1st Edition

Baroque Self-Invention and Historical Truth
Hercules at the Crossroads

ISBN 9781138378841
Published June 5, 2019 by Routledge
216 Pages

USD $54.95

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Book Description

In his monumental study, Christopher Braider explores the dialectical contest between history and truth that defines the period of cultural transition called the 'baroque'. For example, Annibale Carracci's portrayal of the Stoic legend of Hercules at the Crossroads departs from earlier, more static representations that depict an emblematic demigod who has already rejected the fallen path of worldly Pleasure for the upward road of heroic Virtue. Braider argues that, in breaking with tradition in order to portray a tragic soliloquist whose dominant trait is agonized indecision, Carracci joins other baroque artists, poets and philosophers in rehearsing the historical dilemma of choice itself. Carracci's picture thus becomes a framing device that illuminates phenomena as diverse as the construction of gender in baroque painting and science, the Pauline ontology of art in Caravaggio and Rembrandt, the metaphysics of baroque soliloquy and the dismantling of Cartesian dualism in Cyrano de Bergerac and Pascal.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: Baroque self-invention and historical truth in art; The vindication of Susanna: femininity and truth in Baroque science and art; The fountain of Narcissus: the ontology of St Paul in Caravaggio and Rembrandt; Hercules at the crossroads: image and soliloquy in Annibale Carracci; Imaginary selves: the trial of identity in Descartes, Pascal and Cyrano; Bibliography; Index.

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Christopher Braider is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is the author of Refiguring the Real: Picture and Modernity in Word and Image, 1400-1700 (1993) and Indiscernible Counterparts: The Invention of the Text in French Classical Drama (2002).


'... a monument and a legacy to Baroque studies that works through an impressive body of material to reach broad and timely conclusions.' Tom Conley, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University