Makers and Creators: Human and Divine Artistry in Calderón

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Makers and Creators: Human and Divine Artistry in Calderón

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Title: Makers and Creators: Human and Divine Artistry in Calderón
Author: Gray, Andrew Franklin
Citation: Gray, Andrew Franklin. 2013. Makers and Creators: Human and Divine Artistry in Calderón. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: My dissertation examines concepts of creative agency in early modern thought and baroque poetics, with an emphasis on the theater of Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681). Calderón and his contemporaries inherited from theology the idea that creative authority and power are concentrated in divinity, while humanity cannot, in a strict sense, create at all. While ancient philosophical and scriptural sources often describe a demiurgic God in anthropomorphic terms, the Christian doctrine of ex nihilo creation separates categorically an omnipotent deity from human "makers," who may refashion pre-given materials but not engender anything radically new. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, this hierarchy was challenged by literary, political, and psychological insights that endow humanity with an exalted creative potential and an enhanced efficient power over the world. As paradigmatic of this intellectual-historical movement towards the envisioning of a demiurgic humanity, I analyze the "human dignity" tradition and the literary-psychological discourse surrounding the faculty of the ingenio. The intersection of theological ideas with these currents of thought produces a fruitful tension in baroque literature, particularly in the work of Calderón. I argue that Calderón was deeply troubled by the Faustian undercurrent of his century, and that this concern plays out not only in his explorations of the question of poetic "darkness," but also in his treatment of biblical and mythological creator figures like Solomon, Nimrod, Prometheus, and the craftsmen of holy and idolatrous images. Throughout the thesis, I place Calderón's ideas on creative power and efficient knowledge or ciencias in relation to other early modern figures like Huarte de San Juan, Francis Bacon, and Giambattista Vico. This thesis is a contribution to the study of baroque poetics, of early modern Spanish theater, and of the place of aesthetics in the intellectual landscape of the seventeenth century.
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