The Theater of Truth: The Ideology of (Neo)Baroque Aesthetics

The Theater of Truth: The Ideology of (Neo)Baroque Aesthetics

The Theater of Truth: The Ideology of (Neo)Baroque Aesthetics

The Theater of Truth: The Ideology of (Neo)Baroque Aesthetics

Synopsis

The Theater of Truth argues that seventeenth-century baroque and twentieth-century neobaroque aesthetics have to be understood as part of the same complex. The Neobaroque, rather than being a return to the stylistic practices of a particular time and place, should be described as the continuation of a cultural strategy produced as a response to a specific problem of thought that has beset Europe and the colonial world since early modernity. This problem, in its simplest philosophical form, concerns the paradoxical relation between appearances and what they represent. Egginton explores expressions of this problem in the art and literature of the Hispanic Baroques, new and old. He shows how the strategies of these two Baroques emerged in the political and social world of the Spanish Empire, and how they continue to be deployed in the cultural politics of the present. Further, he offers a unified theory for the relation between the two Baroques and a new vocabulary for distinguishing between their ideological values.

Excerpt

We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our
own reality. And while you're studying that reality—
judiciously, if you will—we'll act again, creating other
new realities, which you can study too, and that's how
things will sort out. We're history's actors … and you,
all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
Aide to George W. Bush, quoted by Ronald Suskind

Why the Baroque? Why now? As many have argued, the general aesthetic trend of the late twentieth to early twenty-first centuries, often called postmodern, can perhaps more usefully, more substantively, be labeled as neobaroque. But why? Is the neobaroque turn of the twentieth century something akin to the Neoclassicism of the sixteenth century, or the NeoGothicism of the nineteenth? Or, on an even more condensed scale, is it similar to the rapid returns of previously dismissed fashion decades, as evidenced by the proliferation in the early years of this century of those beads and bellbottoms associated with flower children and the age of Aquarius?

The Baroque's return, if it is a return at all, has nothing to do with the recycling of culture that these examples represent. Instead, the Baroque must be understood as the aesthetic counterpart to a problem of thought that is coterminous with that time in the West we have learned to call modernity, stretching from the sixteenth century to the present. A problem of thought, however, is not yet a philosophical problem. A problem of thought is a problem that affects or unsettles an entire culture in the largest possible sense, that permeates its very foundations and finds expression in its plastic art, in its stories and performances, in its philosophy as well as in its social organization and politics. Western culture since the sixteenth century has been entangled in a particular problem of thought, and if the . . .

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