During the Baroque period, things fell apart; the center of beliefs, institutions, and truisms could no longer hold. Indeed, not even one's body was free of speculation, debate, and change; with scientific discoveries and experiments, as well as the thinkers and philosophers challenging preconceived ideas, what was once considered the human body fell apart. Suddenly, to know thyself meant a complete reexamination of what thyself meant in the new terms of the body. Michel Foucault, in The Order of Things claimed that during the Baroque period, there was a definitive cut, a break in language and images. The erudition that once read nature and books alike as parts of a single text, he writes, has been relegated to the same category as its own chimeras ( ) the signs of language no longer have any value apart from the slender fiction which they represent (48). As the term body, too, became dissected, then so did the idea of self, soul, and mind.
[...] And indeed, the thinkers, writers, and artists during that period searched for answers, trying to find a firm footing, or if not that, than at least a way to represent the representations and rhetoric that were crumbling with each incision and discovery. be, or not to begins Hamlet's infamous soliloquy. die, to sleep;” he continues, sleep, perchance to dream- ay, there's the rub:/ For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, / When we have shuffled off this mortal coil.” Shakespeare's Hamlet spends much of the play contemplating the same questions that many people during the Baroque did; does the body come back together? [...]
[...] In Books of the Body: Anatomic Ritual and Renaissance Learning, Andrea Carlino sites that the rebirth of anatomical study occurred around 1270, with Guglielmo da Saliceto's surgical treatise. Even though it never specifically discussed dissection, is frequently described in the historiography of the subject as being based on the direct observation of cadavers” (Carlino 170). Two other factors constituted to the rebirth of interest in human anatomy. The first was the translation of the writings by Hippocrates, Galen, and Arab physicians which all cited the importance of studying the human body. [...]
[...] Through the dissections of the human body during the Baroque period, death suddenly became the definitive break between living and not living. Until the 16th century, there had been no scientific evidence, nor any substantial experimentation, to identify a definitive fracture between life and death. Prior to this period, the term resonated with the idea of a soul. Where this soul was, and how it preserved one's life was dictated by religion. In the third century, Tertullian acknowledged the church's teachings of the soul and body connection in one of his writings entitled De Resurrectione mortuorum: suppose someone says: ‘what does it profit us to honor a lifeless body; what does it profit us to frequent hymns and praise bones lacking in sense?' Let this kind of thinking be far from the hearts of the faithful” (Bynum 264). [...]
[...] Prior to the Baroque period universe was folded in upon itself: the earth echoing the sky, faces seeing themselves reflected in the stars, and plants holding within their stems the secrets that were of use to (Foucault 17). Foucault's argument is supported by the fact that the Aristotelian belief that the anatomical structures between man and his closest animal relative, the monkey, began to crumble along with the belief in humors and hermeneutics that once reigned during the Renaissance. In her book Bynum writes, assumption that the material body we occupy in this life is integral to person and that the event we call death is not a radical break was reflected in legend, folktale, and even ‘science.' Many stories that circulated in the later Middle Ages implied that the body was in some sense alive after death” (266). [...]
[...] Prior to the Baroque period, people relied on hermeneutics, or the study of signs, to understand their body in the context of the universe and God. Birthmarks, facial features, and the lines of one's palm all connected to the constellations, landscapes, earth, wind, water, and fire. The phrases “Omnia ad uno, omnia ad which translate from Latin as “everything from one, everything to the concisely summates the thinking that predominated the Renaissance: one's body was part of the universal structure that God had created. [...]
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