Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros4.1Remapping the Affinities between ...


Remapping the Affinities between the Baroque and the Postmodern: The Folds of Melancholy & the Melancholy of the Fold


Texte intégral

1The affinity between the baroque and the postmodern which emerges in much contemporary theoretical writing, is premissed on a view of the baroque and the postmodern as tropes that open up a dialogue with the founding categories of modernity; the baroque is seen as resisting the coming of age of rationalism, while the postmodern revisits the emergence of modern subjectivity as source of knowledge of both self and world, and seeks to redefine subjectivity beyond transcendental, metaphysical categories. Both the baroque and the postmodern are seen as breaks from and continuations of the culture of the Renaissance and of the culture of modernity, respectively; both are seen as periods of crisis or moments of transition, ushering in the end of a previous cultural dominant, and inaugurating new beginnings. The baroque and the postmodern find their most striking manifestations in forms and experiences that articulate intermediary spaces where tensions, antinomies and opposites remain unresolved. They perform tropes of the singular, and the multiple that resist the rationalist dualities of self and world, the universal and the particular.1

2In what follows, I will explore the affinities between the baroque and the postmodern through melancholy and the trope of the fold. Throughout its history, melancholy is not just a category of subjective experience, but also a cultural trope that involves the disjunction and the interrelation between the self and world, between the contingent and the transcendent. Similarly, the fold, which is the unifying concept in Gilles Deleuze’s study of Leibniz and the Baroque (1988), is an intermediary trope that resists the distinction between essence and appearance, subject and object. Against the backdrop of Deleuze’s reading of the fold through Leibniz’s thought, melancholy and the fold appear to intersect in ways that invite us to see the fold as both the antidote and foil of melancholy; both are intermittently symptoms and ways of overcoming the antinomies and the discontent of modernity.

3Robert Burton’s erudite and eclectic Anatomy of Melancholy of 1621 can be read as a most telling instance where the symptoms of melancholy, diagnosed at the level of subjective experience, are also seen as bearers of the discontent and exuberance of the baroque. Burton’s highly idiosyncratic compendium of paradigms of “melancholy” is also a compendium of the cultures of the Renaissance, as well as a space of dialogue between the Baroque and High Renaissance. Burton’s “anatomy” converses with the humanist tradition and abounds in learned references to classical texts. Inscribed in the Elizabethan world-view of the Great Chain of Being, melancholy is premissed on the correspondence between the microcosm and the macrocosm: melancholy results from “violent and speedy alterations in this our Microcosme” (217). Perceived as “influenced” by stars and the humours of the human body (Burton 127-135), and analysed in terms of symptoms and cures, Burton’s “anatomy” invites us to see melancholy as ephemeral and contingent, and as a recurring trait of the human condition, at the same time: “no man living is free” from melancholy, which is “the Character of Mortalitie” (125). Within the microcosm of the human condition, melancholy involves the interrelation of the body and the soul: the body “works upon the minde, by his bad humours, troubling the Spirits” and “disturbing the Soule, (217) while “all the mischiefes of the Body, proceed from the Soule” (218). The body and the soul in Burton’s view, albeit complementary, are also distinct: the symptoms of the mind and the soul are far more fluid, more diffuse, and more related to the affect than the symptoms of the body. The definition of melancholy proceeds in a similar manner, as Burton moves from the particular to the general, from the physical to the spiritual, and vice versa. The melancholy “disposition” is caused from “sorrow, need, sickness, trouble, feare, griefe, passion, or perturbation of the Minde, any manner of care, discontent, or thought, which causeth anguish, dulnesse, heavinesse and vexation of the spirits, any wayes opposite to pleasure, mirth, joy, delight, causing frowardnesse in us, or a dislike” (125). Much as it perceived in terms of opposites, Burton’s “melancholy” is also an intermediary space where the hierarchical division of body and soul, reason and fantasy emerges as a delicate balance: this may be the reason why the delusions of the imagination are “wonderful” — although “this Phantasie of ours” is a “subordinate facultie to reason” (220). Even though “phantasie” begets “absurd and prodigious things” and should be controlled by reason — just like the body should be controlled by the soul — Burton sees the “wonderfull effects and power” of “phantasie” as heightened in the state of melancholy (140).

4Burton’s melancholy bears an intimation of a split within the self which encounters open and mutating forms and forces into the realm of nature and art. In this way, melancholy is posited as an attribute of the spirit of an age that does not seek to overcome its tensions, but instead revolves around the contingent. In a section from “Religious Melancholy”, Burton evokes how the natural and the supernatural, reality and fantasy coexist in states of suspension that defeat linear space and time:

Give me but a little leave, and I will set before your eyes in brief a stupend, vast, infinite Ocean of incredible madness and folly: a Sea full of shelves and rocks, sands, gulfs, Euripuses, and contrary tides, full of fearful monsters, uncouth shapes, roaring waves, tempests, and Siren calms, Halcyonian Seas, unspeakable misery, such Comedies and Tragedies, such absurd and ridiculous, fereal and lamentable fits, that I know not whether they are more to be pitied or derided, or may be believed, but that we daily see the same still practiced in our days, fresh examples, new news, fresh objects of misery and madness in this kind, that are still represented to us, abroad, at home, in the midst of us, in our bosoms. (868)

5Much as Burton sees religious melancholy as an “error” of the flawed human nature, his attempt to set before our eyes an “infinite Ocean of madness and folly” is offering a most forceful description of the baroque, through an inventory of themes and images which populate a world-viewthat, as José Antonio Maravall put it, does not strive “to exhibit the work of a perfect organism” but rather an “equilibrium always at stake” (301). Maravall has stressed the sense of crisis, and the attendant melancholy disposition of the baroque subject who, “overwhelmed by an innermost disorder” and haunted by the disrupted harmony of the world, turns to an exploration of the contradictory and the singular aspects of the self (150, 149). Putting forward a protean self/world relation, Burton can be seen as a baroque subject that is attracted by “the madness of the world”. Burton evokes melancholy as a catalyst for the expansion of the space of the contingent world, conjuring up new visions of worlds in which the confines between appearance and reality, the subject and the object world are uncertain and provisional.

6In Burton’s anatomy, the optimist irony of early humanism thus gives wayto a more ambiguous vision of universal harmony. Reminiscent of the exuberantly blissful Rabelaisian text, seeking utopias and longing for travel, the “anatomy” is also an expression of discontent. Burton marvels at the natural and man-made wonders, yet has an ominous premonition about the antinomies of his age. That Burton himself is a threshold figure between the Renaissance and the Baroque, bearing the malaise of the early 17th century, is also felt in his own misgivings about his “anatomy”, which he sees as unfolding in an intermediary zone between reason and unreason, exuberance and despair. This intermediary condition, and not only the sense of a divine order and the confidence in the power of human reason to interpret Man and Nature — may be the reason why, premissed on opposites and antinomical yet interrelated forces and drives, Burton’s melancholy is haunted by dualities that resist resolution, and paradoxically seem to coexist harmoniously in a state of an ominous suspension. On the threshold of the coming of age of rationalism, the baroque trope of melancholy bears the discontent that never ceased to haunt modernity: the release of the irrational through the exploration of the limits of reason, the sense of the finitude and limitlessness of the human condition, anxiety and a sense of alienation which is inseparable from pleasure and fulfilment.

7Like Burton’s melancholy, the fold is also an intermediary trope that cannot be subsumed by the Cartesian distinction between the subject and the object world. In the opening of The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, Gilles Deleuze posits the baroque as productive of folds; just like Burton’s melancholy is more than a state of subjective experience, the fold is more than a formal element of Baroque art. Deleuze writes:

The Baroque refers not to an essence but rather to an operative function, to a trait. It endlessly produces folds… The Baroque trait twists and turns its folds, pushing them to infinity, fold over fold, one upon the other. The Baroque fold unfurls all the way to infinity… A labyrinth is said, etymologically, to be multiple because it contains many folds. The multiple is not only what has many parts but also what is folded in many ways… If Descartes did not know how to get through the labyrinth, it was because he sought its secret of continuity in rectilinear tracks, and the secret of liberty in a rectitude of the soul. (3)

8The movement of the fold is elusive and multiple, a “trait” where the subject/object distinction collapses, and cannot therefore be attributed unambiguously to an external agency. It does not follow a linear, teleological movement; instead, it is a temporal and spatial “trait” that proliferates in unpredictable directions, a protean category that is infinite, contingent and provisional at once. The fold is the principle that informs the inside and the outside, the internal and the external, body and soul, the sensible and the inanimate world, dualities that informed Burton’s understanding of melancholy too, we might say, even the duality between symptom and cure. Drawn into the paradigm of the fold, melancholy therefore too, begets a redefinition of subject, object and concept: in Burton’s “anatomy” the melancholy subject moves across a “stupend” and “vast” set of shifting points of view; the objects that the subject encounters exceed the getting together of form and matter, and concepts are indissociable from contingency and the imminent actualisation of a possibility.

9The fold is predicated on two paradoxes of Leibniz’s thought: the paradox of the monad and the conception of the baroque world as a two-tier world. The most fundamental attribute of the monad, Deleuze reminds us, is the erasing of the distinction between inside and outside. The origin of the word monad is neoplatonic, and in Leibniz, it takes on the metaphysical element of the soul or the subject: the monad denotes the oneness that envelops a multiplicity and the multiplicity that unfolds the oneness (see Antonioli 111, and passim). The monad is like a constant and uninterrupted coming and going between the soul and the body, a movement that cancels out the boundary between the sensible and the intelligible world. The monad is a mirror and a perspective onto the world, yet it draws its perceptions from within itself, because it is a unity without doors nor windows. In the two-tier world of the baroque, each soul is distinct and bears its own singular viewpoint. The souls, like the monads, are at the higher tier of the world and do not act upon each other; they draw their perceptions from within an infinite set of perceptions. At the lower tier is organic and inorganic matter subject to forces that draw it into a curvilinear movement. Baroque matter is “porous” and “spongy”, distinct yet inseparable from the soul. (Deleuze 23-26 and passim)

10Deleuze explores how the movement of the fold informs Baroque architecture, music, art and mathematics; in a parallel manner, the folds of Leibniz’s thought are entwined with an exploration of philosophical categories and artistic forms that resist metaphysical closure.2 In the chapter “What is Baroque?”, Deleuze traces affinities between the multiple perspectives and shifting points of view of baroque visuality, baroque architecture, Mallarmé, Tintoretto, El Greco, Henri Michaux, Klee, Fautrier, Dubuffet. All are instances of the fold in that they open up spaces where distinctions do not cancel each other out but contain and are contained by each other: in baroque paintings one cannot locate the source of light, Mallarmé’s poem unfolds onto infinity and simultaneously closes in upon itself, El Greco’s paintings are spaces where all the elements converge and simultaneously extend towards any possible direction. It is the fold’s resistance to resolution within tentative, constantly changing spaces, that inspires the new harmonies of the baroque (see Deleuze, 27-38). The figures and forms that Burton evokes in “Religious Melancholy” would not be out of place within the movement of the monads in the two-tier world of the Baroque: we may therefore say that Burton’s melancholy is folding, unfolding and refolding in ways that invite us to reflect on the melancholy of the fold. It may be that melancholy is the trope of the threshold that bears the discontent of the fold: melancholy can be seen as the trace of the anxiety or impossibility to prolong the movement of the fold onto infinity.

11Before turning to the melancholy of the Deleuzian fold, I will turn to an instance of melancholy that predates the fold and the mystical raptures of baroque faces, yet equally invites us to rethink the categories of subject, object and concept prior to the rationalist split. Julia Kristeva’s reading of Holbein’s The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb of 1521 invites us to see melancholy as the condition of discontent that the fold is deemed to transcend. Holbein’s humanised Christ involves an intermediary space between the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. Yet Christ’s death seems irreversible; it is the death of a suffering body without hope, without promise of redemption. Christ’s loneliness becomes an allegory of the inescapability of death; confined in its recess, the body is not surrounded by the ones who mourn and believe in his resurrection. Holbein’s painting suspends the promise of transcendence, without however opening onto the immanent plane of the monadic fold. Kristeva draws our attention to the formal organisation of the painting and notes how Holbein’s work is divested of elements of “architectural fantasy”; she also notes the absence of folds in the drape on which the body of the Christ rests. Another way to read the painting, Kristeva suggests, is to see Holbein attempting to bring the perspective of death into life; contemplating the promise of transcendence with a certain irony, Kristeva goes on, Holbein may be pointing towards forgiveness and pity for our own death (129), in a way that owns up to the separation of the contingent body from the transcendent soul.

12In Kristeva’s psychoanalytic perspective, the melancholy of separation is essential in order to represent the lost object: Christ’s death is both a discontinuity and a moment of reconciliation (144, 145). Predicated on the recurring fantasy of the lost object, as well as on the recurring notes of circularity, the unfolding and folding over of melancholy in Holbein’s Christ occurs at the threshold between meaning and the absence of meaning. Melancholy, therefore, like the fold, is a condition that resists conceptualisation and a dialectical relation between its elements; it unfoldsin the emptiness and the plenitude of signs. Kristeva’s point about the intermediary moment of melancholy in Holbein, becomes now somewhat reminiscent of the movement of the fold, and of the anti- or un-dialectical duality of the monad:

13Un moment mélancolique (une réelle ou imaginaire perte du sens, un désespoir réel ou imaginaire, un écrasement réel ou imaginaire des valeurs symboliques et jusque la valeur de la vie) mobilise son activité esthétique qui triomphe de cette latence mélancolique tout en gardant la trace (140).

14Melancholy is the catalyst for transcendence, as well as the catalyst for a breakthrough back into the plane of immanence. The work of art is posited by Kristeva as an imaginary space which, like the fold, is premissed on the erasing of a distinction or rather a boundary. Still, towards the end of her essay, Kristeva sees Holbein’s Christ as a threshold which ultimately denies the overcoming of the distinction between the real and the symbolic. The promise of art is ultimately suspended: the work of art bears the trace of the melancholy moment, and owns up to the incommensurability between the plane of immanence and the plane of transcendence:

Holbein s’est-il fait le peintre de ce christianisme décapé de son onde porteuse antidépressive qu’est l’identification à un au-delà gratifiant? Il nous conduit en tout cas au bord ultime de la croyance, au seuil du non-sens. Seule la forme — l’art — redonne une sérénité à cette éclipse du pardon, l’amour et le salut se réfugiant dans la performance de l’œuvre (146).

15In his reading of “art, love, and melancholy” in Kristeva’s work, John Lechte suggests that melancholy is the subject’s response to the impossibility to represent the Lacanian real, or, in Kristeva’s theoretical system, the “semiotic.” Kristeva, Lechte argues, takes us beyond Lacan’s “divided” –might we say melancholy — subject “in search of the object of desire […] towards achieving the impossible task of bringing the real into the symbolic — or, at any rate, of enlarging symbolic and imaginary capacities in the attempt” (26, 27). Whereas art and love strive “for a union with an object” in the symbolic, melancholy “would correspond to a tendency towards a union with Lacan’s real: that is, for Kristeva, with the mother and death” (33). For Kristeva, melancholy and the intimation of death is “a disruption in and of the symbolic” (36). Lechte concludes his reading, wondering whether “post-modernity” has brought about this disruption (39-40). The “virtuality” of this breakthrough, for Kristeva, is predicated on acceptance of the Other; for Deleuze, “the disruption in and of the symbolic” is at work in the folds of the baroque. Deleuze’s fold would then be the antidote to the melancholy of the unrepresentable. In Holbein’s Christ, melancholy is laid bare as ambiguously a space that negates and points towards an impossible transcendence. Is there an affinity between a melancholy art that seeks to restore a lost or broken harmony in the wake of “the eclipse of forgiveness” and the harmonies of the fold? Can melancholy be drawn into the de-territorialising, de-essentialising flow and flux of baroque music, art and architecture?

16In his reading of Deleuze’s book on Leibniz, Alain Badiou singles out three attributes of the fold that bring Holbein’s and Burton’s melancholies into view; the fold comes after the split between concepts and things, subjectivity and the object, has taken place within the self. The fold emerges after the realisation of the impossibility of transcendence, and crosses over the threshold of the melancholy moment (Burton’s “little leave” may be seen as a “melancholy moment” too). The fold, Badiou states, is “an antiextensional concept of the multiple, a representation of the multiple as a labyrinthine complexity”; [it] is “an antidialectic concept of the event”; it is an “anti-Cartesian (or anti-Lacanian) concept of the subject” (52). Badiou sees the fold as the space that preserves the multiplicity of the singular, a space where the singular becomes manifest. The fold releases the subject from the melancholy of the unrepresentable, because within the movement of the fold, the subject — like the Leibnizian monad — contains the world. However, just as it points beyond melancholy, Badiou’s gloss on the fold is also resonant with Kristeva’s “moment of melancholy”; both melancholy and the fold resist resolution, synthesis and transcendence. The melancholy art that bears testimony to the “eclipse of forgiveness”, Burton’s curvilinear, open, and mutating forms; all have become assimilated to the movement of the fold, which Badiou defines as:

a “communicating’’ figure of absolute interiority, equivalent to the world, of which it is a point of view. Or again: the fold allows us to conceive of an enunciation without ‘’enouncement’’, or of knowledge without an object. The world as such will no longer be the fantasy of the All, but the pertinent hallucination of the inside as pure outside… Deleuze is searching for a figure of interiority (or of the subject) that is neither reflection (or the cogito), nor the relation-to, the focus (or intentionality), nor the pure empty point (or eclipse). Neither Descartes, nor Husserl, nor Lacan (52 and 61).

17Adding counterpoint to Deleuze’s text, Badiou’s essay invites us to reflect on the affinity between the baroque and the postmodern, as Badiou reads the fold in the context of the postmodern revisiting of the foundational categories of modernity, and posits the fold as a “trait” that decentres the transcendental subject as a privileged point-of-view onto the world, as the source of truths and essences beyond the phenomenal world. We might say that the unresolved tensions of melancholy release the singular and initiate the multiple movement of the fold which however bears the anxiety of an imminent closure.

18Erwin Panofksy’s classic analysis of the baroque, retrospectively, sounds prescient of recent theorisations of the postmodern. Panofksy offers a reading of the baroque in terms that seem to anticipate the postmodern revisiting of the constitutive subjectivity of modernity. In Panofsky’s analysis, the baroque is marked by unresolved tensions and by the consequent overcoming of conflict through the release of “subjective emotional energy” (80). We may read into Panofsky’s view of the baroque, the dispersal of the integral subject into the multiplicities of the fold. Highlighting the antinomical forces that define the Baroque, Panofsky notes that the “Baroque phenomenon, amounted, at its inception, to a reaction against exaggeration and overcomplication, and that is due to a new tendency towards clarity, natural simplicity and even equilibrium” (23).The reconciliation of opposites, the excess of subjectivism and self-awareness of the baroque style are, Panofksy implies towards the end of his essay, essentially “modern” (88). As Irving Lavin notes in his introduction to a recent critical edition of the essay, “Panofsky described the Baroque as the paradise of the High Renaissance regained, but haunted and enlivened by the intense consciousness of an underlying dualism” (7). Because the baroque has been seen as both the climax and the decline of the Renaissance, Panofksy also raised the question of whether the baroque is a continuation of, or a break from the Renaissance. Retrospectively, this analogy anticipates the postmodern dialogue with modernity, notably, as to whether the postmodern sees itself as the end or the continuation of the modern.Along the lines of Panofksy’s compelling argument, the baroque and the postmodern seem to share a recurring anxiety and a persistent questioning that dwells on the closure of the contingent while also seeking to break from metaphysical categories. Moreover, Panofsky’s analysis invites us to posit an affinity between Baroque melancholy and the melancholy of modernity; the melancholy of modernity is predicated on the separation between man and nature; on an acute and exacerbated lucidity; on the awareness of a split within the self between the cognitive faculty and the affect; on the decline of the integration of subjectivity into a meaningful organic whole and lastly, on the suspension of the promise of transcendence. The baroque and the postmodern bear disillusion and disenchantment with the promises of modernity without seeking to restore a lost integral harmony.

19Deleuze’s description of the baroque, in the end of the chapter entitled “What is an Event?” is strikingly consonant with Panofksy’s analysis of the baroque as the breaking down of reason and as an attempt to ground a world-view which restores a reason unencumbered by the hierarchical division of contingent and metaphysical principles. The affinity between the baroque and the postmodern, as well as the complementarity between melancholy and the fold begin again to come into view. Deleuze writes:

We can better understand in what way the Baroque is a transition. Classical reason toppled under the force of divergences, incompossibilities, discords, dissonances. But the Baroque represents the ultimate attempt to reconstitute a classical reason by dividing divergences into as many worlds as possible, and by making from incompossibilities as many possible borders between worlds. (81)

20Against the backdrop of the postmodern revisiting of modernity, Deleuze reads Leibniz as the philosopher who opens up an intermediary space where antinomical forces are not subsumed by the rational subject, neither are they transcended into a higher synthesis. For Deleuze, Leibniz is the philosopher of the baroque because he puts forward categories that preserve and redeem the planes of multiplicity, singularity and immanence. Since the baroque, as Deleuze himself and Erwin Panofsky before him observed, bears opposite forces, Leibniz’s concept of “preestablished harmony” might be an attempt to come to terms with a world that seeks the harmony of crisis. It may be that Leibniz’s acceptance of the existence of evil and of the imperfection of this world is a way to come to terms with the inevitability of crisis. In Leibniz’s philosophical system, the world is a “virtuality”: God chooses between an infinity of possible worlds and the individual in Leibniz is the actualisation of singularities that pre-exist the individual. Between the possible worlds exists a mysterious relation (or rather non-relation) which Leibniz defines as incompossibility; the notion of incompossibility encompasses the logic of divergent and convergent series; within the movement of the “monadic” fold, divergence and convergence are incommensurable and complementary. Ultimately, God chooses between an infinity of possibilities: while “actualising” the Caesar that will cross the Rubicon, the Caesar that will not cross the Rubicon is not impossible but “incompossible with the chosen world” (Deleuze 69).

21In the chapter “Incompossibility, Individuality, Liberty“, Deleuze writes that the transition from the baroque to the neo-baroque is marked by the absence of the principle of convergence: the infinite and heterogeneous series no longer converge according to principles of pre-established harmony and the incompossibles enter the arena of fragmentation. Within the baroque fold, within its indivisible multiplicity, a “culture of divergence” makes “the most radical heterogeneities” compossible. Deleuze goes on to ask what happens when “the divergences” no longer divide into “as many worlds as possible” (81): “incompossibilities” erupt “on the same stage” of a “neo-baroque” world in which “Sextus will rape and not rape Lucretia.” Thenature of the event is altered in the transition from the baroque to the “neo-baroque”: while Leibniz’s notion of preestablished harmony rested on either/or, the neo-baroque appears to rest on the duality of and/or (82).

22In Deleuze’s terms, the altered nature of the event synthesises the affinity between the baroque and the contemporary world: Deleuze writes that the event occurs in the midst of a chaotic multiplicity which is constantly crossed by singularities. The dissonant coexistence of incompossible “events,” can be read as an allegory of the transition from modernity onto postmodernity: a cultural and historical condition in which more than one virtualities are actualised, a world in which Baroque harmony gives way to “the dissipation of tonality,” a world that witnesses the transition from “harmonic closure” to an opening onto “as Boulez will say, a “polyphony of polyphonies” (82). In the last page of the last chapter of the book, Deleuze points towards a break: with the emergence of “the new harmony,” the “conditions” of the monad, change. The principle of selection through which the monad contains one possible world and “fashions itself a clear zone of expression in the world that it includes” (137) is irreversibly disappearing. In this altered condition of the monad, “harmonics lose all privilege of rank,” and “dissonances” are excused from being resolved.” With the emergence of the new harmony, “divergences can be affirmed” (137).

23As Deleuze drifts from the parallel between Leibniz’s concept of preestablished harmony and the birth of harmony in baroque art, onto the “polyphony of polyphonies”, he parts ways with Leibniz. In the transition from the harmonies of the Baroque to the dissonances and polyphonies of the neo-Baroque, the melancholy of the fold gives way to the folds of melancholy yet again. For Deleuze, Leibniz’s concept of a pre-established harmony is an external, transcendent constraint absent from an immanent world. Against the backdrop of Deleuze’s reading of Leibniz, both the fold and melancholy are tropes of immanence, just as they are fundamentally tropes of the baroque: both ultimately oscillate between immanence and transcendence.3 The convergent and divergent multiple movements of folds are incommensurable and “compossible” with the melancholy that emerges after the eclipse of forgiveness.

24Towards the end of his essay, in a premonitory way for the course of history, Panofsky wondered what would come after the end of Renaissance humanism — the humanism that informed Holbein’s Christ and Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy in Holbein’s wake. For Panofsky, the baroque prolongation of the antinomies of the Renaissance ended when “man and nature” became “less interesting and less important than those antihuman and antinatural forces that seem to determine our own period,” which, in 1934, Panofsky identified as, “the forces of masses and machines” (88). In retrospect, Panofsky’s pessimist, or, we might say, melancholy foreboding could be read as complementary to the last “fold” of Deleuze’s book. This last fold can be read as a foreboding which can also sound as a note of hope; “the monad is now unable to contain the entire world,” as it is caught up in a movement “that moves further and further away from a center.” It is as if, on this last lap of the book, the folds can no longer be sustained as productive principles from within themselves: “the private condition of a dominant monad that produces its own accords in itself, and the public condition of monads in a crowd that follow lines of melody,” Deleuze says, “begin to fuse”. The monads start penetrating and modifying each other. The forms of modernity (Deleuze mentions “Stockhausen’s musical habitat or Dubuffet’s plastic habitat”), “do not allow the differences of inside and outside, or public and private, to survive.” Like Holbein’s Christ, the forms and tropes of modernity mark a break: in Deleuze’s terms, Leibnizian “monadology” is overtaken by “nomadology’’ (137). The monads get dispersed, as the inside, might we say the autonomous forms of modernity, no longer contain the outside within itself.

25In the opening of his essay, Badiou point to this transition, or rather epistemological rupture; the folds of Leibniz’s thought were a tentative space between the Cartesian subject and the Kantian transcendental subjectivity. Badiou takes as his point of departure the last sentence of the book, with an important addition which invites us to see “us” as interchangeably baroque and (post)modern. Badiou writes: “what is important finally is not Leibniz, but that, compelled to folding, unfolding, and refolding, we moderns remain Leibnizian” (51). On this note, melancholy and the fold begin to merge, as the last lines of Deleuze’s book now seem to suggest that the folds of melancholy have become interchangeable with the melancholy of the fold:

we are all still Leibnizian, although accords no longer convey our world or our text. We are discovering new ways of folding, akin to new envelopments, but we all remain Leibnizian because what always matters is folding, unfolding, refolding (Deleuze 137).

Haut de page


Agamben, Giorgio. “Introduction to the Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze,” in Jean Khalfa, ed. Introduction to the Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. London: Continuum, 1999: 151-69.

Antonioli, Manola. Deleuze et l’histoire de la philosophie: ou de la philosophie comme science-fiction. Paris: Kimé, 1999.

Badiou, Alain. “Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque,” in Constantin V. Boundas and Dorothea Olkowski, eds. Gilles Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy. London: Routledge, 1994: 51-69.

Burton, Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. Floyd Dell and Paul Jordan-Smith, New York: Tudor Publishing Company, 1927.

Deleuze, Gilles. The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. Trans. Tom Conley, London: Athlone Press, 1993.

Kristeva, Julia. Soleil noir, Dépression et mélancolie. Paris: Gallimard, 2005.

Lechte, John. “Art, Love, and Melancholy in the Work of Julia Kristeva,” in Andrew Benjamin and John Fletcher (eds). Αbjection, Melancholia, and Love: The Work of Julia Kristeva. London and New York: Routledge, 1990: 24-41.

Maravall, José Antonio. Culture of the Baroque: Analysis of a Historical Structure. Trans. Terry Cochran, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986.

Panofsky, Erwin, “What is Baroque?” in Erwin Panofsky, Three Essays on Style. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1997: 19-88

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Stamatina DIMAKOPOULOU, « Remapping the Affinities between the Baroque and the Postmodern: The Folds of Melancholy & the Melancholy of the Fold »E-rea [En ligne], 4.1 | 2006, document 11, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2006, consulté le 25 janvier 2022. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page



Mata Dimakopoulou received her PhD from University College London, in 2002. She works on Franco-American artistic and literary relations in the twentieth century, focusing on Surrealism, American poetry, art theory, and the postmodern dialogue with modernism the historical avant-gardes. She has written articles on Max Ernst, John Ashbery, Joseph Cornell, and the American Little Magazine Broom (1921-1924). She is currently teaching at the Greek Open University and working on a book entitled Remapping the American Encounter with Surrealism (1920-1960): Affinities and Resistance.

Articles du même auteur

Haut de page
  • Logo Laboratoire d’Études et de Recherche sur le Monde Anglophone
  • DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • OpenEdition Journals
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search