What is the course about?
This course explores some of the stranger elements of written culture in Europe in the 17th century, the age of the Baroque. Our chief aim is to engage with texts that were influential in their time but are rarely read today, especially those that seem strange to us modern readers. In grappling with them we will try to paint a portrait of the age.
The Baroque arose out of the wars of religion and political reconfiguration at the end of the previous century: the Counter-Reformation, the rise of the nation state and the theory of divine right of kings form a key part of its backdrop. It is the age in which modern science and philosophy are born, too, and in it all of the arts undergo dramatic transformations.
We will travel to the moon with Cyrano de Bergerac; explore a labyrinth containing all of human knowledge; contemplate the effects of chemistry and meteorology on the emotions; and explore strange theories about the earliest human history. We will seek out the bizarre and atypical, but ask what it can tell us about the age that better-known sources might not.
All texts will be provided in English translations.
What will we cover?
The course will be based around discussions of the selected texts but we will likely discuss most of the following:
• The roles of religious and secular governments.
• The uniqueness of our world and the infinity of the universe.
• The nature of personal emotion and intimacy.
• Print culture, censorship, freedom of expression and the rise of the Academies.
• Forms of literature, visual arts and music that can be called “Baroque” or “Mannerist”.
• Changing ideas about knowledge and education.
• What, if anything, is Baroque about our own age, and which of the debates we consider remain alive today?
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Discuss detailed reference to several primary sources from the 17th century.
• Evaluate an expanded notion of “Baroque” that can encompass aspects of philosophy, religion and science as well as the arts.
• Connect the themes of the course with your other reading, studies or creative practice.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This course has no specific prerequisites. Good English language skills are essential, since most of the course focuses on reading original 17th century texts.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
We will use a mixture of presentation and discussion in class, with the emphasis on the latter. To get the most out of the course you will need to do some reading between classes (usually about 20-30 pages per week).
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
No, all required materials will be supplied during the course.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
You might be interested in HP096: philosophies of modernism, starting in April 2020.