- Baroque New Worlds: Representation, Transculturation, Counterconquest
Privileged as it is with an inherently transcultural and transhistorical span, the concept of the baroque has in the last decades become a leading area of interdisciplinary research. Philosophers, art historians, literary scholars, and historians have converged around the it, drawn by the enigmas of a style that appears both to be rooted in a historical moment and cultural plane and to transcend both, raising vital questions of historicity, periodicity, and the relation of ideology to form. The use of the term “neobaroque” since the 1970s, largely but not exclusively in relation to Latin American aesthetic production, has complicated this arena, provoking speculation about the historical and political relations between a European baroque style associated with the early modern imperial and colonial state and a Latin American neobaroque style corresponding in large measure to a countercolonial or at least syncretistic impulse originating in the colonized cultures.
Teaching the vast theoretical corpus underlying current baroque studies has been a challenge. Despite the vitality of the field, until the publication of Lois Parkinson Zamora and Monika Kaup’s Baroque New Worlds, there was no adequate anthology of source texts, and many of the fundamental readings, most of which are in Spanish with a few others in French, German, and Italian, had not been translated. Baroque New Worlds has been a long time in the works and has been at long anticipated by those of us actively engaged in teaching and research in this field. Now that it has appeared, we have a valuable new tool for introducing this exciting field to our students. [End Page 309]
Baroque New Worlds includes a sound and wide-ranging introduction to the field by the editors and twenty-nine essays or extracts, ranging from pieces written in the late nineteenth century to a handful of new contributions by contemporary scholars. The essays are organized into three sections: the first comprises the foundational texts of European baroque theory and the New World and neobaroque variants; the second and third deal with what the editors respectively term transculturation and counterconquest. By “transculturation” they mean the processes by which the historical baroque was translated into the colonial world, and with “counterconquest” they designate the ideological shift whereby a New World baroque style is reworked into a subversive or contestatory form with respect to its colonial model. This organizational scheme permits meaningful distinctions to be made between cultural origins in Europe and the Americas, between historical objects of study ranging from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries, and between the centralizing and decentering political orientations of aesthetic practices described by the terminology of baroque studies.
Following this schema, the first and the third sections are devoted almost exclusively to translations or reprints of now classic theoretical texts. In the first section we have texts by Nietzsche, Wölfflin, d’Ors, Reyes, Lezama, Carpentier, and many others; in the third there are essays by Fuentes, González Echevarría, and Glissant along with more recent pieces. Each of the historical pieces is accompanied by an editors’ note explaining the historical significance of the piece and providing biographical and bibliographical information on the author, an extremely useful pedagogical device. The middle section contains six essays by current scholars of seventeenth-century culture focused primarily on aspects of the transition between European and new world aesthetic practices.
The editors’ introduction does an admirable job painting the vast landscape broached by the book in a mere twenty-six pages. The first half is particularly impressive, as it tells the story of the baroque’s transculturation and historical migration in a direct, jargon-free style that retains the urgency of the question at hand without getting bogged down in details that are best left to the foundational texts. If there is a weakness to the introduction it is only that, in its brevity, it cannot do justice to the current bounty of theorization on the baroque, much of which, in all fairness, no doubt appeared...