Baroque Reason: The Aesthetics of Modernity
SAGE, Jan 1, 1994 - 192 pages
In this fascinating book, Christine Buci-Glucksmann explores the condition of modernity - alienation, melancholy, nostalgia - through the works of a number of writers and philosophers, including the social and aesthetic philosophy of Walter Benjamin.
The author examines Baudelaire's haunting image of the city and its profound effect on conceptions of modernity. She goes on to consider how such influential figures as Nietzsche, Adorno, Musil, Barthes and Lacan constitute a baroque paradigm, united by their allegorical style, their conflation of aesthetics with ethics and their subject matter - death, catastrophe, sexuality, myth, the female. In her exegesis of these fundamental themes Buci-Glucksmann proposes an epistemology beyond postmodernism.
This extraordinary exposition of a baroque reason for modernity sheds new light on a number of themes central to modern social theory.
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In his introduction to Buci-Glucksmann’s best known work in the English language, Bryan Turner lays out quite clearly what her project is. It takes him nearly thirty pages to do so, however, so vast and complex is her project. At its core, her book is about tracing the origins of an aesthetic theory of the baroque through Benjamin and Baudelaire. This would be the easy answer we could provide if asked what her task is. At its most complicated, though, her project encompasses much more than the work of Benjamin and Baudelaire. Buci-Glucksmann moves fluidly in her analysis between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries across the gaping divide of Enlightenment rationality to place the origins of modern aesthetic theory firmly in the Baroque of the seventeenth century.
But her location of modern aesthetics in this historical period never stabilizes. It is constantly in flux, shifting between the early modern and the modern, across geographical and disciplinary divides, ultimately becoming a Latourian quasi-object that can never be truly objectified by Buci-Glucksmann’s subjective analysis of it.