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Baroque literature

It is a literary and cultural movement that goes from 1610 to 1690. Already starting from 1600 there is a break with the previous genre while 1690 is the foundation of the Academy of Arcadia. The main features are:
abandonment of the classicist tradition and the principle of balance;
new way of perceiving the world and man that derives from the scientific revolution.
Up to 900 there was a very negative opinion on the Baroque.

The exponents of the Academy and Parini (neoclassical author) criticized it by calling it “a sick art”, an exaggeration. In 1800 De Santis, the greatest nineteenth-century literary critic, evaluated the Baroque as a literary movement with works without content, empty, appreciable only from a formal point of view and according to him this stemmed from the crisis of moral values ​​of 6000. also Benedetto Croce (in 900) had taken up the idea of ​​decadence of civil and religious values ​​to judge Baroque literature as only in search of the surprise effect and which overshadowed poetic truth. In the mid-twentieth century the baroque is re-evaluated with the critic Walter Benjamin who sees it as an anticipation of the modern literary avant-gardes, supported by Ezio Raimondi who describes the baroque as “the movement that gives voice to uncertainty”. For the man of 1600 the only certainty is the uncertainty of all things, he perceived the relativity of everything and this was reflected in the poetic production. In the Baroque there are three dominant poetics:

  1. poetics of conceptism: the concept is the connection between two images or themes belonging to two very different fields through unpredictable links with the aim of arousing wonder in the reader. Conceptism is mainly in poetry;
  2. poetics of wit / acuity: acuity is theorized by Baldasar Gracian in a 1648 treatise ‘agudeza y arte del ingenio’. Wit is the ability to highlight close relationships between things and through this it is possible to bring out the disharmony of reality by resorting to paradoxes, hyperboles, contradictions. The reader of the 600 appreciates this sharpness, there is an intellectual “game” between the author and the reader who grasps the ingenious procedures of the artist. The more the procedures are hidden the more the work is appreciated;
  3. poetics of metaphor: Emanuele Tesauro in 1654 wrote an essay ‘the Aristotelian telescope’ with which he theorizes and exalts metaphor as the only rhetorical figure, the only one capable of discovering the secret relationships between things and as a means of putting the creative abilities of the literate are highlighted. The poetics of the metaphor exalts the originality of the individual, while the humanistic-Renaissance one was based on the principle of imitation: it is the point of contrast.

The Baroque is also important for the role of the intellectual who in the 17th century is still employed in the courts but the censorship of the church causes publishing to enter into crisis and makes Italian culture remain isolated from the European one. Until 1600 the Italian one was the guide and the most appreciated, since the end of the century it has been 100 years behind. Furthermore, the public is very limited: noble. The presence of the church means that almost only religious books or academic texts are printed, aimed at a local audience. The man of letters to be appreciated must adapt to fashions: he must devote himself to novelties and abandon the humanistic-Renaissance and classical models. Italian Baroque poets take from tradition themes that combine into a new one: Baroque literature mixes genre, prefers poetry to prose, in particular playful and satire. Even the heroic poem changes and becomes “heroicomic”, the poem by Gianbattista Marino ‘Adone’ is the greatest example, starring the hero Adonis, beautiful and disengaged whose exploits are amorous, erotic ..
The lyric is predominant and the reference work is a collection by Marino from 1614 ‘La Lira’: a songbook divided into 3 parts, the 1st and 2nd collect the poems between 1592 and 1603, the 3rd those from 1603 to 1613. The title refers to the musical instrument, symbol of poetry. It is important because it introduces novelties: it is a different songbook from Petrarch’s one (imitated up to that moment) as it does not speak of a love affair but the lyrics are divided according to the metric genre and the themes. The sestines fall into disuse, the song loses importance and the madrigal is preferred, a short composition (usually no more than 10 lines) with septenary verses and hendecasyllables. The sonnet remains used. In the Lira there are the first examples of “figurative poetry”: the acrostic (= poem dedicated to a person, starting from the letters that make up his name (each line begins with the letter)) and the calligram (= a poem that visually reproduces the object we are talking about).

THEMES: the woman is the main one, the feelings of the poet towards her. She is not represented in her entirety but in details, the lyrics are dedicated to parts of the body or daily gestures. The theme of death from the 1930s, funeral themes, is added. They are lyrics in which the poet shovels the woman with cerebral coldness, there is no sentimental participation, there is detachment.


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