Academic journal article Postmodern Studies

Introduction to Part 2

Academic journal article Postmodern Studies

Introduction to Part 2

Article excerpt

The cultural system and production (of art, theatre, architecture, technologies, scientific thought, philosophy) witnessed during the historical baroque is one often associated with what Thomas Kuhn famously called a "paradigm shift" in his 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. While Kuhn referred specifically to the Scientific Revolution, the rough confines of the 17th century were accompanied by major cultural shifts: the Counter Reformation and Catholicism's emphasis on the creation of works of art that reflected and encouraged the passionate expression of Faith; the invention of optical technologies that made visible objects on micro and macro levels and thus altered perceptions of Earth and the universe; and the colonization of New Worlds in the Americas and Asia that created new hybrid cultures and religious belief systems. In addition, these radical transformations occurred in the context of the beginnings of the modern world that witnessed the slow but steady destabilisation of aristocratic and religious power structures.

Part 2 of this book deals with the theme of religion, but not necessarily religion in the strict sense of the word. The Counter Reformation reforms certainly impacted on the creation of spectacular, affective works that aimed to transport the spectator to ethereal spaces that evoked the Divine. However, religious experience was also expressed through wondrous, transcendent and sublime sensations when confronted with new optical technologies that made the stars in space visible, or, in the case of new scientific theories, when the place of the Earth at the centre of the universe was replaced by a heliocentric one. Our era has dealt with its own radical shifts-digital technologies, the Internet, globalization, new corporate economies, national identity and the aftermath of postcolonialism-that have impacted dramatically on cultures and cultural production. Religious narratives found new forms of expression as they were transformed and shaped by different neo-baroque systems. Part 2 of this anthology explores some of these transformations.

In his chapter "Afro-Caribbean Belief Systems and the Neo-Baroque Novel" Hugh Hazelton offers a close analysis of Alejo Carpentier's novel El reino de este mundo (The Kingdom of This World) and Alfonso Quijada Urías's Lujuria Tropical (Tropical Lust). Carpentier's novel, which is set during the Haitian Revolution, addresses the clash of Faiths in the hybrid, multi-ethnic world of the late 18th century-early 19th century that eventually led to the abolition of slavery in the French colony. Like the writings of Miguel de Cervantes, El reino de este mundo is itself a hybrid, dialogic text that reflects on the 'conquering' of the New World. Weaving together multiple literary traditions including Surrealism and the baroque, the text is a proponent of what Carpentier called "lo real maravilloso" or "the marvelous real", which creatively imagined the fantastic nature of everyday Latin American culture. Hazelton argues that in Carpentier's aesthetic, the marvellous real merges with the baroque, the marvellous often being associated with the slaves and Voodoo religion and white culture being associated with the real. Voodoo and African religious beliefs are also at the centre of Alfonso Quijada Urías' Lujuria Tropical, however, this "transcendent work of metafiction" adopts a ludic, parodic approach that fluidly shifts in style and mutates from representational and surrealist form, to prose poetry and stream-of-consciousness. As Hazelton lucidly explains, Urías creates a fantastic and self-reflexive world that references the baroque and neo-baroque and, ultimately, African-based religious beliefs are represented as capable of altering reality through a "constant play with the most outrageous fantastical and hallucinatory elements of magic realism as the narrative capriciously transcends the material world".

In his essay "Temporal and Local Transfers-The Neo-Baroque Between Politics, Religion and Entertainment" Jens Baumgarten focuses on the theatricality and staging of baroque worship by analysing the 20th century church Nossa Senhora do Brasil. …

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