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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
Date and time TBC
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

How can you be sure of what is real? What do you do if you cannot trust your senses? And is it a sin to be tricked? Questions like these defined the Baroque period, which was obsessed with deceit, and terrified of its consequences. This module asks why that happened, and explores the effects of these ideas in some of the greatest writing of the age.

We begin by introducing the philosophical ideas behind this obsession with doubt and 'engaño', before exploring its presentation in several different kinds of writing: novel, play, satire, comic poem, and aphorism. The first half of the module focuses on the most influential text of the period: Cervantes’s Don Quijote, often voted the greatest novel of all time, where the boundary between fiction and reality is impossibly thin. In the second half of the course, we will compare a range of very different responses to these same underlying issues of doubt and deception, from visceral tragedy and ethical condemnation to scornful humour and Machiavellian self-interest. Emphasis will be placed on close reading and analysis of landmark Golden-Age texts, including Calderón’s greatest dramas, ‘El médico de su honra’ and ‘La vida es sueño’; Quevedo’s witty satire ‘El mundo por de dentro’; and the opposing views of the court presented in short works by Quevedo and Gracián.

Assessment Method

2 x 2000-2500 word essays