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HP316 Illusion and Reality, Doubt and Deceit: The Baroque Obsession with Uncertainty

Module Code: HP316
Module Name: Illusion and Reality, Doubt and Deceit: The Baroque Obsession with Uncertainty
Module Coordinator: Dr Rich Rabone
Term 1 Time: TBC
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

Cervantes’s Don Quijote is often voted the greatest novel of all time. But why is its mad hero unable to see the world as it is, charging at windmills which he thinks are giants? If reality can be so deceptive, how can we know anything for certain, and is it dangerous to try? And how can you take advantage of all this, manipulating deceit for your own ends?

Seventeenth-century Spain had the world’s most extensive empire, with the artistic and literary output to match it. Yet that status never felt secure, as the feeling that the empire was in decline played into a wider suspicion that the evidence of your senses could not be trusted, fuelled by the popularity of scepticism. The result was a set of literary masterpieces united by the conviction that things were never really as they seemed. In this module, we will explore how different authors approach that obsession with uncertainty, from Cervantes’s endlessly playful mixing of fiction and reality in Don Quijote, to the fatal consequences of doubt in Calderón’s great tragedy, El médico de su honra. We will see what happens when you cannot tell reality from dreams, and see how Quevedo seeks to counter this fallen world in his brilliantly witty Sueños. We close by considering the ambiguities of life at court, the centre of imperial power: a place where presenting yourself well was essential for getting ahead, but which was also widely criticized as a hotbed of deceit.

In order to study this module:

You will need a minimum of B1 level Spanish.

Texts are studied/analysed in Spanish; students can use translations to help, but essays will need to analyse the original texts.

Assessment Method

2 x 2,500 word essay (50% each)