The Oxford Handbook of the Baroque by John D. Lyons (Commonwealth Professor of French, Commonwealth Professor of French, University of Virginia)
Few periods in history are so fundamentally contradictory as the Baroque, the culture flourishing from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries in Europe. When we hear the term Baroque, the first images that come to mind are symmetrically designed gardens in French chateaux, scenic fountains in Italian squares, and the vibrant rhythms of a harpsichord. Behind this commitment to rule, harmony, and rigid structure, however, the Baroque also embodies a deep fascination with wonder, excess, irrationality, and rebellion against order. The Oxford Handbook of the Baroque delves into this contradiction to provide a sweeping survey of the Baroque not only as a style but also as a historical, cultural, and intellectual concept. With its thirty-eight chapters edited by leading expert John D. Lyons, the Handbook explores different manifestations of Baroque culture, from theatricality in architecture and urbanism to opera and dance, from the role of water to innovations in fashion, from mechanistic philosophy and literature to the tension between religion and science. These discussions present the Baroque as a broad cultural phenomenon that arose in response to the enormous changes emerging from the sixteenth century: the division between Catholics and Protestants, the formation of nation-states and the growth of absolutist monarchies, the colonization of lands outside Europe and the mutual impact of European and non-European cultures. Technological developments such as the telescope and the microscope and even greater access to high-quality mirrors altered mankinds view of the universe and of human identity itself. By exploring the Baroque in relation to these larger social upheavals, this Handbook reveals a fresh and surprisingly modern image of the Baroque as a powerful response to an epoch of crisis.