Baroque, New World Baroque, Neobaroque
CategOries and COnCePts
Lois Parkinson Zamora and Monika Kaup
the CuBan writer José Lezama Lima begins his essay “Baroque Curi-
osity” in Baroque fashion, with a parody, quoting the globalizing claim of 
a critic he does not name: “The earth is Classical and the sea is Baroque.” 
Lezama’s purpose is to suggest that by the time of his own essay, published in 
La expresión americana in 1957, the Baroque had emerged from two centuries 
of oblivion (and opprobrium), only to become overexposed, overextended, 
whatever-you-please. For Lezama, the Baroque had been appropriated and 
generalized to the point of meaninglessness.
Of  course,  Lezama’s  own  project  was  also  vast—not  quite  planetary 
perhaps,  but  certainly  hemispheric—and  it  also  involved  appropriation: 
he would reclaim the Baroque for the New World, place it in its historical 
American contexts, and then make his own generalizing claims. Take this 
one, for instance, in the same essay, translated from the Spanish and included 
in  our  volume:  “The  literary  banquet,  the  prolific  description  of  fruits  of 
the  earth  and  sea,  is  rooted  in  the  jubilant  Baroque.  We  shall  attempt  to 
reconstruct . . . one of those feasts, as Dionysian as dialectic, ruled by the 
desire to possess the world, to incorporate the exterior world through the 
transformative furnace of assimilation” (BNW 222).1 This statement is hardly 
less hyperbolic than that of the nameless critic whom Lezama parodies; at 
Lezama’s Baroque table, we are again offered both earth and sea. And why 
not? Self-parody, too, is characteristic of the Baroque, as is excess, exaltation, 
exuberance. Lezama’s style, as well as his subject, is Baroque: “as Dionysian 
as dialectic,” overflowing and yet articulated; globalizing and yet also specific 
to Latin American cultural and historical realities.
To share in Lezama’s Baroque banquet and help define it, we have selected 
twenty-nine  essays that trace the reemergence  of Baroque traditions  and 
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