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Becoming-Baroque

Monika Kaup, pursuing Alejo Carpentier’s and others’ answers to questions about the ideological function of the historical American Baroque following the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain’s and Portugal’s overseas colonies in the eighteenth century, forwards a strong argument for understanding the New World Baroque in Deleuzoguattarian terms (Kaup). Building on Carpentier’s claims that, “all symbiosis, all mestizaje, engenders the Baroque” and that, “the art known as the American Baroque embodies the process of emergence, of a new beginning, of the genesis of new forms of expression and social life,” Kaup reads the baroque as a process of becoming-minor (cit. 109, 111). Where Deleuze and Guattari see morphogenesis, incorporeal transformation, and minoritarian re-functioning in the literary works of Kafka, Carpentier sees the New World Baroque as a similar “device for the creation of new worlds, new collective identities, and new forms of expression,” and, for Kaup, the overlap between the French philosophers’ concepts and Carpentier’s writings of counter-conquest lead to an important pronouncement (cit. 111). Namely, that there are two baroques: “on the one hand, the homogenizing and hierarchical official European Baroque of Absolutism and Counter Reformation, and on the other, the decolonizing and racially, culturally heterogeneous New World Baroque” (112). The latter expresses itself as the perpetual variation of baroque artistic forms and ideological constructs intended to valorize the uncertainty of identity as a marker of a liberated people-yet-to-come.

This current discussion of the diarchic selves created and maintained through the early dissemination of the Spiritual Exercises, on the one hand, and Ruzzante’s philosophically charged, activist theatre-making, on the other hand, both validates and deviates from Kaup’s pronouncements. Ruzzante’s creation of a new self, for example, one capable of standing up against the class-based discrimination enforced through Venetian rule in the early sixteenth century, seems to foreshadow if not predate precisely the becoming-minor that Kaup sees in the Americas several centuries later. This variation of self, demonstrated through Beolco’s becoming-Ruzzante, however, appears superficial unless accompanied by an analysis of the historical conditions of Beolco’s struggle and an honest look at his frustrations and failure. In turn, these frustrations reveal not a fully emancipated self but, to borrow an Adornian expression, a heteronomous autonomy, a potential breakthrough, glimpsed through his theatrical works, yoked nonetheless to a confluence of social situations that bind Ruzzante to his flesh and blood. The picture of Ruzzante I have developed thus far leads me to posit that there are not in fact two baroques, either in Ruzzante’s time or in the present; rather, there is one baroque that emerges from an internal tension between discipline and excess, conservation and revolution, self and other. At the level of the self, these tensions resolve discordantly into a foundational internal difference that never sides completely with discipline or excess, conservation or revolution, self or other. I call this a diarchic self, a self in which (at least) two ordering mechanisms shape and reshape an individual’s sense of identity. Ruzzante strives through artistic excess to reveal a new world order for peasants and agrarian communities while at the same time remaining tethered to the body of Beolco, whose hunger and financial troubles require him to make theatre for his patron. Ruzzante both points the way to Beolco’s new world and confines him to the world as it is, a world populated by people who want to laugh at the hardships of humankind while doing nothing to stop the causes of that laughter.

Additionally, is it not possible to say that, at least at face value, the Jesuits sought to decolonize individuals from their misguided appreciation ofsecular culture; that they, through their elaborate theatrical processes of conversion, worked to build a capacious subject position for a people-yet- to-come, one people made more faithfully in Christ’s image? While the Jesuits feature in Kaup’s and others’ critiques of colonialism, indeed star as the leaders of the civilizing impulse of European imperialism, their activities during their early years in Europe portray them as radical revisionists to institutionalized Church practices. Their expulsion from nearly every corner of Europe at some point in their history points to their uneasy fit within the Catholic Church. The Jesuits (at times synonymous with the baroque, as in both Kaup’s essay and Otto Kurz’s study cited in this book’s introduction) demonstrate the extent to which there are not two distinct baroques, one colonizing and one decolonizing, but one baroque containing both poles. Moreover, as I argue in this chapter, the Jesuits produced mechanisms for creating identities that would house within them both of these poles, one demanding ascetic allegiance to the Word through the imitation of (Loyola’s) Christ, the other demanding a theatrically savvy facilitation of the coexistence of selves within that performance of imitation.

Seeking to build on the insights of Kaup’s term “becoming-baroque,” while recognizing the dialectical tensions that bind the historical figures gathered in this particular study of baroque social practice, I propose not a final forward glance to the philosophies of Deleuze and Guattari or Adorno but, rather, a look backward. After all, the baroque, with all its extremes, does not arise ex nihilo. Throughout the periods that historians typically recognize as awash with baroque expression, as well as in these earlier years that I am investigating, baroque asymmetries and grotesque- ries lived alongside a thriving classical philosophy mediated by Medieval scholastics and Renaissance literary scholars. While clearly deviant in some ways from the lineage of Aquinas, Abelard, Henry of Ghent, and Duns Scotus, Loyola was raised in an intellectual community founded in their ways of thinking. Tracing the tactics of meditation and self-reflection in the Spiritual Exercises back to their classical roots will, moreover, reveal explicit links to Stoic philosophy. Ruzzante likewise re-functioned More and Erasmus while acknowledging the popularity of Epicurus’s philosophy in his patron’ s circle and following the institutionalized philosophical curriculum in the nearby University of Padua that derived from allegiance to Aristotle. Any study of the baroque that does not at least broach the topic of classical philosophy will fail to acknowledge a thriving force within both the disciplinary and excessive polarities found there.

Seeking to stay within the orbit of “world-making” that neobaroque writers identify as crucial to the baroque, and seeing Foucault’s critical attitude active in the Veneto of the sixteenth-century, I find myself drawn to the term KoagonoMfrq;, “citizen of the world.” Ostensibly coined by the Cynic philosopher Diogenes of Sinope when replying to the question of his origin, the identity of the cosmopolitan carried a refusal to be allied to a particular city-state and, by extension, an unwillingness to be governed by any local political system. The words contained within this identity (коацо; and лоЛлтиа) each play a part in Diogenes’ neologism. Cosmos, from the time of Pythagoras, named the great world-order, the universe. It also carried with it an affirmation that this world-order is good, that the form of the universe is organized, rational, and for that reason knowable. “Politeia,” visited briefly in Chapter 5, referred more generally to the daily life of an individual. In its traditional usage, this daily life tied the individual to the governing order overseeing the rules and regulations of that daily life. Stitching these words together into “cosmopolitan” allows Diogenes to both preserve their original meanings and also rewrite the notion of political affiliation. Diogenes, whose name meant birthed of God, chose not to profess any allegiance to human emperors; rather, he would be known as an individual travelling through the universe, a universe he sought to re-make through knowledge gained by lived experience.

While acknowledging the established history of this word and noting the significance of a Cynical heritage to both Ruzzante’s and the Jesuits’ versions of theatrical fare, my conversation of baroque self leads me to fantasize another definition of KoaponoMTqi;: “the act of ordering the border between interior and exterior.” This definition suggests that any citizen of the world’s identity will come about through acknowledging the border between one’s own conduct, driven by one’s soul, and the social order in which the individual participates. A cosmopolitan identity, in this sense of the word, lays stress neither solely on the internal self nor on the external social milieu but rather, and perhaps primarily, on the limen between the two realms. This limen derives from an act of ordering that comes from both the individual making the identity and the external environment that will, in a sense, house that individual. With this discussion of internal and external environments defined and discerned by a liminal passage, the activity of garden thinking shows itself once again since the construction of the garden was also determined by the construction of the wall that would separate the interior garden space from the outside, uncultivated territory. To be a cosmopolitan, one must practice the same type of self-maintenance as the gardener. Unlike the garden of the Enlightenment, epitomized by the final line of Voltaire’s Candide, “we must cultivate our gardens,” this baroque garden self is not merely a retreat (Voltaire 328). It is, by distinction, and to cite the words of Scottish garden artist Ian Hamilton Finlay, an attack.21 Baroque gardens, both botanical and metaphorical, are attacks aimed at redefining the borders between self and world. Through these acts of re-definition, the interior garden and external wilderness vie to shape each other, thereby creating worlds within worlds. Baroque cosmopolitanism names this agon between interior and exterior as well as the competition between worlds.

In the following ways, Ruzzante’s self resonates with the identity of the cosmopolitan. First, while he claimed Padua as his place of birth and privileged home, he lamented the gradual demise of Padua as he knew it and even went as far as to suggest that, due to political turmoil and poor governance, the Padua he loved had vanished. In its absence, a world upside down asserted its presence, and thus Ruzzante became a citizen of this reversal-world. By adopting Ruzzante as his official name, Angelo Beolco strained against the confines of the reality to which he was, by necessity, bound. Never able to break completely free of that reality, Beolco lived his life as Ruzzante, which really meant that he dedicated himself to the process of becoming-Ruzzante through the creation of theatrical pieces up to the point of his early death. Throughout that body of work, Beolco as Ruzzante practiced the work of gardener to constantly measure, define, and redefine the lines that separated his stage worlds from the world off the stage. By cultivating new methods of ordering the line between internal aesthetic world and external empirical world, Beolco as Ruzzante simultaneously forged a self that expressed its worldview for one last time in Lettera all’Alvarotto. Intriguingly, this self exhibits a capacity to drift between dream life and waking life, thereby exhibiting another limen that the performer knew how to tend. Taking all of these qualities together, not only does Beolco-as-Ruzzante reveal his complicated and perpetually forming sense of self as KoaponoMfrq;; he also reveals the extent to which he was KoaponotqxiKo; (cosmopoeticos), someone whose sense of self was entirely imbricated with his acts of creating a better world through theatrical expression. Baroque diarchic self, I argue, emerges as the tension between the cosmopolitan and the cosmopoetical, between someone always ordering the boundary between internal drive and external exigencies, on the one hand, and someone ordering this boundary through acts of poetical expression, on the other hand.

The conjuncture of politics and poetics may ring false or at least cause hesitation. “Politics” and its Marxist entailment, praxis, human work, frequently parallels poiesis, the work of nature. As parallel unfoldings, the two terms cannot meaningfully cross. Building on Belgian philosopher Jacques Taminiaux’s ontological consideration of these two terms (praxis and poiesis) Warwick Mules conjures the Ancient Greek understanding of poiesis as “the shaping force of nature that runs through all things, including human beings who are both shaped by and employ poiesis in their way of being” (Mules 26, 38). In my invocation and conjoining of cosmopolitics and cosmopoetics, however, I am referencing neither the Ancient Greek world, nor the natural force traced through that world’s philosophy. Rather, I am stressing the latter half of the definition, the aspect of poiesis that entails a mode of being. Baroque praxical poetics arise from the historical situation mapped throughout this book’s chapters and seems to fit Ruzzante’s work given that, for him, nature was no longer distinguishable from snatural forces produced through humans’ second nature. To address this loss of nature and to respond to the social world taking shape in his time, he tended his garden, which, by extension, attacked the increasingly exclusionary status quo.

The Jesuit diarchic self glimpsed through Ottonelli’s scenic priest, Polanco’s Chronicles, and Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises has a similar affinity to both Koaponokfrqi; and KoaponotqxiKoq, though the specific expression of this Jesuit affinity leads in a different direction than did Ruzzante’s. The border between interior and exterior ordered and maintained through the Jesuit self was the limen between the Jesuit teatro del mondo and the secular world. To maintain this boundary, the converted subject had to keep his self at bay, which effectively required a life of self-renunciation. Paradoxically, it was through this self-renunciation on Earth that everlasting life became thinkable. Through spiritual exercises, the converted subject could artfully navigate between the self-as-imitator-of-Christ and the not-self. By navigating this internal divide, converted subjects, regardless of the political states of affairs in which their worldly bodies participated, expressed their spiritual devotion to God. Key to this devotion, however, was a lifetime of dedicated performance scripted by the Jesuit spiritual advisor who, in turn, took his cues from the manual constructed by Loyola. By renouncing his previous life as a mercenary soldier, Ignatius himself declared his Cynical rejection of worldly governance and professed his cosmopolitan status: he became a citizen of the world made by Christ the Almighty. Clearly, the mode of life dictated by this choice of identity required Loyola to make his world anew. By publishing the Spiritual Exercises as a manual for all to use, he effectively created a program of world-making to complement the program of spiritual allegiance dictated through the Jesuit profession of Faith. As I have argued in this chapter, however, the mass production of one world for the many converts coming to the Jesuit teatro led to a deeply problematic enforcement of subjectivity onto individuals who knew nothing of the mystic mode of being.

Taking the Jesuits (issuing forth from the identity of Loyola himself) and Beolco-as-Ruzzante as a non-identical pair oscillating through the strata of baroque social practices alive in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the vision of a baroque diarchic self culminates here, in an image of a discordant and divided internal subjectivity twinned with a repertoire of artful expressions aimed at re-making the empirical world anew. There are not two baroques, one colonizing and one counter-colonial. Instead, there is one baroque containing both impulses, and that fusion of coloniz- ing/counter-colonial desire infused the theatrical lives of onstage and offstage performers alike. Given the complexity of this situation, the noun “baroque” may even need to give way to the verb baroque, an act of diarchic self-expression and world-making emanating from these specific tensions. Beolco-as-Ruzzante baroques. The Jesuit convert baroques.

 
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