Re-imagining the world:Cervantes, Lope and the Baroque II: The Comedia Nueva in Theory and Practice

Languages & Cultures, School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music

College of Arts and Law


Code 04244

Level of study Third/Final year

Credit value 10

Semester 2

Module description

"Re-imagining the World: Cervantes, Lope and the Baroque:
Towards the end of the 16th century the pursuit of harmony, order and form that characterises Renaissance art and literature gives way to an intellectual and aesthetic outlook that is skeptical about classifications, hierarchies, and the power of reason itself, and celebrates variety, contrast and heterogeneity. It is also an era characterised by a fascination with re-invention, transformation, and change. Known as the Baroque, its artists and writers also reflected as never before on the nature and function of creativity itself, re-assessing the relationship between author/artist, text/image/performance, and reader/spectator, and reflecting insistently on the relationship and the boundaries between fiction/art and reality. It should be no surprise then that the Baroque era saw the creation of some of the greatest works in Spanish Literature. ""Re-imagining the World" will examine the Baroque perspective, focussing on the two most significant literary forms of the age: the novel and the "comedia"; and on the work of two of its most innovative writers: Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) and Lope de Vega (1562-1635).

The end of the Sixteenth Century sees the creation of a dramatic genre, the "comedia nueva" that will transform Spanish theatre from its former status as aristocratic entertainment, religious pageantry, or fairground sideshow, into a major commercial enterprise and the foremost expression of cultural and social values of its age. But this success provokes controversy because this is also a time when Spanish society is divided between the epicurean pursuit of pleasure and a belief that Spain was slipping into an era of decadence and decline which was only to be averted by austere moral reforms. At the heart of this division lies the synergy between commercial theatre and the "comedia nueva", whose opponents vilified them as a nursery of vice, and whose apologists represented them not simply as a source of harmless entertainment but also as a mirror of society, whose purpose was correction and reform, and whose effectiveness in achieving this end was unrivalled. The basis for these arguments and their effect on how plays were written is the subject of this module. The module begins by considering the nature of Lope de Vega¿s "comedia nueva" through an analysis of his meta-theatrical play "Lo fingido verdadero" and his ironic discourse on the art of playwriting "El arte nuevo" goes on to examine the conditions of performance in the public theatres, before exploring contemporary responses to them through a range of extracts from contemporary literary and documentary sources, which serve as the basis for seminar presentations and class discussions. Whilst the module develops ideas introduced in The Origins of the Spanish Theatre (09 11956), it is also designed to be accessible to students so-far-unfamiliar with Golden Age texts outside the scope of Hispanic Literature: Texts & Contexts I A&B (09 16520/23).

At relevant moments the module will also introduce students to several masterpieces of Baroque painting as a means of illustrating the character of the age in visual as well as textual terms.