque, is closely associated with the melancholic contemplation of ruin, death, and catastrophe. At the other end of the spectrum, there is the Deleuzian principle of becoming-minor, the program of the rebellious consumption of tradition and of re-creating existing forms. In The Road, McCarthy memorializes post-apocalyptic ruin in a grand baroque style reminiscent of Robert Burton and Sir Thomas Browne. Conversely, Schopf’s portraits of harquebus-brandishing angels and Andean dancers in colorful costumes embodying Christian and pagan figures recover the Andean mestizo baroque, one of the major expressions of the transculturating New World baroque. McCarty’s post-apocalyptic baroque meditates on death, extinction and finitude; Schopf’s joyful baroque celebrates the creativity of culture and its evolution toward greater diversity.
The city was a primary theater of Baroque rhetorical projection. At once political, anagogical, and aesthetic, from its built form to the ephemeral structures and processions that animated it, the Baroque city was shaped into a theatrical space. The city was also a microcosm, a world in miniature. Political means were directed toward the representation of civic harmony, the concordance of the civic and the celestial, and the mirror of Justice; beauty was not only an aesthetic experience, it was a sign of a harmonious society. This chapter focuses on several cities that are representative of some critical aspects of Baroque urbanism. Beginning in Rome, where many of the techniques of Baroque urban design were generated, it tracks their propagation to Paris and across France, to Germany, and finally to Amsterdam. The picture that emerges depicts those characteristics of the Baroque city that made it both unique and influential.
Between the the late sixteenth and the mid-seventeenth century, European diplomacy undergoes a dramatic expansion. New forms of representation and negotiation—summed up in Richelieu’s call for a “constant negotiation, ceaselessly and everywhere”—result in an increasingly complicated diplomatic world. These changes in practice are discussed in theories of diplomacy, but their implications may be most clearly seen in imaginary—that is, literary—depictions of diplomacy. The chapter studies a number of moments of diplomatic confusion, in plays by Shakespeare, Calderón, and Rotrou. It shows that these plays depict the changing political and moral role of the ambassador, the relationship between diplomacy and other forms of power, and the importance of new forms of communication. The essay also explores the largely neglected role of diplomacy in modern theories of the Baroque.
Christopher D. Johnson
This entry describes how discourse in the Baroque period variously functioned as a sophisticated, often subtle, and sometimes exorbitant means of mediating between words and things, between emergent, conflicted selves, and a world perceived as illusory. Such discourse tended to prize ingenuity, learning, difficulty, and novelty. Comprising many nonfictional prose genres, from the essay to the aphorism, Baroque discourse saw the cultivation of pointed, conceited, paratactic, and digressive prose styles. Vehicles for retrospective and prospective, deductive, and inductive modes of thought, such styles drew on the classical and humanist legacy even as they helped writers express novel cultural, political, epistemological, and metaphysical concerns. Such heterogeneity aside, exemplary writers such as Burton, Browne, Marino, Balzac, Pascal, Kircher, Leibniz, Quevedo, Gracián, Sor Juana, and Sigüenza y Góngora, all cultivated versions of a prosaic “I,” a self that tried to negotiate coincidentia oppositorum and mediate information overload.
Downing A. Thomas
The fundamental assumption of commentators from the early modern period is that tasteful music functions simultaneously to express sentiment and to move listener-spectators. The three core elements of the baroque operatic spectacle—poetry, music, and dance—are defined by their ability to express and convey passion. Commentators point to the particular ability of musical language—and its combination with poetry and movement—to represent that which is out of reach of spoken language, or below the threshold of linguistic representation. Although both dramma per musica and the tragédie en musique arose and were fundamentally grounded in monarchical cultural worlds, both also endured successfully as public art forms. Aesthetically, baroque opera exhibits and revels in nested structures, manifested in plays within plays and in references that place the operatic moment within a social world outside the opera. Opera left this aesthetic behind as it moved into the second half of the eighteenth century, influenced by the views of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the works of Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck among others.
In terms of sexuality, the Baroque period sees an evolution culminating in more clear-cut definitions and fixity: the establishment of two dimorphic sexes, which sustain physiologically grounded sexual and gender roles, concomitant with, and sustained in part by, the definition and marginalization of the homosexual. The modern sexual identities thus established depend no less on the emergence of the introspective, desiring subject, whose elaboration begins in the context of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations and the ensuing reorganization of the central religious and social institutions of confession and marriage. However, all these developments happened gradually and unevenly. Consequently, the Baroque is irreducibly marked by transition, multiplicity, lability, complexity, and the coexistence of differing models, ideas, and practices. As such, the Baroque defies dichotomous thinking and challenges historians of sexuality to move beyond entrenched and opposing “continuist” and “differentialist” approaches.
“Baroque” is not a political concept. To speak of the “baroque state” implies that the epoch denoted as “the baroque” by art historians (the late sixteenth to eighteenth centuries) has certain significant commonalities in political terms as well. This chapter tries to describe a particular political style that linked the countries of Christian Europe to one another. It was characterized by the idea of the state as an artefact, coupled with a love of geometry, theatricality, and ceremonial order, a general climate of competition, and finally a fundamental tension between ideal order and factual disorder. This common political style of the baroque states was shaped by omnipresent competition between potentates. Since this competition was conducted with military, diplomatic, and artistic means at the same time, it makes sense to transfer the category “baroque” from art and literature to the political realm.
In the global history of spectacles, the baroque era constitutes an acme not only because it encompasses the most influential corpus of Western drama but also because of the unprecedented use of stagecraft in the pursuit of political goals. At a time when the world-as-theater metaphor reached the apex of its relevance, nowhere was it more aptly enacted than in the royal, imperial, ducal, and princely courts of Europe. Spectacle events were an integral part of life at court; although on the surface their purpose was providing entertainment, in the modern sense of gratuitous distraction, their function was almost always more complex as it pertained to diplomacy, propaganda, or governance. Moreover, the unfettered pursuit of distinction and the need for the extraordinary in all of its forms made the baroque court a creative laboratory in which all disciplines (drama, ballet, music, gardening, cuisine) could be practiced at the highest possible levels of excellence, and in which myriad influential artistic forms were first developed.
It is not a coincidence that the development of the baroque aesthetic occurred at the same time that France was experiencing its first sustained intellectual and artistic engagement with India. As the accounts of travelers such as François Bernier and Jean-Baptiste Tavernier illustrate, the seventeenth-century aesthetic in France bears the traces of this Indian encounter. By engaging with Mughal India and transmitting their experiences through art and written accounts, early modern Europeans promoted a fusion of cultures, not an ideology, whereby Western culture imposed its aesthetic on a less “civilized” Eastern world. Our understanding of the baroque can be enriched by a new contextualization that privileges conversation and global networks over the traditional compartmentalization according to national origins or periodization. What we now identify as baroque, a taste for complexity, for randomness and diversity, is not a purely European aesthetic.
Most histories of witchcraft used to emphasize either the irrational, religious, or ecclesiastical sources of witchcraft prosecution, or else they portrayed witches as dissident women, persecuted for their knowledge or assertiveness. Both rationalists and romantics imagined witchcraft as a conspiracy of some sort. From circa 1970, social historians showed that those accused were rarely dissidents or village healers. Most accusations originated in village fears of harmful magic rather than in the scholastic imaginations of inquisitorial prosecutors. The end of witchcraft trials, therefore, involved both a decline in belief in efficacious magic and changes in legal procedure. Changes came at different times and ways across Europe. Efforts to see the end of witchcraft trials as an expression of “the baroque” might focus on the growing effort among artists, authors, and intellectual leaders to maintain a comprehensive and unified world view, a task that was becoming more difficult by the eighteenth century.
Joshua David Bellin
The Indians whom English colonists encountered did not possess written languages, and it was not until the nineteenth century that significant numbers of Indian authors began to publish writings in English. This article traces the few Indian voices in early American Literature. What this means is that Indian “voices” in early American literature are mediated; they come to us not from the Indians themselves but through non-Indian writers. And these writers, whether or not they tried to present the Indians' words accurately, were limited by a number of factors. First, they were required to translate the Indians' words from their original languages into English. It is easy to see that Indian voices in early American literature are unlikely to be precise transcripts of what the Indians actually said. But the issue of cultural factor affects the reliability of Indian voices in early American literature. Clubbed with it were social, religious, and economic aspects which influenced American Literature.
This essay offers a critical overview of recent and current debates on the cultural significance of erotic, obscene, and pornographic writing from the long eighteenth century. The period 1660-1800 saw a new emphasis on interiority and the individual, a restructuring of sexual and gender categories, and an increasing division between public and private. Narratives of sexual education and danger were a vehicle through which authors and readers could engage with these broad cultural changes; they also contributed to a view of sexuality as the inmost truth of the self. This essay’s first part addresses theoretical debates over the nature of pornography and its relation to such categories as the erotic and obscene, while the second offers a history of the making of a pornographic canon, overlapping with the canons of amatory fiction and the novel. It reads this history in light of censorial anxieties over the dangers of private reading, especially for women; the threat of foreign contamination of English culture; and the use of voyeurism to penetrate the boundary separating private from public.
This article explores how changing ideas about time and time-telling had a powerful and lasting impact upon the literature of the long eighteenth century (i.e., c. 1660–c. 1830). After a brief overview of the dominant technological, scientific, and philosophical preoccupations, the discussion concentrates on influential recent critical studies of topics such as the relationship between clock time and narrative structure in the novels of Samuel Richardson and Laurence Sterne, the appearance of poetical subgenres directly inspired by mechanical timepieces, and the characteristic skepticism of certain Romantic authors toward the alleged merits of temporal rationalization. Although most of these studies have focused on how the (quasi-)isochronicity of pocket watches and pendulum clocks directly influenced particular literary forms, structures, and themes, this article concludes by arguing that the relationship between literature and time was (in fact) partially reciprocal, and that the former therefore sometimes profoundly altered contemporaneous attitudes toward the practical business of time-telling.
This article discusses the printed works produced by Samuel Pepys during his lifetime, along with significant references to him in print by his contemporaries. Pepys’s own print contributions ranged from news reports on Charles II’s Restoration to self-vindicating naval Memoires (1690). Having been the subject of a libel during the Popish Plot in 1679, Pepys was himself criticized for authoring libels as a result of his pamphlet campaign to reform Christ’s Hospital (1698–1699). Pepys’s strategic uses of publication media mean that following his career is a way to investigate the boundaries between print and manuscript publication in the late seventeenth century and examine the association of these media with concepts of private and public. Pepys’s uses of print also provide an important context for interpreting his intentions concerning the preservation and circulation of his diary of the 1660s, which was to remain unprinted until the nineteenth century.
This essay examines three twentieth-century intellectuals, Walter Benjamin, Jacques Lacan, and Gilles Deleuze, who, inspired by historical baroque thought or cultural production, developed a body of thought around the concept “baroque” that has in turn pollinated a new field of inquiry that continues to thrive today. These groupings are only partially distinct because, as we will see, the philosophical Baroque draws in some ways from baroque philosophy, although it is more often and obviously motivated by reflections on aesthetics and form. Each of these thinkers was concerned with a distinct aspect or figure of baroque culture or thought. In Walter Benjamin’s case, he drew out significant aspects of the Baroque in his never-to-be-accepted Habilitationsschrift on German tragic drama. In Jacques Lacan’s case, he devoted several weeks of his 1972–1973 seminar on feminine sexuality to the Baroque. Finally, Gilles Deleuze’s contribution came in the form of a book-length study of the German baroque philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz. In this essay, I summarize what each of these thinkers extracted from his engagement with that specific aspect of baroque culture or thought that fascinated him at the time, before concluding with some thoughts about how these three, in many ways wildly different thinkers, overlap in their consideration of the Baroque.
Travel literature emerges in letters, diaries, journals, biographies, travel narratives, country house guides, ship’s logs, poems, plays—and the novel feeds on them all. From London as a source of topographical mystery to be penetrated even by its inhabitants, to the newly tourable country estates; from the recently domesticated wilds of Scotland and Ireland, to the paths of the Grand Tour in Europe; and from the exotic lands across the seas to life on the sea itself, the rhetorics of travel supplied hosts of models for narrative and imagery in the early novel. The novel every bit as much as travel-writing is an exercise in ethnographic observation, sharing an interest in closely observed and analysed detail, in the similarities and differences of other cultures, in the remarkableness of the ordinary and the sometimes surprising familiarity of the unknown, and with journey at the centre of both.