Baroque Diarchic Self
The previous five chapters of this book have dusted off, arranged, and analyzed distinct baroque social practices: a triptych of pastoralia formed from: (1) the botanical work of Valsanzibio, Bomarzo, and Tasso, (2) the weeding of the idealized garden made theatrical in Ruzzante’s offerings, and (3) the Jesuit exercise of pastoral power; Ruzzante’s political and aesthetic act of taking place; and the rooting, harvesting, and pruning of souls culminating in the dehiscence of a spiritual self enscened on the Jesuit teatro del mondo. I argue that these theatrical and performance events happening throughout Venice in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries worked collectively to create and maintain an internal, governmental, homeostatic order consonant with individual worldviews while they simultaneously strained against the Venetian governmental, spiritual, and philosophical status quo in their attempt to restructure society. The tale of these baroque social practices, then, spins out from an internal struggle or tension, one which I believe coheres around a dialectical entwinement of discipline and excess.
From the perspective of each individual or group enmeshed in and formed by this struggle, however, the image of discipline and excess appears somewhat different. Refusing to submit to the whim of Venetian governors and spiritual pastors who understood their dominance as consonant with the natural state of affairs, thus ensuring that man-made power dynamics would rule above God-given nature, Ruzzante modified paradigms of theatrical expression to demand social and governmental © The Author(s) 2017
W. Daddario, Baroque, Venice, Theatre, Philosophy,
Performance Philosophy, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-49523-1_7
change. His biting critiques, while sometimes grotesque, excessive in their vulgarity, and perhaps responsible for his dismissal from Venetian stages, never deflated his renown, nor did they lead to his complete dismissal from the theatrical life of the terraferma. Structuring and stabilizing his flights of artistic excess, one finds a tactical adherence to the acceptable genres of theatrical expression. For example, though his direct addresses to the two Cornaro cardinals upbraided the guests of honor and proposed an alternative constitution to govern peasant life in Padua, his witty repartee never tilted entirely to the obscene. Ultimately, I claim that Ruzzante’s disciplined aesthetic sensibility permitted his most unorthodox outbursts; at the same time, his outbursts helped to reshape the discipline of theatrical fare and gave rise eventually to a long line of dissident (or at least dissonant) political performers, from Andrea Calmo to Dario Fo.1
Jesuit spiritual leaders, recognizing the Republic’s assertion of its “natural” rights to govern as a hideous misstep away from the path of spiritual salvation, sought to redirect the soul of each individual in the Veneto back toward the spiritual way. Soon after their emergence in Venice, the Order would spread to the far corners of the globe with the same aim. Following the guidance of the ascetic worldview modeled and preached by Loyola, the Society sculpted its conversion tactics not only with the spiritual exercises but also the theatre, the very artform they seem to have feared the most. In their hands, the improper, soul-disturbing debauchery of theatrical fare transformed into a corporeal pedagogical and psychagogical tool for fashioning spiritual purity, thereby rewiring the excesses of stage performance into an artistic discipline of conversion.
By magnifying the minutiae of specific performance practices or texts while also surveying the broader view of the geopolitical formation of the Republic, this study has revealed how not only discipline and excess inform each other but also how the act of ordering coupled with its dialectical twin, the act of disordering, to underwrite each of these performances and texts. In many ways, order and disorder (as verbs, not nouns) drive baroque art and daily life. Venice has rightly featured in studies of the baroque for this reason. Cultivated over centuries and having reached the zenith of economic and artistic achievement in the fifteenth century, Venice’s art of statecraft sought perpetually to tame the disorder that surrounded the island territory, whether that disorder came in the form of natural disasters or political distress. To tame the surrounding disorder, however, the Republic turned frequently to elaborate spectacles themselves prone to improvisation and revision. To some extent, the Republic seems to have recognized that order could be obtained through excessively theatrical means. By the sixteenth century, after the Battle of Agnadello and during the wars with the League of Cognac against the Holy Roman Emperor, the Venetian art of politics needed to look inward and ensure inner stability so as to thwart the advances of external assailants. Thus, the art of politics consolidated the multiple diarchic governmental relations with its ter- raferma holdings, which historians like Edward Muir have recognized as signs of Venice’s continued mastery of the order/disorder dialectic. Muir defines these diarchic arrangements as follows: “These semiautonomous groups that composed these asymmetrical diarchies were called corpi e ceti, literally ‘bodies and classes,’ comprising territorial organizations such as the parliament of Friuli; cities, towns, and villages incorporated as communes; and aristocratic jurisdictions” (Muir, “Republicanism?” 143). As he also points out, “Students of the Venetian state have emphasized how its hodgepodge of institutions, the prevalence of aristocratic privilege, and widespread cultural differences created a ‘diarchy’ in which local oligarchs shared authority with Venetian officials” (Muir, Mad Blood 50). This diarchic model has in fact replaced Jacob Burckhardt’s notion of the Renaissance “State as a work of art,” though, arguably, the art of statehood still finessed the more delicate diplomatic moments within these diarchic relationships.
Conscious of the historiographical maneuvering required to gain access to the various tensions (discipline/excess, order/disorder) churning within these diarchic political landscapes, I am compelled in this final chapter to re-think these diarchies through the frame of Derrida’s discussion of arkhe and the archive. At the semantic level, “diarchy” denotes a relatively simple political arrangement through which two rule systems operate concurrently in places like Padua, Treviso, Vicenza, and the Friuli so as to offer the occupants of those towns semi-autonomous governance of their territories while simultaneously asserting Venetian supra-dominance. Derrida’s deconstructive reading of arkhe, however, opens the door to a more nuanced interpretation of diarchic governmentality and helps us in the present moment to access the bodies and struggles of individuals whose identities frequently remain occluded by the blinding light of state-sponsored histories and the prevalence of archival documents penned by the governing classes. By accessing these bodies and struggles, I intend to engage with a diarchic sense of self operating within these individuals.
For Derrida, arkhe names an act of taking place. Seeing arkhe stitched into the word archive, he goes on to suggest how all historiographical activity engaged with archival study necessarily amounts to a performance that takes place within and among archival traces, and that, furthermore, these traces themselves, the so-called objective materials, belie both covert and overt historical practices that relied on two principles: commencement and commandment. Archival data hint at origins and springings-forth, but they also reveal the acts of ordering that deemed those data worthy of safekeeping and ordering in the first place. Derrida’s point is that archives and archival data not only point to there where events commenced but also, and logically prior to the commencement, there where social order was exercised and a nomological principle enforced. The founding and “taking place” of arkhe thus instigate a cleavage in the heart of the archive (Derrida 1-3).
A similar cleavage, issuing from one’s cultural identity, shows itself within the Venetian diarchies mentioned by Muir. I have rehearsed one example of this already by showing how Padua’s diarchic arrangement with Venice leads to its semi-autonomy that must, ultimately, concede allegiance to the Republic. Thus, Padua is consigned to Venice, gathered together within the geopolity of the Republic of St Mark. My concern in this final chapter is to discover whether this same tension plays out on the level of the individual whose identity construction abuts a multiplicity of diarchic principles and regimes (Paduan/ Venetian, spirit/flesh, law of nature/law of government). Whereas Muir worked to understand the various bilateral relationships operating in the Veneto before, during, and after the defeat of Agnadello in order to extend and solidify Venetian-style res publica, I am uncovering a diarchic baroque aestheticism coincident and coeval with this republican governmentality, one that points to the specter of what I call the baroque diarchic self. Like the other baroque social practices produced in this book thus far, this baroque self contains within it a dialectical tension between disciplinary regimes and excessive expressions, between archic acts of ordering and anarchic acts of disordering. The purpose of X-raying this tension within the self is not to develop a baroque ontology but, rather, to suggest a baroque praxis of self, a manner of gathering oneself from multiple potential selves and carrying on as this imagined unity. As I will demonstrate, such a praxis leads simultaneously to the promise of creating a new world within the existing order and to an irreconcilable schism within one’s identity.
Many neobaroque writers have worked assiduously to flesh out this baroque self, one fraught with tensions that potentially lead the way to new understandings of identity and praxis. For William Egginton, the word “neobaroque” has in fact become “the quintessential^ American expression of postcolonial aesthetics” (Egginton 72). Paired with its counterpart, the coloneobaroque, Egginton understands the neobaroque as “a persistent option or possibility or strategy of the aesthetic configuration ushered in by the historical Baroque,” a possibility that lives in an aesthetic understanding of self made possible, and necessary, through colonialism. Explaining this in more detail, Egginton turns to Jose Lezama Lima’s word imago, “the image that the colonizers wove together out of a dissident, disperse, unknown reality, terra incognita, in order to make the fabric of history” (73). But, as he goes on to explain, the imago, synonymous with the subject known as “American” in Lezama’s work, “occupies in some sense both the place of the perceiver and that of the imagined object,” and thus, “the American consciousness is capable of producing a very different view of the world, replete with its own aesthetic forms” (73). Herein lies the revolutionary power of the imago-self, a power hewn from a subject’s emergence upon a cultural borderline, a potent place of in-betweenness. For Egginton, “the imago occupies the paradoxical point of baroque architectonics, where the truth is contained and produced by the illusion that conceals it” (75).
This notion of a self-as-pivot articulated by Lezama and Egginton, a self not denigrated by the lack of singular subject position developed through colonial exploitation but, instead, thriving thanks to a supple stance across multiple sign systems, motivates my inquiry into the diarchic self, though, like the neobaroque writers, I remain hesitant to perform a fully positive reading of this self as it exposes itself in sixteenth-century northern Italy. As the previous chapter suggested, baroque self unfolds from internal difference and entails an aporetic non-identity. Likewise, the sense of self underpinning Ruzzante’s theatre, indeed Ruzzante’s own split-identity as Beolco/Ruzzante, and the Jesuit scenic actors reveal signs of internal revolt, one possibly managed through deft theatrical externalization or enfoldment but ornery and divided nonetheless, unresolved, a peptic self. By lingering on the disease of the self visible within the Venetian diarchies of the early sixteenth century, I hope to add an historical perspective that may benefit the dialectical thought active in neobaroque studies and further evaluate the internal tensions within the term “baroque” itself.