Volume 18, Issue 1, Spring 2014
Aesthetics In The Latin American Tradition
Lois Parkinson Zamora
Exuberance by Design: New World Baroque and the Politics of Postcoloniality
My essay consists of three parts. In the first section, I review the historical context of Baroque aesthetics as it is developed during the late 16th and 17th centuries in Europe and then I track its development in Latin America into the third quarter of the 18th century. The principled excess of the Baroque, to adapt Cyrano de Bergerac’s formulation cited below, was designed for theological and imperial purposes. Secondly, I address more recent literature and literary theory. Why, in the early 20th century, did Latin American poets, novelists, essayists and critics begin to rediscover, recover and reconstitute Baroque modes of expression? What was it about this Catholic, monarchical, colonizing aesthetic that now seemed suited to postcolonial purposes? I refer to several theorists and writers who pioneered and/or inspired the 20th-century idea of the New World Baroque as a rebellious retort to Europe rather than a passive reflection. My third section considers how to teach the politics of Baroque aesthetics, and why Baroque aesthetics remains relevant today.