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Built space, written space: baroque spatialities between architecture and text in Lucan, Statius, and the palaces of imperial Rome

Thomas, Edmund



This paper discusses two imperial Roman literary descriptions of architectural space (Luc. 10.111-135 and Stat. Silv. 4.2) as responses to the real architectural space of imperial palatial complexes in Rome, Nero’s Golden House and Domitian’s Palatine palace. Building on definitions of baroque spatiality in architecture (Argan 1954; Hills 2011; Minor 2016) and on concepts of literary space (Blanchot 1955; Kestner 1978), it explores the interplay between the textual worlds created by these writers and the real spaces fashioned by Roman imperial architects. It considers the convergences and divergences between the architects’ ‘Baroque’ spatial strategies and the authors’ literary conceits that intimate an illusory materiality, and between the narrated memories or virtual reconstitutions of desolate imperial vastness and the physical experiences of populated space. Finally, it reflects on both differing and common perspectives towards real and literary space constructed in the ‘Baroque’ manner by considering neo-Baroque sensibilities today in both literature and the visual arts (Ndalianis 2004; Farago 2015) and how these might not only problematise, but also allow a convergence between the spatial turn of archaeological studies and the exploration of similar spatialities in literary culture.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 17, 2024
Deposit Date Jul 4, 2024
Journal Antichthon
Print ISSN 0066-4774
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 58
Series ISSN 0066-4774 (Print), 2056-8819 (Online)
Keywords Baroque, architecture, palaces, materiality, surfaces, space, Lucan, Statius, Nero, Domitian
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Additional Information Presented at Conference: The Spatial Turn, Durham and New Zealand (Zoom)