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Going Baroque: Baroque Theater, from Ambiguity to Hyperbole

Semester and Year SP 2018
Course Number IDSEM-UG1870
Section 001
Instructor Simon Fortin
Days TR
Time 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM, EARLY



Mannered, adorned, elaborate, grand, exaggerated, eccentric, reactionary—these are all qualities often associated with the Baroque aesthetic, a complex artistic movement that swept the European continent from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries. While the Baroque may accommodate such descriptions, it also refuses the fetters of definitions. In this course, we examine the controversies that animate the use of the term “Baroque”: How did an aesthetic of grandeur come to inform architecture, politics, religion, the visual arts, and specifically for our intent, the theater? How might the Baroque period be considered a living tension between  Ambiguity , a quality we associate more closely with the Renaissance, and  Hyperbole , understood here as excessive dogmatism? We look at texts that embrace, but also denounce, the Baroque aesthetic turn, and we try to understand how this appetite for grandeur, for excess, for unbridled expressivity still mediates the sensibilities of our post-modernity. This course posits that the Baroque was neither a style nor a period, but a shift in sensibility, a philosophical veering, resolutely modern, that never left us. Alongside recent critical essays on the topic, we read plays, prose and poetry by, among others, Shakespeare, Dryden, Corneille, Racine, Calderon, Aphra Behn, Montaigne; we listen to music by Monteverdi, Palestrina, Purcell and Vivaldi. We anatomize paintings by Velasquez, Holbein, Caravaggio and Cranach.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)