To Embody the Marvelous
The Making of Illusions in Early Modern Spain
From jointed, wood-carved figures of Christ, saintly marionettes that performed hagiographical dramas, experimental puppets and automata in Cervantes' Don Quixote, and the mechanical sets around which playwright Calderón de la Barca devised secular magic shows to deconstruct superstitions, these historical and fictional artifacts reenvisioned religious, artistic, and social notions that led early modern society to critically wrestle with enchantment and disenchantment.
The use of animated performance objects in Spanish theatrical contexts during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries became one of the most effective pedagogical means to engage with civil society. Regardless of social strata, readers and spectators alike were caught up in a paradigm shift wherein belief systems were increasingly governed by reason—even though the discursive primacy of supernatural doxa and Christian wonder remained firmly entrenched. Thanks to their potential for motion, religious and profane puppets, automata, and mechanical stage props deployed a rationalized sense of wonder that illustrates the relationship between faith and reason, reevaluates the boundaries of fiction in art and entertainment cultures, acknowledges the rise of science and technology, and questions normative authority.
Chapter 1: Mechanics of Reductionism
Chapter 2: Matters of God
Chapter 3: Articulating Saintliness
Chapter 4: Unruly Puppets
Chapter 5: Technologies of Wonder
Chapter 6: Trapdoors to Desengaño
Conclusion: When Statues Move