Intermediate Literature Terms in Spanish

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena has a PhD in linguistics from University of La Laguna (Spain). Currently, she teaches Spanish as a foreign language and creates teaching resources.

Ready to improve your knowledge of literature terms in Spanish? In this lesson, you'll learn some interesting literary words and expressions, such as ambiguity, fable or in medias res.

Knowing More About Literature

Are you interested in literature? What type of literary works do you enjoy reading the most? Do you know what a fable is? To understand literary works, you'll need to know certain terminology and devices.

Keep reading to learn some Spanish terms that will help you gain a better understanding of literature. We'll see their pronunciation, their definitions and some relevant examples.

Interesting Literary Aspects

Let's talk about some of the elements that make up a literary work:

  • (el/la) antagonista (ehl/lah ahn-tah-goh-NEES-tah; antagonist) is the opposite of the protagonista (protagonist), typically a rival or a villain who gets in the main character's way.
    • For example, in the novel Como Agua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) by Laura Esquivel, Mamá Elena is the antagonista, as she gets in her youngest daughter's way, restraining her from living her own life and making her own decisions.
  • (el) antihéroe (ehl ahn-tee-EH-roh-eh; antihero): This is a fictional character whose characteristics are considered inappropriate or different to what traditionally represents a hero.
    • The sixteenth century picaresque novel Lazarillo de Tormes, which was published anonymously, portrays a protagonist, Lázaro, who steals and deceives his master.
  • (la) trama (lah TRAH-mah; plot): This is the series of events that make up a story.
    • For instance, in our previous example, all the events that happen to Lázaro and his struggle to survive make up the trama of the novel.
  • (la) atmósfera (lah aht-MOHS-feh-rah): This is the atmosphere, or dominant mood of a literary work.
    • Como Agua para Chocolate is an example of magical realism, where reality is mixed with magical elements or events that are too strange to believe. Therefore, its atmosphere is pervaded by a magical mood. Let's read an extract from the first chapter:

Nacha barrió el residuo de lágrimas que había quedado sobre la loseta roja que cubría el piso. Con esta sal rellenó un costal de cinco kilos que utilizaron para cocinar por bastante tiempo. (Nacha swept up the residue that the tears have left on the red tile floor. There was enough salt to fill a ten-pound sack that they used for cooking for a long time.)

  • (el) tono (ehl TOH-noh): This is the tone, or style of the writing. It makes reference to aspects such as formality, structure and type of language or vocabulary used. So tone can be formal, informal, serious or ironic, for example.
  • (el) desenlace (ehl deh-sehn-LAH-seh): This is the denouement, or the end of the story, the closing scene that might unravel a mystery or provide a happy turn of events for the protagonist.
    • In children's tales, the denouement usually portrays the hero defeating a monster or the protagonists finally being free. In the desenlace, most love tales end with Vivieron felices y comieron perdices, a rhyming sentence that is the equivalent to the well-known 'And they lived happily ever after', although its literal translation is 'They lived happily and ate partridges'.

The atmosfera is the dominant mood of a literary work.
atmosphere

Other Elements & Techniques

Let's consider some other elements and literary techniques now:

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