The Return of the Baroque
in Modern Culture
Gregg Lambert 2004 Reprinted 2006
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lambert, Gregg,
1961-The return of Baroque in modern culture/Gregg Lambert.
Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-8264-6648-6
1. Modernism (Literature) 2. Modernism (Aesthetics) 3. Postmodernism. 4. Literature, Modern—20th century—History and criticism. I. Tide.
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Introduction: Why the baroque?
Part One: Renovations of the Seventeenth-Century Baroque
1 Historical antecedents in baroque criticism and theory 2 The baroque mechanism: Jose Antonio Maravall 3 The baroque eon: Eugenio d'Ors
Part Two: Baroque and Modern
4 Baroque and anti-baroque: Octavio Paz
5 The rhetoric of baroque temporality: Paul de Man
6 The baroque angel of history: Walter Benjamin
Part Three: Baroque and Postmodern
7 The baroque thesis: Michel Foucault 8 Un recit baroque: Gerard Genette
9 From baroque emblem to postmodern panoramagram: Yury Lotman and Jacques Derrida
Part Four: Baroque and Postcolonial
1 0 The baroque conspiracy: Jorge-Luis Borges
1 1 Literature, taxonomy and "The New World': Severo Sarduy 12 The baroque return: Alejo Carpentier's Concierto Barroco
Conclusion: One or many baroques? Notes Bibliography Index vi 1 17 28 39 51 59 67 79 91 97 111 120 130
The first complete version of this book was drafted during the winter of 1994 in the San Gabriel Mountains near Lake Arrowhead, California, after which I placed it in a drawer upon realizing that I would need to engage in more learning on the subject of the Baroque. It seems fitting, therefore, that the final version of this study was submitted ten years later. During the intervening period, I have been guided and cautioned by several people whom I would now like to thank. Above all, I wish to thank my friend and former colleague Joel Reed, who first brought to my attention, perhaps as a warning, the passage from a letter from Benjamin to Scholem which now appears as the epigraph to this study. My understanding of the original European Baroque has been informed by two principal scholarly sources: Harold Segel's substantial introduction to The Baroque Poem (1974) and Frank Warnke's Versions of the Baroque (1972). My discussion of the 'Colonial Baroque' has been guided and greatly influenced by the works of the Hispanist critic Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, particularly his remark-able Celestina's Brood: Continuities of the Baroque in Spanish and Latin
American Literature (1993). I wish to acknowledge these sources here to
underscore my debt and my esteem for their authors. Finally, I want to express my gratitude to Jacques Derrida, Ronald Bogue, Alexander Gelley, J. Hillis Miller, Tristan Palmer and Gabriele Schwab - all of whom contributed their generous support and enthusiasm at different stages of this project.
Syracuse, New York, 8 January 2004
immediately slips into a hysterical imitation of it.
Benjamin to Scholem 16 September 1924
Introduction: Why the baroque?
Baroque, Barroco. 1. A jeweller's term: an irregular shaped, or flawed,
After a near-century of bickering with one another, literary critics and historians have reached a provisional agreement: the French adjectival term,
la baroque, is derived from the etymology of the Portuguese (not Spanish)
word, barroca, which means 'an odd and irregular-shaped pearl'. In 1962, Rene Wellek, the American literary critic, recanted the earlier position he propounded in his 1946 article, 'The Concept of the Baroque in Literary Scholarship', where he derived the term barroco from the fourth mode of the second figure in the nomenclature of syllogisms in Scholasticism, a type of syllogism considered strained and artificial: 'If every A=B and some C
does not equal B; then, some C does not equal A. '1 (This is also the primary
source that Borges cites in the 1954 preface to Universal History of Iniquity. ) However, as baroque historian Harold Segel later observes, Wellek later qualified his earlier statement, stating that while this syllogistic derivation may be true for Italy - after Croce first applied it to the concept of baroque sensibility in Storia della eta barocca in Italia (1929) - the term barroco probably reaches the rest of the world from a Portuguese jeweller's term,
perrola barroca, which refers to a flawed and imperfect pearl. 2
As Severo Sarduy later wrote, 'every essay on the Baroque opens by considering the origins of the term itself, as if the term could be described
as a proverbial bone in the throat of traditional baroque criticism. 3 This
study is no exception. Beyond this common etymological derivation, there has been little consensus in the history of baroque criticism as to what this term might signify across the different fields and disciplines of architecture, the plastic arts, literature and cultural criticism. From its very appearance in works of art criticism from the nineteenth century onward, this term was often confused with Mannerism, or simply as the exaggeration of traits already found in the works of the Renaissance; thus, it was often reduced to a period concept that occupies the middle ground between Renaissance and Classicism. After the 1960s, as Segel writes, the chronological value of Baroque and Mannerism - as in, which came first, or which could be understood in reaction to the other - dissipates in favour of seeing them as
expressions of two dominant and opposing styles in artistic expression that
run from antiquity through modernity. 4 (Although, the idea of the baroque
as a universal constant in opposition to classical forms could be said to be the late invention of a little-known Spanish art historian, Eugenio d'Ors, whom I will take up later on. ) It is this last observation that is crucial for this study, particularly since most of the critics I employ are drawn from this period, or immediately precede it. However, it is the view of two fundamentally opposing currents of cultural form - one emphasizing unity, the other multiplicity and 'vitalism' - that sets the stage for understanding the contemporary opposition between the modern and the postmodern according to a similar logic and, therefore, in a certain sense as the 'return' of this earlier Baroque-Mannerist opposition. Such a hypothesis would have enormous implications, the most provocative of which is that there is nothing particularly modern about the postmodern, but that it could be understood, in a certain sense, as a 'return of the Baroque'. For example, we might turn to read Jameson's major opposition proposed in his study
Post-modernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late-Capitalism (1991) according to
the terms of opposition earlier developed in the arguments concerning Baroque and Mannerism, where a certain taste for the unity and the monumental that is associated with the 'High Baroque' is cast in a direct
confrontation with the spare, witty and superficial Mannerist styles. 5 The
baroque, then, names a topic (in the rhetorical sense of a topos, a common place or theme in a certain class of arguments), one that returns quite often in critical representations of historical change in the concept of Culture.
One might already infer from this state of affairs that the history of baroque scholarship could easily be a subject of one of Borges' parodies of an arcane and esoteric style of 'academicism'. The various taxonomies of the different 'species' of the baroque (rococo, mannerist, high baroque,
precocious or metaphysical, neo-baroque and 'colonial baroque'} and the tables of
classification that have been generated by this field of scholarship could even be compared to the now famous passage from Borges' 'The Analytical Language of John Wilkins', concerning 'a certain Chinese encyclopaedia' in which animals are classified according to the following categories:
(a) belonging to the Emperor; (b) embalmed; (c) tame; (d) suckling pigs; (e) sirens; (f) fabulous; (g) stray dogs; (h) included in the present classification; (i) frenzied; (j) innumerable; (k) drawn with a very fine camel-hair brush; (1) et
cetera; (m) having just broken the water pitcher and; (n) that look like flies from a
long way off. 6
This infamous table of representation appears again in the preface of Foucault's The Order of Things, where Foucault speaks of the absurdity, humour and dizziness that occured when he first encountered 'the exotic
charm of another system of thought'. 7 As Foucault recounts in the passage
that immediately follows, however, this feeling of dizziness and pleasant vertigo is soon followed by a visible torpor, and this laughter is sobered by
the reflection that this 'monstrous' form of this classification (a series of blank spaces neatly divided by semi-colons and little letters) resembles our own encyclopaedia to such a degree that the knowledge derived from this other arrangement of 'words and things' (les mots et les choses), in fact, might simply be organized by a different fabula. s Of course, Foucault is playing with another classical topic in these statements: that of the mirror placed between words and things. It is the recognition of an uncanny presence of a fictionalizing factor at the basis of the organized tables of knowledge that suddenly threatens to overturn all the categories and to place the possibility of representation itself into crisis (even if this crisis, as in the account offered by Foucault, is only experienced as a moment of laughter). 'In the wonderment of this taxonomy', Foucault observes,
The thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that. [... ] The monstrous quality that runs through Borges' enumeration consists, on the contrary, in the fact that the common ground on which such meetings are possible has itself been destroyed. [... ] Where else could they be juxtaposed except in the non-place of language? Yet, though language can spread them before us, it can only do so in an unthinkable space. 9
Taking up the question of representation that is implied in Foucault's reaction to this passage, we might notice that the form of Borges' encyclopaedia entry resembles so closely a classical table of knowledge common to Western encyclopaedic knowledge, that its repetition in Borges' tale might be categorized as a distinctly baroque style of parody. The Borgesean encyclopaedia inserts the empty surface of a mirror between the form of knowledge and its contents, a mirror that reflects the 'no-place' of a structure that is common to both fiction and reality: On one side of this mirror's surface, there is an incongruous clarity one often associates with myth or fantasy; on the other, one finds a list of quotidian objects that seem to belong to the light of day (water pitchers, flies and cattle). Of course, we could also add to this the binary opposition of East-West that already informs the fabulous space of Borges' depiction of 'a certain Chinese Encyclopaedia' ('the exotic charm of another system of thought', as Foucault describes it), which provides the reader with the code to comprehend that the place this encyclopaedia refers to is just as fantastic and magical as the animals it describes, a product of the Western Oriental gaze. Ultimately, this fictional technique of 'Orientalism', which is a recurrent feature in much of Borges' work, represents a parody of the subject of European knowledge; that is, it transplants the empty frame of this knowledge outside the confines of die known world and installs it within a fiction and, in so doing, transforms the measure of certainty that is implied by the form of Western knowledge into a subject of literature.
In the 19. 54 preface to his Universal History of Iniquity, Borges first identifies this technique by the concept of 'baroque'. T would define the
baroque, ' he writes, 'as that style that deliberately exhausts (or tries to
exhaust) its own possibilities, and that borders on self-caricature. '10
According to a Kantian understanding, if knowledge is derived from the representation of concepts with the subject, concepts which are ordered by the categories of reason, then we might ask what occurs when these categories are taken up by the literary process? When, instead of being ordered by the principles that submit cases of experience to concepts, the representation of knowledge is suddenly transformed by literary operations such as citation, pastiche, allusion, parody and irony? Of course, the rhetorical modes and genres already presuppose the possibility of this kind of transformation; however, the mode of 'literature' names something distinctly modern that both exceeds the space of classical rhetoric (that is, exceeds discourse or the intentional strategy of the rhetor, the speaker) even though it enlists these modes and genres and perfects their usage in the dialogic space of narration. I will argue that, in the modern period, what I will call the 'baroque design', which is often associated with the figural device of the mise-en-abime ('the picture within the picture', or 'the text within the text'), comes to represent the particular 'Being of Language' we now identify with the name of 'literature'. In other words, rather than signalling a decline of the literary, the return of the 'baroque design' can be associated with the becoming-literary of the principle behind knowledge itself, which the French critic Roland Barthes first defined as the principle of 'inter-textuality', and narratologist Gerard Genette as the function of the 'palimpsest'. 11
Foucault, in effect, stressed this epistemological transformation more than any other philosopher when he wrote that in the modern period the limit of truth can no longer be defined classically around the statement, 'I am lying', but rather around the statement 'I am speaking'. The name of literature exceeds the genre of classical rhetoric, to include or encompass the tables of modern scientific knowledge. Consequently, we have a form of modern knowledge that is constantly exposed to being undermined by the very rhetoric in which this knowledge is embedded; at the same time, we have a literature that constantly grows to enlist the discursive vehicles of reason so much so that it either begins to resemble them, or the 'experience' upon which reason founds its concepts comes closer and closer to resembling the experience of a fiction. This is the experience one typically has when reading Borges, but also a number of other modern writers. In short, this mirror inserted between the word and the thing becomes a surface of 'reflection', which casts a backward glance toward the very power to name, much less actually know, an objective reality. It is in this second sense that Foucault refers to the place of Borges' fable as a modern heterotopia,
because they secretly undermine language, because they make it impossible to name this and that, because they shatter or tangle common names (e. g. animal), because they destroy syntax in advance, and not only syntax with which we
construct sentences but also the less apparent syntax which causes words and things (next to and opposite one another) to 'hold together'. 12
Might this sense of heterotopia offer us a partial explanation as to why the concept of the baroque has historically been the perfect candidate for such an obtuse discussion? (Although this is a question that, unlike in North America or on the continent, that still bears a certain gravity in the context of Hispanic and Latin American literature, criticism and philosophy, where the name of the 'baroque' [barroco] has often been situated within this process of cultural parody or pastiche of European forms of knowledge and culture. )
Moreover, its peculiar status as a modern heterotopia might explain why a near-century of criticism has not been able to determine whether, or not, the baroque ever existed as a definite historical or cultural phenomenon, but only found existence in 'the non-place of language', that is, in the rarefied air of academic debates belonging to art history and aesthetic criticism, and in various polemics around the 'grand unities of culture', or concerning les querelles des anciens et les modernes. Of course, the crisis that any discussion of the baroque introduces concerns the category of 'expressive causality' that underlies the theory of periodization, that is, the belief in the unity of phenomena that makes of any cultural form a unique expression of its time and historical location. But, as art historian Robert Harbison observes,
At the end of the century we occasionally hear that we live in a Baroque age, meaning that rules of taste are impossible to enforce and forms have gone haywire in the various arts - but from lack of conviction than revolutionary enthusiasm - and that much of culture smacks of theatre. The old name gives the confusion of the present a shape: we have been here before^"
For this reason, the concept has come to be suspected by many as an elaborate hoax, pure artifice, or as a historical and cultural fiction. However, this question must be considered in relation to the volumes that have already been produced on the subject, to the scholarship that has been devoted to its perpetuation as a topic of discussion and debate. In fact, recalling Sarduy's statement cited above that every work of criticism of the baroque begins in exactly the same way - with the definition of the term 'baroque' in the manner that this study begins as well - this opens the question of whether the critical literature on the baroque could itself be considered as a distinct genre, a literary form defined repeatedly by its discursive conventions, by which we could characterize the works of baroque criticism by the repetition of form, or by certain conventions that appear to underlie the identification of baroque works. If this were true, mere would be very little difference between the work of baroque criticism and the form of the novel, or a story that begins routinely with the phrase 'Once upon a time
latest instalment among a number of others I will refer to throughout this study - will necessarily bear more than a passing resemblance to the pages from Borges cited above. As Borges once wrote, 'The baroque is intellectual, and Bernard Shaw has said that all intellectual labour is humorous. '14 And yet, perhaps this book affords the space for just such a fantastic debate: an imaginary table ringed with chairs that are occupied by several more or less fictional interlocutors for a debate over the meaning of the baroque in modern literature and philosophy. And perhaps it is possible to engage in such an innocuous debate on the meaning of the baroque because, unlike the issues of a more serious and weighty nature, there do not seem to be the same criteria of 'performativity' (Lyotard) applied to this kind of discussion in order to judge the outcome. (In fact, if this were so, someone would have put a stop to the conversations on this subject long ago. ) Therefore, a discussion of the baroque will not stop any wars (much less cause them), will not feed any peoples (much less starve them or burn their crops); it will not stay the hand of the corporate boss from signing the next deal for cheap labour, nor the governor from signing the next order of execution. The principle underlying this other type of discussion is what the French call un pouvoir: a power that establishes, institutes, authorizes, disseminates and transforms a nominative reality into a social order (the word 'order' implying both a description of relations that constitute a social reality and a command). On the other hand, the type of discussion that we seem to be involved in here can appear to withdraw to the ineffectual realm that often belies the derogatory value of the term 'merely academic', encompassing the domains of cultural aesthetics, literature and contemporary theory.
Regarding the concept of baroque itself, in Le Pli: Leibniz et le baroque (1988), Gilles Deleuze brings this process of allegoresis to its highest form of expression. Instead of deploying the baroque as a 'period' or as a historical style, Deleuze determines the baroque as a 'pure concept', in analogy to a pure concept in philosophy. In other words, the consistency of the baroque is not made from the compilation of historical facts that attest to it existence, but rather by the persistence of the concept that gives it a sufficient reason to exist, in other words, a sufficient cause. For Deleuze, therefore, 'the baroque' concept could be said to belong to the same class of concepts as the concept of God; in fact, in his arguments concerning the existence of the baroque, he often employs the same ontological proofs classically associated with the existence of God. Like God, the baroque could be classified as belonging to neontology, the science concerning non-existent entities. In a very humorous move, Deleuze performs a phenomenological epoke of the baroque (that is, he reduces or brackets its meaning with regard to the question of its existence), so that the question of its existence can no longer be simply reduced to empirical proof. Henceforth, it is not a matter of proving the existence of the baroque by the revelation of empirical evidence (as one might reveal the existence of 'irregular pearls' by finding examples), but rather of rendering its reason by inventing an explanation that is sufficient to express (or not) its necessary existence. Here, Deleuze shifts the
ground of the argument concerning the existence of the 'baroque as such', which has been raging in academic circles for more than a century, to the register of a scholastic theology that judges the logical consistency and coherence of the ontological arguments concerning the existence of God. Consequently, it is no longer enough to say the 'baroque does not exist' or 'it has never existed', which would only amount to simple negation, and even worse, an error of reasoning. As Deleuze writes:
It would seem strange for one to deny the existence of the Baroque as one would deny Unicorns or Pink Elephants. Because in these cases the concept is given, while in the case of the Baroque it is rather one of knowing whether one can invent a concept capable of giving (or not) its existence. Irregular pearls exist, but the Baroque has no reason to exist without a concept that forms this reason itself. It's easy to render the Baroque non-existent; one only has to stop
proposing its concept. (My emphasis)L)
In terms that are essentially descriptive rather than deductive, Deleuze points out here that the direction of the baroque existence runs opposite to a phenomenon (e. g. irregular pearls), which finds its final term expressed in 'empirical evidence'. In the case of the baroque, it has no other mode of existence than expression, particularly by those who persist in expressing or evoking its name, even if only to deny it. Because the baroque is potentially an 'empty category', it has often played havoc with the empirical assumptions as the basis of historical narration. 16 It is on this basis, due to this peculiar and special status that belongs to the category of the baroque, that it can be used to examine other categories, such as postmodern, which have been similarly plagued by the uncertainty with regard to its relation to a definite historical period of modernity.
Clearly, the baroque is fantastic. It appears even more so when one considers the lives of those specialized in the baroque, who ferreted out case by case, document by document, to establish its validity or to police its uses by others who were less informed; or those others, its detractors, full of vehement disdain for such an abuse of knowledge, who spent an equal time rebutting the findings of its proponents, or qualified its universal application to all fields of culture (architecture, painting, sculpture, lyric, drama), and who sought to limit its universal scope by national indices (German, Italian, French, Spanish, English, Polish) and by refining a list of other names to characterize its variables (such as Mannerism, Rococo, Metaphysical,
precocite, Gongorism, among others). In fact, if I were to compile a history of
the 'Baroque in Modern Culture', I would also have to compile the details of every life dedicated to its perpetuation as a category of thought; including their tawdry desires, their dreary and mundane routines, their most intimate conversations and private testimonies. The result might constitute the anonymous biography of what Christine Buci-Glucksmann has called La
Raison Baroque (a biography that might bear more than a passing
resemblance to Borges' 'Pierre Menard', or Valery's Monsieur Teste). I would argue that such a history would surpass even the best rendering of
Borges' apocryphal constructions of Western knowledge, and the biographies of these scholars' lives could be understood as characters of discourse (in the sense of Freud's use of the term 'vicissitude'). In this last sense, perhaps the criticism that surrounds the baroque reveals something like a kernel of madness in the form of Western critical reason that once again challenges its power to name, to call into existence, and to describe nominative reality. We could even speculate as to its source in the desire it procures or reproduces in the individual reason (as Kant called the other 'end of man') - as what motivates the individual reason with a desire to 'know'. The mirror that 'reflects' this other reason is neither secret or esoteric, nor even hidden for that matter, but is a madness that occurs in the full light of day. It is a form of madness without the style of madness - lucid, reasonable, clear, and logical to a nearly hyperbolic degree.
One such biography would be that of the early twentieth-century Spanish literary critic, Eugenio d'Ors, to whom I will refer to below and who could be called the inventor of the 'modern baroque'. Although many critics have dismissed d'Ors as an 'obscurantist' and a minor art historian, what often escapes notice is the strategic principle behind d'Ors' excessive academic and scholarly style, that this 'academicism' was the manner in which, similar to Borges' technique of constructing fields apocryphal and esoteric scholarship, d'Ors created with his 'baroque eon' a parody of the subject of academic discourse, which is raised to the level of baroque rhetoric: a pure fiction. This explains the manner in which d'Ors exaggerates all the traits that are common to academic discourse as well as the field of knowledge and the social form that this knowledge implies: its sovereign agents, its debates and polemics, its pedagogical and colonizing force of reason, its excessive qualification, love of categorization and the example and, finally, its rage for perfection. What d'Ors reveals by his pastiche is a discourse that is informed by an image of perfection that occurs at the end of history, a counter-historical or mythical force of permanence and reminiscence: eternity. In its classical form, according to d'Ors, the work of criticism participates in an image of history as perpetual progress, a cultural energy of conservation, by rendering to reason the examples of history, by establishing its major concepts, by baptizing cultural and aesthetic phenomena as 'exemplary' of this idea of progress or of achievement, and by instituting the myth of perpetual progress within a pedagogical instrument of cultural Bildung. D'Ors' 'baroque eon', on the other hand, does not provide the logic of a history or of reason in perpetual progress, but rather the 'logic of culture' (or what he calls a 'Morphology of Culture') that is open and in perpetual revolt: a culture, or cultivation, of either new forms that are the result of what he called the 'a-tectonic' nature of real historical processes (including imperialism, colonialism and capitalism), or which represent the excavation of the 'states of exception' that have been elided from any official history. (Of course, these states of exception bear many heretical names, including Gongora, Marino, Spinoza and others. )
These exceptions produce a counter-version to a history that becomes, rhetorically, much more monolithic and unified than it actually was. (And if the present moment appears confused and through glass darkly, how could a past moment suddenly come to express a relation to all other past moments in a unifying vision of time, which even today continues to be the
dominant myth that structures historical representation?)17 Their primary
function is to pose the question at the level of heterotopia noted above, in the sense that these states of exception are also exceptional states that cannot be accounted for by the traditional images of reason or history (thus, they would also include forms of madness, ecstasies, mysticism and the figures of evil I will outline below). Consequently, d'Ors, 'baroque eon' finds its logic echoed by other modern writers and critics such as German aesthetic critic Walter Benjamin, as well by writers and theorists of postmodern cultural philosophies, for whom these states of exception represent the re-telling or the excavation of a completely Other history - unofficial, censored, repressed or colonized. More importantly, since its concept is hostile to any pedagogical novel or Bildungsroman, the baroque narrative of History will constantly invert the experience of Culture founded by the principles of education, accumulation and progress. Its figures will overturn the pedagogical novel (Rousseau's Emile, or the eighteenth-century Robinson
Crusoe) upon which the colonial project is founded as well. What emerges
in d'Ors' conception of 'baroque eon', therefore, is a new vitalism associated with the excessive nature of the modernist impulse, one which bears the abstract figure of the primitive as its most 'sublime expression'. However, this baroque primitive will not resemble the 'real primitive', but rather the partly mythic and apocalyptic figure that belongs to the modernist narrative of the European emancipation from the straitjacket of its own history and the arrival of a new principle of culture allied with post-European revolutionary' movements and the politics of the avant-garde.
Turning our attention to the continental context associated with the frequent analogy between the baroque and the postmodern, the term 'baroque' has gradually come to designate, rather than a particular historical period in European art history, an effect that results from the composition of specific traits around the adjectival terms baroque, barroco and neo-barroco. In other words, it designates less a particular historical duration than a manner or style of composition. As an example of this use of the term, I quote a passage from Gerard Genette, to which I will often return during the course of this study:
The Baroque, if it exists, is not an island (much less a private hunting-ground), but a crossroads (or nexus, un carrefour), a 'star' and, as is very evident in Rome, a public place. Its genius is syncretism, its order is its very openness, its signature is its very anonymity and pushes to an absurd degree its characteristic traits which are, erratically, found in all places and in all times. It hardly matters to us what belongs exclusively to this name, but rather what is 'typical' of it - that is to say, 'exemplary'. 1*
According to Genette's account, what the baroque has come to signify is established by means of analogy, of its 'exemplarity', which is not limited to its original historical context, since its very exemplarity, which is pushed to an absurd degree, is now to be found in all places and in all times. In the above passage, Genette is particularly eager to protect the name of the baroque from any exclusive determination (as the private property of a class, signature or brand-mark, stamp, specialized idiolect or even historical 'date'). This illustrated a certain modern citation of a baroque 'gesture'
(gestus) in direct opposition to all these signs of exclusivity or rarity that
would rob the baroque of its popular significance by assigning it an ornamental value of Culture, or by isolating its relevance to the remote past. Accompanying these descriptions we find a barely concealed argument ad
populum: like a star or a major boulevard, the baroque's visibility,
significance or meaning is accessible to everyone; it is a 'public place' in addition to being 'anonymous' and quasi-universal.
What Genette here refers to as 'typically baroque' already prefigures the generic quality that the epochal, or historically determined, Baroque has assumed in its various modern receptions: it is not what the concept of the baroque signified then, but what it expresses today, that determines its concept. What is 'typical' or 'exemplary' is the baroque expression (earlier referred to as a style), which must be considered apart from its historical determination. After all, what does the appearance of a 'public', or 'populus', signify within the fairly private hunting grounds of an academic discourse? Of course, there is no public, no people, to speak of; however, there is the pure category of an 'Open' (Offendlichkeit, as Kant called the basis of a publicity) which forms the basis, not of any real public, but of a popular rhetoric. This constitutes a kind of 'Open Sesame!' of the academic presentation, by which this discursive appeal mimes a popular force as the basis of its authority to institute a change in meaning of signs and to simulate a movement in the field of history. Behind the argument of Genette, consequently, there is a rhetorical appeal to a rather popular or cultural revolution around the very name of 'the baroque', by which its significance would be the result of a type of democratic opening that would rob the authority of nomination from the cultural experts (who, here, are posed in terms of an 'ancien regime'). Therefore, despite its original significance, which is known by cultural experts and specialists of the European Baroque, if its sign is invoked frequently enough to characterize contemporary aesthetic phenomena, then effectively a variation will be created in the meaning of the term itself. This characterizes a more recent concept of popular culture as having the ability of effecting historical change that can be ascribed to theories of postmodernism and accompanies the development of the position of the spectator (consumer) in capitalism as the base, or the cause (Grund), by which history is set in motion through a change in the meaning of its 'signs'.
What is important for us to remark here is that this logic of cultural forms (or morphogenesis), which has determined the fundamental gesture
of the postmodern cultural work, becomes a frequent topic and even an 'allegory of reading' (de Man) within modern critical and theoretical debates that take up the baroque as a recurrent 'sign of history'. This allegory underscores the performative and popular values associated with the principles of 'change' and 'novelty' that have often been ascribed to the baroque, which has been described as the forerunner and even as the origin of modern popular culture. To invoke the name of the baroque, as in the example of Genette, is already to usher in a 'spirit' (or Geist) of a people or popular culture in order to transform the private path into a major boulevard and the prestige (or authority) of the cultural expert into a star whose light touches everyone, equally and anonymously, from every corner of the past. Within French philosophy, in particular, and most of the cultural criticism belonging to a post-Baudelairean modernity, the appeal to a popular concept of culture is accompanied by the feminization of the body of the spectator (the crowd, or a people), which is often simulated by the metaphors of a charged poetic or textual body, replete with affective images that symbolize the political and cultural performativity of the academic discourse that invokes these entities as witnesses to the 'symbolic event' of history.
Both the concept of popular culture that underlies the modern and
contemporary7 usage of the baroque, as well as the centrality of the body as
an 'affect-image' (Deleuze), address the concept of enthusiasm that determined the role of the Kantian 'spectator of history' (the French revolution is the Kantian example); this already signals a change in the determination (Bestimmung, also meaning 'attunement') of the spectator's participation in the generation of an 'event' that would become a veritable sign of history. Moreover, both this participation and the quality of the 'event' it produces would privilege an aesthetic presentation, since: 'aesthetically, enthusiasm is sublime, because it is a tension of forces produced by ideas, which give an impulse to the mind that operates more powerfully and lastingly than the impulse arising from sensible representa-tions'. 19 In other words, the passage ol an empirical phenomenon from the status of a fact, or a perception, to a duration that could characterize the sense of an 'event' (for example, a crisis that initiates a historical duration or period that follows it) can be accounted for by the difference in 'intensity' it expresses. For modern sensibility, moreover, an aesthetic mode of presentation has a better chance of producing, from a range of empirical phenomena, durations and events than other modes of presentation (such as ethical, descriptive, rational or deductive).
According to Spanish historian Jose-Antonio Maravall, whom I will discuss below in Chapter 2, from its original historical appearance onward, the institution of a powerful cultural apparatus in the baroque period, particularly in Spain during the middle of the seventeenth century, brings in its wake a new function of culture as an 'operative concept' involved in
shaping the historical experience of the modern masses. 20 Part of this
biographical historical narratives that were taken up and emulated as the popular vehicles of education and propaganda by the modern European states. The concept of Culture, understood here in its active, verbal sense, is the production and communication of social values - the good, beauty, ugliness or vulgarity, truth, justice. The cultural spectacle actualizes within the experience of the spectator a quantity of identifications, memories, associations, agreements in the element of taste (sensus communis aestheticus) and, most importantly, a subjective accord brought about in the experience of collective enthusiasm, to which I will return to below in the discussion of Maravall's concept of the baroque sublime (furor). This 'baroque mechanism' of culture emerged during a time that also saw the emergence of the politics of masses, resulting from greater mobility, intense urbanization and the decline of the aristocratic and landed classes of European society. In many cases the spectacle of culture immediately took on the form of a popular appeal directed to a new subject of politics: the anonymous mass of potentially disruptive individuals that were migrating into the urban population centres of Europe. That the ideological function of this cultural mechanism took the form of an expression of alienation can be understood as a partial effect of the disorientation brought about by this period of intense urbanization.
On the one hand, a cultural vehicle that grounded itself in expressions of estrangement and the loss of reality (for example, the frequent baroque themes of 'the world upside-down' and 'life is a dream') might well have served as the reflective surface for the pathological effects that resulted from such mass movements of dislocation and migration. (We should recall that much of this dislocation was the result of the Thirty Year War, which raged through the European continent between the years 1618 and 1648. ) On the other hand, such an expressive vehicle could also serve as a powerful narrative of cultural experience, useful for dissolving the previous distinctions of ethnic, social and cultural identity, rural and provincial characteristics of collective life and subjectivity; and for instituting a kind of collective forgetting which would both precede and accompany the intense re-socialization that this period of early industrialization and nationalization might have demanded. 'It was precisely to meet these challenges that the baroque world of the seventeenth century... organized its resources along
lines that were openly repressive or more subtly propagandistic. '21 In this
sense, the culture of the baroque can be understood as the production of a form of anonymity, accompanied by the privilege accorded to the consciousness of the stranger, and which corresponded to the new social and economic relationships that now belong to the life of the city, relationships which are prerequisite to the more abstract, corporate entities of a mass, a general populace, nation or 'people'. Consequently, from its inception in the seventeenth-century Baroque, the concept of popular and national culture evolving alongside the modern state can be found to relate to the earlier propagandistic and pedagogical formations that have in the modern period become institutionalized in the function of the cultural
work. Within the more primitive and didactic formation of the baroque period, however, 'the idea of culture was to captivate minds through the use of theatre, sermons, emblematic literature, and so forth, and to cause admiration and suspense through these and other, more overt, displays of power: fireworks, fountains, fiestas'. 22 The emotional body of the baroque spectator, animated by anxieties and the creative violence of the producer, becomes a central topic and even a primary ground, one which prepares for a distinctly modern conception of aesthetic experience. Hence, the question of legitimating the experience of culture, as well as the question of possessing culture as a primary means of collective expression, becomes inseparable from the technical and rhetorical strategies employed to possess and manipulate the emotional body of the spectator.
The participation of the 'spectator' (symbolic of the public, the crowd, the consumer) in the generation of a historical or political event is thus first situated on the level of the body. It is well known that the culture of modernism constructs both a poetics, as well as a psychology, of the body from which it generates its affective force. It is from this rhetorical construction of the body that the surrealist appropriation of the psycho-analytic concept of the unconscious as a poetic figure (or trope) becomes commonplace; whereby, the affective or convulsive body of the hysteric would be evoked to 'simulate' the agitated movements of the crowd, or where the 'body of the text', charged with the affective play, and the poetic figures that derive from the status of a language 'unbounded' (following the Freudian hypothesis of the primary processes) from the restrictions of meaning and signification, would in turn simulate a form of publicity in analogy with an 'openness' (Offendlichkeit) that would be instituted by a new concept of community (sensus communis). II there is the presence of a 'magical thinking' here, as Freud called it in his rejection of the surrealist appropriation of psychoanalytic constructions by Breton and others, then it can be found in this chain of causality that constitutionally links the 'body' of the text to bodies of the spectator, to a public (or to the crowd), and finally, to the spheres of politics and history. If the same magical thinking can be found in modern representations of the baroque as well, I will argue that it is because these metaphors belong to a distinctly modern understanding of culture that articulates these different ontological-social-political-sexual regions together within the notion of the body-as-phantasm.
The meaning of phantasm is conceptually and etymologically linked to the classical sense of simulacrum referring to the process of simulation, to the production of effects by simulating, or through the power of the copy (the icon, or Bild). Thus, it is only because of the series of associations conditioned by this phantasm that the critic-philosopher or writer could think that by tickling the language of the text (which, itself, simulates the appearance of the female body animated by attributes of eroticism), he could produce the distant 'effects' of change (i. e. convulsion, laughter, revolution) within the bodies of the crowd, could stimulate a movement in the body politic and effect a change in the meaning of history. Of course,
this is only possible if the specific context that determines the position of the writer's own discourse remains abstract, paralleling the allegory of the baroque itself as being without 'context', 'unbounded', 'OPEN' (a pure and indeterminate category). As I will return to take up below, this form of openness describes the very mode of postmodern theory's critical relation to other, more contextual and historical, or empirically bound, discourses (to philosophy, sociology, anthropology, ethnography). Consequently, it is not accidental that both the generic qualities of the baroque and the theoretical genre that designates it as an object of culture, bear more than a passing resemblance to more recent definitions of postmodernism.
Since the first history appears within the pedagogical framework of an academic or classical discourse, the history of the modern baroque appears in scattered modes, more overtly rhetorical, polemic, lyrical; and it usually bears, as we have seen, a symbolic appeal to an open publicity, or open forum of history, that is inscribed in its rhetoric and forms the basis of its politics as a lyrical invocation of the community to come. For our purposes, these developments around the name of the baroque indicate problems concerning the establishment of its historical referent, which now may be comparable to an extravagant fiction, or artifice; it is precisely this effect of an artificialization of the natural, this fabulous or deceptive construction, that typifies most of the constructions of the baroque sensibility. The very loss or displacement of a historical referent for the name of the baroque forms the condition of its more generic usage, as well as for its geographical displacement from Europe to America (in Borges, Carpentier, Sarduy, Lezama and Jose Marti). Without any clear and recognizable form or traditional or natural signification, the principles that underlie the notion of a 'modern baroque' must now be constructed inductively, by means of the example following Genette's emphasis upon the status of 'exemplarity' -and rhetorically, by means of the argument or polemic, the apology or manifesto.
In the above introduction to what could be called - not without a certain humour, of course - 'the history of a modern baroque in Literature and Philosophy', I have briefly summarized the various descriptions offered by several key authorities that have established its modern sense. However, this method will not allow us to judge whether the descriptions of modern aesthetic and cultural phenomena with the baroque are accurate or true to its historical European antecedent. It is not a question of whether the modern notion is a true and correct copy of its predecessor, but rather why similar versions of the European baroque and rococo in both seventeenth-century architecture and painting, and in French and Spanish verse, have been employed by many critics and writers to define the aesthetic sensibility and historical force behind the emergence of postmodernism. This is one of the questions that this study will attempt to answer.
Renovations of the
1 Historical antecedents in baroque criticism
Let us begin by recounting several formulas that have been associated with the term 'baroque', all of which refer to the historical and European Baroque which took place, depending on how one chooses to define its origin, sometime between the Renaissance and the Counter-Reformation. Many of the theorists and critics I will reler to in the course of this study presuppose or assume that the reader is both familiar with the significance of a baroque style, or aesthetic philosophy, which is outlined in the following definitions:
• The baroque is a phenomenon of which the period of its birth, decline or end can be situated somewhere between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
• Its concept is relevant only to the West, since a certain stage or version of the baroque sensibility could only prosper in reaction to the solemn eroticism and 'world-weariness' (Weltschmerz) of the Counter-Reformation.
• It is proper mostly to the Roman architecture of Borromini, the sculpture and architecture of Bernini, as well as to certain recurrent traits in sculpture and painting (Caravaggio, Rubens, Velasquez, Vermeer, Rembrandt). These traits are: an attraction to movement through ornamentation, producing a dizziness in the spectator, as well as a sense of unity, through the cumulative unfolding of surfaces; an emotionalism of wonder and admiration, producing both tension and release in the spectator or reader; a richer and more sensual use of colour; a dramatic opposition between light and dark (chiaroscuro); a heightened sense of emotional drama.
• The baroque style is often regarded as pathological, the result of an obsessive attraction to forms of monstrosity and to a vulgar taste. It is for this reason (because of its sensuality, its attraction to movement and its emotionalism) that its appeal is supposedly directed toward a larger, more common public than either the Renaissance, before it, or Classicism that followed. It is this 'populism' as inspiration that has
resulted in its frequent comparison to the emergence of modern popular
• The baroque is sometimes regarded as the visible 'decomposition' and 'decay' of the classical style of the Renaissance.
To follow this last point, the most influential definition of the baroque sensibility, which lasted until its re-invention in postmodernism, was that presented by the German art historian, Heinrich Wolfflin, in his
Renaissance und Barock (1888). Ultimately, his judgement was still under
the influence of the Classicist view that the baroque period marked a lapse in taste and a bastardization of Renaissance principles of composition. This prejudice even marks the thesis of Wolfflin's earlier study of the baroque, one which is clearly stated in the preface to the first edition:
The subject of this study is the disintegration of the Renaissance; [... ] to investigate the symptoms of decay and to discover in the 'capricious return to chaos' a law that would vouchsafe one an insight into the intimate workings of art. 24
For our purposes, the above statement is extremely important for the inversion and variations this judgement receives in cultural criticism that makes use of the baroque. Concerning the attributes that Wolfflin identifies with the baroque style, in his reflections on Roman architecture, he notes the following dominant traits:
• the supplanting of a linear style, which produced a sense of movement • a heightened sense of transience through the mixing of light and shadow
• monumentality - a love for the grand, the massive, the colossal, the sublime and overpowering
• the multiplication of surfaces, contours, and folds - both to allude to a greater portion of space than what is visible, and to produce movement (often dizziness in the witness or spectator) by the suppression of right angles, or linear contours
• finally, a preference for movement in place of repose, often in a vertical direction, which is technically produced by creating a sense of height, a sudden rapturous movement accompanied by a feeling of vertigo The first and the fifth aspects of baroque style bear an important element for reading the cause of the spectator's anxiety before the baroque facade, a feeling of anxiety that underlines an apprehension of the power of the artwork which the baroque, at this stage of its conception, places to the foreground. (This feeling of anxiety, or emotional intensity, can also be understood as a form of extreme enjoyment, which is why the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan later defined his conception of jouissance feminine in reference to Bernini's sculpture of St Theresa. ) Both senses are
HISTORICAL ANTECEDENTS IN BAROQUE CRITICISM AND THEORY 19
immediately linked to the determination of movement, as Wolfflin describes it in the following statement:
The Baroque never offers us perfection or fulfilment, or the static calm of 'being', only the unrest of change and the tension of transience. 2-5
I will return to discuss many of these notions below (monumentality, height, anxiety, the feminine figure of enjoyment, the restlessness of change and the tension with mortality); they often re-emerge as the poetic figurations of the modernist principles of change and innovation, the theoretical centrality of fmitude, and of the feminine eroticism that belong to the different modern and postmodern theories of the sublime. For now, however, I wish to remain with the earlier conception of the baroque in literature.
As a literary category, the baroque has gradually displaced several other styles that emerged within the same period: metaphysical, preciosite,
marinismo, conceptismo, culturanismo. We can immediately see that the
weakness of this type of categorization is the tendency towards reducing disparate aesthetic phenomena to a monumental style in European cultural history, which subordinates or swallows up divergent contexts of region, political and historical causality. Hence, the first applies mainly to England, the second to a French development, the last three to Italy. Spain, possibly the most important region for historical reasons, has disappeared altogether. (It will only reappear later from the continent of South America, under the name of Gongorism, and in the context of what is now commonly called the 'colonial baroque'. ) In recent literary scholarship (post-1950), the concept of the baroque is further subdivided and placed in confrontation with Mannerism. As a result of this classification, a controversy quickly ensued over the propriety of these two terms. Opposing perspectives have ranged from the one held by Gustav Hocke, in his Die Welt als Labyrinth: Manier
und Manie in der Europdischen Kunst (1957), where the concept of
Mannerism completely eclipses the baroque, to Frank Warnke's Versions of
the Baroque, where the baroque achieves the more plastic and synthetic form
of Weltanschauung (world-view), one that incorporates the characteristic traits that belong to Mannerism as a stylistic trend. In literary phenomena, Warnke identifies two 'recurrently perceptible' tendencies that can be found in the Baroque defined as a historical period concept, tendencies which he defines in the following way:
• Mannerist, which is characterized by the 'spare, witty, academic, paradoxical' forms of Marvell, Donne, Herbert, Spondee, Quevedo, Huygens and Fleming
• High Baroque, expressed in the 'ornate, exclamatory, emotional, and extravagant tendencies of Gryphius, Marino, d'Aubigne, Gongora and Vondel'. Consequently, it has become accepted that several of Wolfflin's baroque categories of the visual aits can now be attributed to a mannerist
In the final analysis, however, Warnke prefers the term 'baroque' over 'Mannerism' according to an argument which could be paraphrased as follows: that while, then, baroque is certainly an imperfect category in unifying a diversity of literary trends, it is still much better than Mannerism and already has the advantage of a significant body of scholarship attached to the name. (In other words, it may occupy the position of a 'necessary fiction' that has more to do with continuity of the historical fields of scholarship associated with the name, than with history itself. ) As Warnke writes, 'the chaotic divergence in the application of the term Mannerism by its various champions makes the "querelle du mannierisme" far outstrip the
"querelle du baroque' in the proliferation of mutually exclusive individual
Mannerism is a term derived from the Italian maniera, meaning 'style'. In his introduction to The Baroque Poem (1974), Harold Segel describes the principle traits of Mannerism in the following crucial passage:
Beginning in Rome about 1520 [the period of Bernini's architecture], artists began concentrating more emphatically on technique. Manner, or style, was becoming a thing unto itself. In their search for novelty, for new ways to create a sense of awe, wonder, and admiration in the spectator, painters began making a freer use of ornamentation and design. Works not only became richer in design, but richer in colour as well. To heighten the viewer's appreciation of the skill and ingenuity behind the conception and execution of the work of art, the artist drew attention to the units or parts of the whole. The unity and simplicity of impression sought by the Renaissance no longer enjoyed the same favour. Quite the contrary, the Mannerist artist sought to divert and distract the eye by making it aware of the totality of the work. This elevation and embellishment of the segment often at the expense of unity acted in a centrifugal way: the viewer's eye was deflected away from the centre to the periphery that, instead of contributing to and supporting unity, detracted from it. Centrality of interest dissolved and the relationship of parts to whole became so tenuous that the parts grew in autonomy. 28
I have quoted Segel's description at length because of its importance in illustrating a growing conception of the baroque which has been gradually organized around what I will call 'a polemic of space'. What is revealed is an extreme schism and ongoing tension, within the concept of the baroque itself, between two spatial organizing principles, what Segel calls, in a very interesting phrase, two conflicting 'hegemonies of form'. One principle, which has come to be expressed by Mannerism, is an organization of space
paries extra partes (or 'expansion through fragmentation'), the expression of
novelty through the heterogeneity of the composition, an excessive and deliberate distortion of the centrality of the foreground (figura serpentina), or figure of monstrosity and hybridism; as well as style which can be recognized by its excessive 'reflexivity', 'academicism' and 'artificialization of nature' (as in Marino, Gongora, or Calderon, Velasquez and Borromini). The first principle, associated with the formal technique of Mannerist art,
HISTORICAL ANTECEDENTS IN BAROQUE CRITICISM AND THEORY 21
can be illustrated in the development of the intermezzo, as an autonomous genre in theatre, gradually displacing (or 'distracting', to use Segel's term) the central unities of Aristotelian form, or the rigid and mechanical framework of the commedia. Intermedia, interludia, entr'acte originally developed from the secular interpolations of dance, short recitations and allegorical subjects within miracle plays. Gradually, as Segel observes, 'the penchant for novelty grew' and the attention drifted from the fixed texts of the commedie, 'and those charged with mounting court entertainment so enriched the visual, musical, and linguistic aspects of the intermezzi that they succeeded in transforming them into spectacles that outstripped' the appeal of the central form. 29 Later, I will show that the function of the Intermedia gradually emerges in the principle that underlies the function of the
mise-en-abime in modern conceptions of intertextuality as a reflective surface that
incorporates - both inside and, yet, outside - a critical, or allegorical function of commentary upon the central action, or plot (as in the example of Genette's commentary on Saint Amant's Moyse sauve which I will discuss
in Chapter 8 below). 30
The second principle, which has come to characterize the 'High Baroque', or baroque proper, still exhibits variety or multiplicity in textures and forms, but incorporates the ornamental attributes of surface and design as corporeal predicates that unfold to express the presence of an underlying
unity - a presence that is not represented by the work, but implied, or
embodied as an emotional effect produced in the spectator or witness. As Segel shows, the operation of the second principle can be interpreted as a reaction and recuperation of the first principle, as in a well-known canvas by Caravaggio which treats a theme common to mannerist art as well, The
Conversion of St Paul (1600):
A Mannerist treatment of a religious theme may at first glance occasionally appear to exhibit involvement in the spiritual. The usual Mannerist treatment of the subject... manages to include some spiritual apparition in the heavens or beside the stunned, unhorsed figure of St Paul. Now there is no such apparition or vision in Caravaggio's Conversion of St Paul. The figures of Paul and the horse dominate the canvas and are so grouped to heighten the dramatic impact of the scene. Where heavenly figures appeared in Mannerist paintings, Caravaggio has only the darkness of night; yet in this darkness, the presence of the spiritual and the mystery of unknowable beings and forces are made to be felt. 31
The fundamental distinction that operates here in Segel's description of the two principles is that while a Mannerist treatment of the subject appears to represent the spiritual element of Paul's conversion, this appearance is a mere semblance, a false and intellectual surface, a somewhat distant and flat tableau with no proportion or 'drama' that would arrange the elements into a narrative theme, but rather an 'artificial' heaven filled with apparitions that distract the spectator's immediate involvement. On the other hand, Caravaggio, by emptying this 'false heaven' and filling it with a darkness that vanquishes all surface, produces its presence by a very absence that
embodies, from the position of spectator, the feelings of anxiety and foreboding. This is the element of a pure movement that directly involves 'or throws' the spectator before the painting - both by the proximity and dominance of the two figures in the foreground - propelling him or her into the drama of the conversion itself.
The reference to The Conversion of St Paul, then, is not accidental, since the very 'emotion' that is constructed as the linchpin of the 'High Baroque' aesthetic is constantly described by critics in terms of the drama of 'conversion' (from the Greek metanoia, a concept that has undergone dramatic semantic alteration with the advent of Christianity when its meaning of change and alternation is situated in the flesh, and in the emotional participation of the subject). Beyond its religious signification, this term is also intended here in a more contemporary psychoanalytic sense in which the body's agitated convulsion represents the perception of the unconscious in the discourse of the hysteric; in other words, where an absence of perception (or blindness) is converted into an 'emotional movement' that is no less a perception, in psychoanalytic terms, of a spiritual presence that causes this effect. In Caravaggio, for example, this presence is revealed in the anxiety produced by the dark and mysterious force of night, with its swirling shadows, or by a pure implication of height (heaven) that strikes the spectator by its emptiness, or blankness. We can see this narrative, the centrality of the spiritual or symbolic element in the baroque artwork, which I will return to discuss in the next chapter. The modalities of affection will be important in understanding the psychology of the spectator and the rhetoric of power which belong to the new determination of the art-work from the early modern period onward. At this point, however, we need to recall that this rhetoric of visibility and the body were attached to the clerical and authoritarian aesthetic programmes associated with the Counter-Reformation; even though, for modern consciousness, this rhetorical pattern resembles more the theoretical construction of the various subject-formations - whether of ideology, the unconscious or capital - which are all drawn by this principle of conversion whose modern sense equally operates in both the Marxist and psycho-analytic conceptions of the 'symptom'.
In their historical periods, both Mannerist and high Baroque expressions were linked by this 'baroque effect' produced in the apprehension of the spectator - a feeling of dizziness (vertigine), swooning (im Ohnemacht setzen,
I'etourdissement), wonder and amazement, marvel (meraviglid), or rapture
and delirium (Schwarmerei, jouissance) - all of which lie at the basis of a general baroque aesthetic. What I mean here is that this 'baroque effect' is presented as the intentional and technical objective of the artist, as well as being a description of an appeal to an emergent definition of 'popular taste', both of which are associated with the concept of 'the new'. As Bernardo Tasso wrote, concerning the composition of his own work, L'Amadigi, following the example set forth by Ariosto's Orlando Furioso:
HISTORICAL ANTECEDENTS IN BAROQUE CRITICISM AND THEORY 23
In the beginning I had decided to make it one unified action [following Aristotelian theory]... but then it occurred to me that it did not have that variety that customarily gives delight and is desired in this century, already attuned to the Romance; and I understood, then, that Ariosto neither accidentally nor for want of knowledge of the art (as some say) but with the greatest judgment accommodated himself to the taste of the present century and arranged his work in this w a y . . . which I find more beguiling and delightful. 32
As in this passage, the basic distinction between the two versions of the baroque would appear to be the techniques employed, the sensible conditions of different modifications of the same effect, and the different subjective aspects of this concept of taste: where the Mannerist employed variety and multiplicity to achieve this feeling of something new, the High Baroque artist (as in the above example of Caravaggio) arranges the spectacle of ornamentation around a central absence, in which the 'something new' embodies the movement of a physical presence that either spreads itself out in an impenetrable height or swells up in the emotions of the spectator. Both senses of this latter affect might be figured in the Lacanian construction of beance and oblivium, both of which are defined by a gaping presence of a central lack in the order of desire and by the installation of the subject within an indefinite time of suspense; the second of which, however, extends well beyond the field of Lacanian theory, and underlines several postmodern conceptions of the 'sublime' (by Lyotard, Buci-Glucksmann and Deleuze in particular) that are still heavily influenced by European modernism. Therefore, we will want to return to interrogate these aspects below, by asking more or less in a phenomen-ological manner, 'what are the conditions that articulated these elements together in a concept of taste implied in the following series?
• an experience of temporality marked by the themes of novelty, variety and multiplicity
• a loss of distinct perception of the central figure or action
• the physical participation of the spectator in the presentation of the art-work through an emotional feeling of dizziness or swooning (literally, of being overpowered by the spectacle)
• finally, a heightened sense of enthusiasm, delight or marvel (meraviglia) And yet, we still have not found a sufficient explanation of the two fundamental traits behind the determination of 'the hegemony of space' itself in the two conflicting versions of the baroque. (I mean this phrase, both from a formal perspective, but also a psychological one: the principle of organization, as well as the cause of its sensibility. ) What is the causality behind the tendency expressed by this sudden expansion and enlargement of space, like a moment of exhalation - 'A Big Bang, ' as Severo Sarduy would later call this cosmological moment at the origin of the baroque universe - accompanied by a proliferation of details, a swarming of surfaces, and followed by an inverse tendency toward increased inwardness, like an
'inhalation'? What is the origin of these two 'psychological states of suspense', their tension and their irresolution? Moreover - and this is perhaps linked to the same question - what are the origin and the logic of the principle of 'novelty' (inventio) that is emphasized so acutely in both versions? What are the social transformations behind the linking of attributes such as variety and multiplicity to cultural expressions of the 'new'? What are the subjective and psychological conditions that associate an increasing complexity and ornamentalism with a feeling of 'wonder-ment', 'excite'wonder-ment', 'admiration' and even 'awe' in the spectator?
In response to all these questions, perhaps as a partial explanation, I will recall the significance of one event that often comprises a colourful backdrop in traditional commentaries; however, it is an event that is inseparable from the history of the baroque sensibility and logic of culture: the European colonial adventure that followed the discovery of the 'New World'. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the point of commencement usually assigned to the Baroque (in Italy, between 1516 and 1527, when Orlando Furioso was published, Michelangelo unveiled the statue, Victory, and Bernini was putting the finishing touches on the colonnade in the piazza before St Peter's) corresponds exactly to the most fervent period of 'discovery' and colonization of the 'New World'. (Francisco de Almeida breaks the Moslem monopoly on Far East trade in 1509 by sinking the combined fleets of India and Egypt off the coast of Diu; Vasco de Balboa crosses the isthmus of Panama in 1513 and 'discovers' the
Pacific; Magellan circumnavigates the globe between 1519 and 1521. )33
Returning to the question of space that is at the centre of the two opposing points of view on the 'baroque explosion', the weakness of traditional baroque criticism is that this opposition is posed by the more pedestrian terms of the art historian, or literary critic, for whom the effects are reduced to questions of the 'technique' of an artist who appears, not surprisingly, divorced from the social processes that may have determined the shape, as well as the range of material psychological possibilities, of these techniques. Although the social, political and religious events are sometimes given an important context for the discussion of baroque aesthetics, they often only form the backdrop against which the aesthetic sphere appears neutral and disinterested; they do not enter fundamentally to determine the sudden transformations in formal boundaries that seem to be indicated by the new psychology of the emotions in the perception of the baroque work, or to engage the notions of 'novelty', 'ornamentation', 'artificial v. natural', and the subjective principles of 'wonderment and amazement' that are said to appear at the basis of both the baroque and Mannerist styles. This is particularly true of the representation of Mannerism, where the heterogeneity and textual values of design and ornamentation are neutralized by a 'flat' and homogeneous character of the surface (or facade) upon which they appear. As we have already seen in the earlier description of Mannerism by Segel, this characterization figured as the abstract and reflective surface of a frigid intellectualism, distinguished