We Live in Baroque Times

Every age acquires a label of some kind, a word or phrase designed to capture the essence of the times. We have seen “the post-industrial society” and the “information age,” the one indicating what we have left behind, the other where we have arrived. Yet neither of these economic descriptors truly captures the irrational emotional state that now permeates, and so powerfully disturbs, the troubled Western World.

Illustration from Danse Macabre

The modern taste for shock, irrationality, the supernatural, and everything to excess remarkably resembles the earlier Baroque period. (Image: Wikimedia)

We in the West should seriously consider labelling our present era the “neo-Baroque.” In their landmark work, Theory of Literature, Weller and Warren claim that the Baroque period was in love with paradox, the oxymoron (e.g. deafening silence), and catachresis (deliberate wrong use of words), and not just in the sphere of literature, which is, after all, philosophy for its time, but at large in society as well. Today, we see the same tastes running amok in all Western societies.

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