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date: 02 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

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.

Keywords: baroque, discourse, essay, rhetoric, prose style, copia, ingenuity

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