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Gregg Lambert. The Return of the Baroque in Modern Culture

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Gregg LAMBERT. The Return of the Baroque in Modern Culture. London: Continuum, 2004, 168 pp., €95.36, ISBN 0-8264-6648-6.

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1The Great British-printed back-cover description that accompanies the serious work of interdisciplinary scholarship, The Return of the Baroque in Modern Culture, by the Syracuse University Associate Professor of English and Textual Studies, Gregg Lambert, spotlights that the tome “explores the re-invention of the early European Baroque within the philosophical, cultural and literary thought of postmodernism in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America”. In so doing it adduces, to flesh out the concept of the baroque for a cross section of views, such figures as José Antonio Maravall, Eugenio d’Ors, Octavio Paz, Paul de Man, Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Gérard Genette, Yury Lotman, Jacques Derrida, Jorge-Luis Borges, Severo Sarduy and Alejo Carpentier. Furthemore, we read the volume is, “A highly original and compelling reinterpretation of modernity, Return of the Baroque answers Raymond Williams’ charge to create alternative national and international accounts of aesthetic and cultural history in order to challenge the centrality of Anglo-American modernism”. This is compelling and exciting material, not the least reason is that to be on the same bowling squad as the Great Britisher culture critic Raymond Williams, means to join a hall-of-fame winning team.

2In truth, perhaps one irony of this volume would be that a tome inspired by Williams, arguably one of the more important western Marxist thinkers of all time, would cost a pretty penny, one-hundred and twenty greenbacks before sales tax to be exact, even while, as numerous sources (e.g., Terry Eagleton’s After Theory, 2003 and Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt’s Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, 2005) broadcast, half on planet Earth now subsist on under two US dollars a day. One wonders if this kind of book-pricing therefore is more a part of the problem than of the solution with regard to equal economic justice for all, which is to say by extension printed academic thinking too, accessible for all. Admittedly, the stunningly beautiful cover illustration of Velasquez’s Las Meninas or The Family of Philip IV, c. 1656 nicely underscores the book’s engagement with Foucault’s famous analysis of the painting in Les mots et les choses (1966; trans. 1973 The Order of Things). The book contains the following primary components: “Introduction: Why the baroque?”, “Part One: Renovations of the Seventeenth-Century Baroque”, “Part Two: Baroque and the Modern”, “Part Three: Baroque and the Postmodern”, “Part Four: Baroque and Postcolonial”, and a “Conclusion: one or many baroques?”

3Beyond the worldwide individual person’s purchasing power, book-façade features of high academic culture, and the tome’s adduced parts, we read that in one early and formative take on the baroque in Roman buildings, Heinrich Wölfflin pinpoints in Renaissance und Barock (1888):

4          ● the supplanting of a linear style, which produced a sense of movement

5          ● a heightened sense of transience through the mixing of light and shadow (chiaroscuro)

6          ● monumentality—a love for the grand, the massive, the colossal, the sublime and overpowering

7          ● the multiplication of surfaces, contours, and folds—both to allude to a greater portion of space than what is visible, and to produce movement (often dizziness in the witness or spectator) by the suppression of right angles, or linear contours

8          ● finally, a preference for movement in place of repose, often in a vertical direction, which is technically produced by creating a sense of height, a sudden rapturous movement accompanied by a feeling of vertigo (18-19)

9This critical material covers several key and enduring baroque fingerprints. Lambert completes the foregoing by adding:

The first and fifth aspects of baroque style [adduced above] bear an important element for reading the cause of the spectator’s anxiety before the baroque façade […] that underlines an apprehension of the power of the artwork which the baroque, at this stage of its conception, places to the foreground. (This feeling of anxiety […] can also be understood as a form of extreme enjoyment, which is why the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan later defined his conception of jouissance féminine in reference to Bernini’s sculpture of St Theresa.) […]

many of these notions […] re-emerge as the poetic figurations of the modernist principles of change and innovation, the theoretical centrality of finitude, and of the feminine eroticism that belong to the different modern and postmodern theories of the sublime. (18-19)

10The baroque obsession with death and intensity, among much else, surface here in Wölfflin’s critical remarks. This long passage also gives one pause, for many other cultural forms such as the western baroque or neo-baroque novel, poem, film, play, philosophical text and so forth could be well-illuminated and generically elucidated with the kind of conceptuality dished up here. Here are two simple examples: the chiaroscuros that suffuse classic 1940s and 1950s American baroque film noir and the jouissance féminine of the cosmic language of Joyce’s baroque Finnegans Wake.

11In finely sensitive fashion, Lambert spotlights that, “In their historical periods, both Mannerist and high Baroque expressions were linked by this “baroque effect” produced in the apprehension of the spectator—a feeling of dizziness (vertigene), swooning (im Ohnemacht setzen, l’étourdissement), wonder and amazement, marvel (meraviglia), or rapture and delirium (Schwärmerei, jouissance) all of which lie at the basis of a general baroque aesthetic” (22). This preternatural preoccupation with astonishment, with bedazzlement and with all-at-once-over-the-top-in-your-faceness fills out the destabilizingly excessive baroque aesthetic in Lambert’s fecund study. To be specific historically speaking, as regards the periodization of the baroque we learn that

the point of commencement usually assigned to the Baroque (in Italy, between 1516 and 1527, when Orlando Furioso was published, Michelangelo unveiled the statue, Victory, and Bernini was putting the finishing touches on the colonnade in the piazza before St Peter’s) corresponds exactly to the most fervent period of “discovery” and colonization of the “New World”. (24)

12This outfits rather nicely our sense of one interpretation of the temporal origins of the occidental baroque.

13In one Latin American stance on the baroque Lambert writes of José Antonio Maravall’s La cultura del Barroco 1975 volume:

Maravall employs the term resortes […] as a technical metaphor to unfold an analysis of the sublime from the psychological effects it releases in the experience of the baroque spectator: feelings of wonder and amazement, dizziness, swooning (a passion that results from the feeling of being overpowered), delight and marvel, or awe. (29)

14This declamation also pleases one for the unrestrainedly Georges Bataillean-like baroque exuberance it communicates. Another pointedly and suitably provocative facet of the twentieth-century interpretation of the baroque crops up here,

Concluding our discussion of [Eugenio] d’Ors, perhaps a final reason for dislodging the concept of baroque from its place in historical periodization is that nothing new (which may appear accidental or arbitrary at first) can take place within a chain of events which is rigidly determined by causality. Thus, d’Ors’s baroque concept is, in a certain sense, a product of its age and expression of a spirit of revolt against “Time and its ‘It was’” (Nietzsche). (47)

15The crucial twentieth-century Postnietzschean aesthetic force of negation that engenders the unthought may be ascribed to the following:

[For Octavio Paz …] what distinguishes our notions of modernity from other ages […] is that the “new” of modernism is determined by forces of rejection and negation. It is marked by an essential interruption of the immediate past (registered in an experience of change that is expressed in its shock-value) and the rejection of any continuity between the two moments—the “before” and “now”—that are constitutive of experience. Thus, “something has changed name and shape in the course of the past two centuries”; the modern is “singularity” that bursts upon the present and twists in an unexpected direction”. (51)

16This Pazian emphasis in the foregoing on discontinuous “interruption” and on explosive “singularity” fits the bill for the twentieth-century’s aesthetical-philosophic attempts to offer up radical critiques of the aesthetical-philosophical and of the extra-aesthetical-philosophic alike; let it not go unrecalled that even a major thinker unmentioned in Lambert’s study such as Ludwig Wittgenstein writes in Vermischte Bemerkungen (Culture and Value), “Es fiel mit heute ein, als ich über meine Arbeit in der Philosophie nachdachte und mir vorsage: I destroy, I destroy, I destroy—”; “It came into my head today as I was thinking about my philosophical work and saying to myself: “I destroy, I destroy, I destroy—’” (21; trans. Peter Finch).

17As regards the concept of time, the below precisely delineates what has happened to the notion in the realm of modern philosophy, aesthetics, literature and much else:

18As Paz describes this new form of cultural historiography,

“The opposition between the past and present vanishes because time passes so quickly that the distinction between past, present and future evaporates.” What is distinctively modern about this development in the West is that modern notions of history make the disappearance or evaporation of this distinction between past, present and future the absolute foundation of historical temporality, even its metaphysical basis. The primary emphasis on the future as the explicit goal of all duration and experience of temporality casts the future itself into the middle of every lived duration, as the “absent centre” of every past and every present moment, which causes them to negate themselves in a movement both toward and away from the non-being that inheres in every temporal agent. (53)

19This is acceptable fodder for conceptual, affective and perceptual thought. To hang on the arms of the same passage:

What makes this relevant to our discussion of “the return of the Baroque”, is that because of what Paz refers to as the acceleration of time itself, we can conceive that the present opens to a multiplicity of pasts […] The general default […] of a linear concept of time […] is also accompanied by the default of mythic (or cyclical time), since myth reassures us that after the end of time, the times that follow will still approximately resemble the present, with some slight modifications. Thus, while linear or historical time races headlong into the future, mythic time (represented by the public character of ritual or spectacle, festival or sacrifice) returns to bathe itself in the aura of an immemorial past. For Paz, as well as for Baudelaire before him, the poetic project of modernity opposes the “ancient present” of myth (which functions in a bourgeois society as a value of redemption, or as projected earnings in a culture of merchandise); consequently, the future must no longer resemble the present nor redeem the past. This becomes the categorical imperative of “the modern” […] the future must appear as Other […] as the radical abolition of prospective memory provided by myth, a dizziness or vertigo of a present that, because it is not “oriented” toward the past, spins on itself as a point of confusion, similar to what Kafka called the “hesitation before birth”. (53)

20Incidentally, this elegantly curved spin on time sounds Marcel Proustian and Henri Bergsonian to boot. In an anti-Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnizian moment with regard to Leibniz’s own renowned classical baroque period “principle of sufficient reason” we also read accordingly from Lambert that “henceforth, reason can in no way be called ‘sufficient’ (which breaks its marriage with theological forms of thought founded upon faith or belief, as well as a concept of truth that is founded upon ‘revelation’), but becomes a reason that acts as its own self-critic [and to adduce Paz]:”

It governs itself insofar as it sets itself up as the object of analysis, doubt, and negation. It is not a temple or a stronghold, but an open space […] a public square, a road, a discussion, a method—a road continually making and unmaking itself, a method whose only principle is the scrutiny of all principles. Critical reason, by its very rigor, accentuates temporality. Nothing is permanent; reason becomes identified with change and otherness. We are ruled not by identity […] but by otherness and contradiction, the dizzying manifestations of criticism. In the past the goal of criticism was truth; in the modern age truth is criticism … the truth of change. (53-4)

21This provokes one into thinking of new models of rationality and of truth that undergird the importance ascribed to reasoned criticism by the Jena Romantics (i.e., criticism is accorded more value than that afforded to original artistic products during this fertile period of German Romanticism), and secondly in our own era of the last forty years in which, curiously, academic personages such as Leo Bersani, Terry Eagleton, Gérard Genette, Fredric Jameson, Edward Said, Maud Ellmann, Judith Butler, Jacques Rancière, Julia Kristeva, Niklas Luhmann, Luce Irigaray, Pierre Bourdieu and violently anti-academic ones such as Guy Debord are often at least, if not more compelling and interesting, than many a contemporary novelist or poet. In a special word, “truth” has migrated from affected, inadequately felt and suffered for on the cross verse and prose to a field of attention formerly designated as literary criticism or social theory and to what at this hour would seem more precisely to require new generic self-descriptions to do justice to its stylistic and content-based strong suits; such are the newfangled generic demons unleashed, as Jean-Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe so ably suggest by implication in their now classic account L’absolu littéraire: Théorie de la literature de romantisme allemande (1978; trans. 1988 The Literary Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism), with the essay form Michel de Montaigne inaugurates, Blaise Pascal builds upon and that reaches fruition in the Athenaeum literary productions of August Wilhelm Schlegel, Friedrich Schlegel, and Friedrich von Hardenburg (Novalis) only to be extended later in the twentieth century by the modes of interdisciplinary writing, and the figures of interdisciplinary narrative, engendered by Benjamin, Bataille, Theodor W. Adorno, and Maurice Blanchot. Consider that even the sensitively attuned John O. Bayley confessed himself by broadcasting to the press, to the chagrin if not outright outrage of many, while chairing the Booker Prize committee in the early 1990s, to the effect that he was unable to read any of the books offered up for consideration for the laurel that particular year due to their pretentiousness. Not that there is any influence here, but I recall that around the same time I was Bayley’s pupil of Henry James and Balzac and interested too in social theory, such as that authored by Foucault, and that during this period he wrote in the press something like it is precisely the less than compelling nature of contemporary fiction that may help to explain the comparatively stronger contemporary interest in social thought. Of course, the troublesome societies in which we now find ourselves may also mean that some have a problem with certain elitist spirits of the literary that have been hijacked if not outsourced by variants of overly and overtly oily capitalism.

22In a movement of extension from Lambert’s book-length essay we adduce:

we might compare Paz’s central notion of the “acceleration of history” to the recurrences of a distinctly modern baroque representation. There is a feeling of dizziness (vertige) or of a swooning (what Leibniz called im Ohnemacht setzten to describe the state of vertigo brought on by death or rage) that forms the concrete expression of modern sensibility. For Leibniz, the meaning of this dizziness is an image of reason that is struck by its own “animality”—that is, by the vicissitudes of its desire (volans), by its own passivity to the senses and its vulnerability to the emotions—which causes the “clarity” of reason to become confused, and consciousness itself to swoon. Such a feeling might also be likened to Paz’s use of the metaphor of acceleration: “all times and all spaces flow together in one here and now”. Images of dizziness or vertigo, resulting from a loss of any distinct bearing in space and the blending of several directions or perspectives, and the metaphor of acceleration where we have an image of the production of more and more space within a finite and historical frame—both aspects bear an architectural significance for the resurgence of many modern baroque constructions, particularly those that occur in the field of “textuality”, in philosophy and literary criticism […]. (54)

23Let it not go unnoticed here that the very notion of “vertigo” rather corresponds to what Félix Guattari and Deleuze declaim in their very last co-authored work Qu’est-ce que la philosophie?, 1991, “Spinoza, c’est le vertige de l’immanence auquel tant de philosophes tentent en vain d’échapper” (50); “Spinoza is the vertigo of immanence from which so many philosophers try in vain to escape” (What is Philosophy?, trans. 1994, 48). Indeed, for Guattari and Deleuze if one experiences a healthful diet of Spinozan immanence one releases a forceful non-organic mode of being that will enable one to survive one’s own death through one’s active ways of passionate and joyful being while alive that will remain expressive even after one is as dead as can be. One key moment in Lambert’s book here hangs:

(We might recall here Kafka’s imperative command of modernity, “act in such a way that you give the gods something to do.”) Thus, de Man is critical of a certain prescriptive gesture of modernity as being in “bad faith”, and envisages a “critical historian” of modernity as being able to distinguish the event from the signs that designate it, who discovers that the major trope of modernity […] is not really directed against the past and does not resemble forgetting in an empirical sense, but rather is an action directed against the language that a critic uses to designate or represent the past that is bound up in the earlier language used to represent it: “the rejection of the past is not so much an act of forgetting as an act of critical judgment directed against himself”. (62)

24As for the notion of “bad faith”, some of the later supernatural textual submissions and extra-worldly arguments of deconstructive modes of discoursing and argumentation would seem precisely that, however genuinely radical the early pre-1980 work of Derrida himself, most particularly to the spooky shame of the western academy for largely ignoring what remains for this sensibility easily his most important publication, Glas (1974), which engenders and signals in its simultaneous usage and blending of Hegel and Jean Genet new modes of questioning and of writing still to come. In a personal communication with Derrida after one of his March 1995 seminars in Paris in which I told him that Glas was still my favorite book of his, he remarked after signing one volume of the two-volume version of his chef d’oeuvre that “I was young when I wrote that!” But to go against Derrida there is more here than merely the awesome power of time. For in the end postmodern power and postmodern success collected its mortgage on Derrida’s serial number, who perhaps did not understand celebrity status as well as he might have comprehended that particular social trap. However, if Glas someday is ever truly engaged it will be cause for imaginative and intellectual pandemonium. Perhaps that was the meaning standing behind another occasion in June 1995 when after Derrida signed my volume two of the two-volume work of Glas he returned the pen to me with a certain panache and smile, as though to say: “Ok… now it’s your turn”; that is, not me of course but instead it is for our present generation to take the literary-philosophical baton and to continue the literary-philosophical revolutions effectuated by the intellectually daring and courageous forty-four year-old Derrida of 1974. That Glas even happened and that we still have it should spur us on; the well-known 1985 photograph too of Jorge Luis Borges and Derrida sitting together on a sofa conversing in Borges’s Buenos Aires home should goad also us on as concerns realizing a truer and more potent encounter between the literary and the philosophical.

25Indeed, to actualize the foregoing of furthering the revolution for philosophy and for literature and literary criticism would be to amplify upon most precisely the special Benjaminian-Kafkian injunction to modernity:

The categorical imperative of modernity’s unfinished project can be found in a formula that Benjamin first ascribes to Kafka: “Act in such a way that you give the gods something to do.” The principle reference here is to a passage from the Phenomenology of Mind, where Hegel describes the function of the Epic narrative as the invocation, or call, through the mimesis of the “voice of the dead” (mnemosyne, memory), that cuts a “ditch” in the earth, a rift or crack in time, through which the dead return to seek revenge on the living. Consequently, it is only in such moments that the gods have “something to do”—to provide a measure of justice, victory and kudos—that there is the chance of sealing or closing up the ditch in memory and restoring order to time. Behind the “universality” of Kafka’s categorical imperative is the epic figuration of the gods as the populace (the mass of spectators, the crowd) who are roused to action, to “doing” something, only when there is an offence, a crime, a scandal (a public spectacle, the sacrifice or the execution of the tyrant-king). (70)

26The true force of this extract speaks for itself. And as for the aforementioned argument, if we are to do justice to Derrida’s magnum opus, Glas, then we are to do something the same cogently and forcefully begged for here.

27To shift registers, we read from Lambert’s hand in a twentieth-century Jorge Luis Borgesian take on the baroque:

28          ● The baroque is a style that exhausts its own possibilities, or at least tries to.

29          ● It can be identified as a form of parody.

30          ● It represents the final stage of all art, a stage of exhaustion or pure expenditure (although, one might also say pure consumption, in the sense that it uses or exhausts all its resources).

31          ● Finally, the baroque is purely intellectual, which is to say humorous. (113)

32This is fascinating information that helpfully illuminates many a baroque cultural product. In yet another different tributary of the baroque:

Unlike [Eugenio] d’Ors, who sees the Baroque as the sign of an epistemic shift in European notions of culture and history, or [Gérard] Genette who sees the emergence of the baroque “schema” as the ascendancy of a literary mode as the human faculty that rules the categories and provides the inner sense to human perceptions of time, Severo Sarduy’s use of the term is much more restrictive in that it refers specifically to its colonial origins in Spanish and Latin American history and cultural traditions. (120)

33It is worthy of mention here that albeit Lambert does have a six-page chapter dedicated to Genette, he fails to engage Genette’s conceptual innovations such as “transtextuality”, “hypotext” and so on in his still to this day unjustly ignored by the academy at large, Palimpsestes: La littérature au second degré (1982); Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree (trans. 1997). Of course, some disciples of the later hyper-rational Derrida interested primarily in microlevel textual issues consider Genettian conceptuality too reductive and positivistic even while others lack the conceptual daring or vision of Genette’s imaginative critical gifts. I chastise Lambert for neither of these positions, but instead index what a critical pity it is that he did not creatively pursue this Genettian line of new conceptual approaches.

34To obtain yet more purchase on the challenging concept of the baroque we peruse, “As it was also true for [José] Martí and [José] Lezama—though in decidedly non-’structuralist” terms in their case—[Severo] Sarduy describes this process of grafting and cultural transitions in terms of a certain inter-textuality common to baroque compositions, which multiply levels of narrations through citation, allusion, repetition, pastiche and parody” (121). Fine. Importantly, we also find that

the baroque responds to the question of cultural forms in America by promoting a process of “artificialization”. The terms developed under this process are as follows: substitution, proliferation, condensation, parody, inter-textuality and intra-textuality. Sarduy’s literary system, or baroque system, can be defined as a tropological process, or the “artificialization of culture”.

Here we might recall Eugenio d’Ors whose invention of critical terminology in many ways already forecasts the themes of “hybridity” and “creolization”, including the textual processes of pastiche and citation, in the composition of cultural works. With a high value placed on the principles of “texture” and “in-mixing”, d’Ors invented a unique and innovative set of terms to describe these processes in his art criticism. Often, he borrowed culinary terms such as picadillo (‘minced meat”), puchero español (‘Spanish stew”), or andrajo (‘tattered”) to characterize the “texture” of different compositions according to what he called an architectonic analysis which belonged to his general theory of morphology, and to the concept of the baroque in particular. (126-7)

35Certainly many of these abovementioned properties of the baroque are even assignable to some works of literary postmodernism such as fictions authored by Thomas Pynchon whose Gravity’s Rainbow particularly comes center stage with the thickness of the texture of its prose canvas and of its strategic artificialization of worldwide culture.

36The next quotation is sometimes hard cultural medicine to swallow/to follow, thereby illuminating unfortunate dead ends and traits of high academic criticism wherein one rather wishes prose would not bring one’s hair to stand on its end. The dice of course are loaded to produce eminently readable scholarly prose given the sophistication and scholarly history of Lambert’s target texts, yet to be locked shut from the readable is to be locked out of reading time. Nevertheless, this passage of baroque obfuscation does reward vigilant re-reading. Here we go:

we might understand Sarduy’s use of the term “barrocco” as part of the process of subordinating the dominant cultural tension that structures the European concept of culture—that of Classicism and Romanticism (or Gothic), which always maintains a cyclical version of cultural history that remains eternally bound up with Europe’s universality—and, instead, placing this tension in service of the specifically regional and cultural dialects of Cuban and Latin American expressions of nuevo barroco. Thus, the cyclical and recurring opposition of Classical and Romantic, when pictured within the metaphoric movement announced in Sarduy’s use of the “The Big Bang”, no longer contains the moment of a return, but rather is cast in the form of an infinite dispersion outward that causes the origin to become empty and void. Spengler had already defined the baroque as a “Third Style” borne from the tensions between classical art and the Gothic, and Sarduy and other Caribbean writers—including Carpentier whose [a word is missing here!!] we will discuss in the final chapter—appropriate this definition to name “the style of Latin America”. However, what makes this nomination specific to the Latin American context was that barroco now comes to represent something that is completely absent from Western Culture. It represents a complex and over-determined site of cultural contact, an amalgamation of styles and tastes that have been imported from various other geographical and cultural regions (Africa, India, Europe, North America) and a kind of co-existence of different styles (modern, pre-modern, surrealist, neoclassical, primitive). Consequently, Alejo Carpentier defines Latin American culture by the mélange of different styles that inhabit its region, and by the fact that it has been named many times and by different colonial traditions (including its own cultural resistances, which have often created an interest in recovering the original influences of cultural expression, such as Indian or African art). For all these reasons, the baroque becomes a perfect category to describe the multiple and conflicting principles of culture. (128)

37Postmodern syncretism and eclecticism unfurl here in all their special non-sectarian, post-ideological, globalizing and internationalist glory. Furthermore, we read to extend our engagement with the above extract,

38Concerning the appropriation of the baroque as “Third Style”, one that is itself characterized by its own negativity as “stylelessness” [… Roberto González] Echevarría summarizes its meaning in the following passage, written on Carpentier’s early description:

The baroque as […] a new conceit designating that which is particularly Latin American […] provides for a writing that purports to name, for the first time, even while it is conscious of naming for the second time, of being a renaming. The text […] is a ruse, an evasive gesture that points to itself as a beginning that never was, but instead knows itself to be the future of that beginning, its ultimate end. Latin American writing will then be that third style that is the future of all styles; their degradation in heterogeneity, when their codes lose their referentiality.

[…] For Sarduy, the principle of intertextuality issues from the absolute negativity of writing itself […] This becomes the new (thoroughly baroque) principle of narrative: “If narrative must go beyond itself to contexts and at the same time constitutes, in a sense, those contexts, then the text is an empty space opened by that negation; it is the point at which things cease to have a style and the locus where they shift from one level to another.” (128-9)

39The above-adduced extracts reveal some measure of the subtlety and inter-cultural complexity of Lambert’s methods, arguments and conclusions. Let it not go unremarked though that this last cycle of quotes, swerve dangerously close to the borderline of simple drivel, in actual fact more so before I truncated it to its present more digestible state, but the ten-dollar words in the final count do manage to communicate some sense. One cannot help but think here of George Orwell’s objectively classic essay, “Politics and the English Language”, as a possible model and inspiration-source for more lucid discoursing even while acknowledging that Orwell’s text too remains a product of a certain sort of British ideology of clearheaded and plain speaking English, which I myself encountered across five years as a student in England.

40In the last tally, it remains to be seen, and so as yet to be written, whether others will step over Lambert’s inspiring footsteps to deepen and to amplify his learned and spirited wide-ranging analyses for a truer understanding of the movement, the genre, the cycle, the table and the dynamism of modern and of postmodern baroque culture for a profounder grasp, above all, of our contemporaneity; Angela Ndalianis’s book-length study, also published in 2004 (by The MIT Press) Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment, covers a related track. In the meantime, one can be genuinely grateful for Lambert’s massive efforts toward this interdisciplinary objective of better understanding of our contemporary baroque reality.

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Erik S. RORABACK, « Gregg Lambert. The Return of the Baroque in Modern Culture », E-rea [En ligne], 3.2 | 2005, document 9, mis en ligne le 15 octobre 2005, consulté le 27 mars 2017. URL :

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