The Baroque: Literature and Culture in Seventeenth-Century Europe

The Baroque: Literature and Culture in Seventeenth-Century Europe

The Baroque: Literature and Culture in Seventeenth-Century Europe

The Baroque: Literature and Culture in Seventeenth-Century Europe

Excerpt

Can any cultural movement be explained? The one now called baroque dominated most of Western Europe from the late sixteenth century to the 1720s. During that long time it went through various phases, affecting some arts, some countries more than others; to readers of this book that will become clear.

What is the baroque? There are many overlapping definitions. To many who have written well about it, it means a mode of European painting; a style of architecture; a cultural phenomenon which manifested itself most noticeably in the fine and applied arts. To others, the baroque means an attitude to life which arose after the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation, and found expression in music, literature and painting. In countries where it has left strong and evident traces there is a natural tendency to rate it highly and to describe the finest and most representative products of the seventeenth century as baroque, without further definition. This is particularly the case in Italy and Spain, in Austria and Germany. In England, however, as in France, there is a deeply ingrained and understandable reluctance to accept the term. Not only have both these Western nations been much less marked by baroque visual art; they are also apt to remember its originally pejorative meaning, more suitable for describing foreign achievements than their own. In general, Protestant countries share this reluctance, and tend to regard the baroque as Roman Catholic. The case of France, however, reveals how complex the situation really is.

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