Presence in the work: Baroque aesthetic and its 20th-century return in French thought, arts and letters
Pease, Elizabeth Scali
Doctor of Philosophy
Movement, change, inconstancy; sinuous line, saturated space, elliptical, open forms; elaborate metaphor, narrative dislocation, excessive affectivity--this familiar topology of the Baroque work all serves to disorient and seduce its reader, beholder and spectator, eventually absorbing him as living presence in the work. In contrast with the perfected distance of Renaissance/Classical constructions, epitomized philosophically by Rene Descartes (+1596, $-$1650), such Baroque absorption of spectatorial presence plays out its tension best in French culture. Prior to the French Classicism and Philosophical Modernity which served to suppress it, a 20th-century return within the Postmodern reactions against the rational legacy is made by the Baroque in its concern with presence. Our analyses situate various facets of Baroque presence in the work, in both its historical period and beyond, through the disciplines of Religion, Philosophy, the Arts and Letters. An initial study of St. Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises (1548) examines the positional evolution of the spiritual exercitant, from a subject before, to a subject within and, finally, to an ambulating Homo Baroccus of the Gospel narrative, or in a passage from perspective to transpective's double stance of Immensity (being-in) and Inhabitation (possession by). These stages of the Baroque subject exercised through the open Baroque work serve to guide the following cross-century analyses: from Descartes' distance to the philosophical proximities of Pierre Gassendi, Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty; from transgressed boundaries of the art work in the Baroque painting of Simon Vouet and Eustache Le Sueur to the metacritical treatment of pictorial framing by Rene Magritte; in actorial/spectatorial transgression from Baroque theater of martyrdom to "Theater of Cruelty"; in figures of sacrificial madness from Jean-Joseph Surin to Antonin Artaud; from the soldier's epic war narrative of Agrippa d'Aubigne to 20th-century post-war narratives of Blaise Cendrars and Claude Simon. Here, presence--problematic, painful, and even comic--fills the work, draws others into its ethos, in a way that allows us to qualify these works of the 16th, 17th and 20th centuries as exemplary of Baroque presence and its Postmodern return in French culture.
Romance literature; Religious history; Philosophy