Spanish Baroque Literature: Authors & Examples

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Writers in the Spanish Baroque period used their writing to tell the plight of the common man. In this lesson, you'll learn more about this type of literature and have a look at some authors who represent the period.

What Is Spanish Baroque?

Have you ever written when you were feeling down? Perhaps writing poetry to soothe yourself or journaling in a diary to help deal with your emotions? Then, you might have a thing or two in common with Spanish Baroque authors.

The era of literature known as the Baroque period in Spain occurred during a particularly difficult time in the country's history. Most works during this period, the 17th century, dealt with human struggle and the reality of the miserable conditions many were enduring. At the time, Spain was dealing with many issues surrounding their economy and political system, such as their loss of control over owned land and territories and poor leadership from the country's rulers.

It was not, however, a dark period for Spain's writers, who turned out some of the most prolific works ever. Let's take a closer look at the style of the Spanish Baroque period and some authors and works that represent that era.

Spanish Baroque Style

Literature being produced in 17th century Spain was most noted for his heavy dose of realism, a focus on the real, everyday lives of regular people. Authors of the Spanish Baroque period were noted for works with these characteristics:

  • Themes of disappointment, disillusionment and pessimism (generally, an overall negative feel)
  • Writing on topics that reflected the lack of trust and belief people had in the current political landscape
  • The use of dramatic elements
  • A focus on everyday struggles of mankind
  • The use of satire, including humor and exaggeration to draw attention to societal problems
  • Greater use of metaphors, figures of speech used to compare two different things
  • Conceptismo, the art of using rapid, witty, direct vocabulary in a work
  • Culteranismo, the art of using elaborate vocabulary in writing (the opposite of Conceptismo)
  • Very descriptive details of the work's characters
  • A focus on the individual, rather than a group of people

With those characteristics in mind, let's find a few authors, with examples of their work, that fit the bill.

Spanish Baroque Authors and Examples

The period of Spanish Baroque literature introduced some memorable authors and works, many of which are still studied in high schools and institutions of higher education across the world. Here are some authors and works characteristic of the time:

Luis de Góngora

A Spanish Baroque poet, Góngora was well-known for his use of Culteranismo, an elaborate style of writing. He used it so frequently, and which such proficiency, the style was known as Gongorismo in some circles. Góngora enjoyed using lots of words, and lots of big words, even choosing to make some up as he went along. The Spanish culture still uses some of those 'made up' words today, such as adolescente (adolescent) and brillante (brilliant).

Some of Góngora's most famous works include:

  • De un Caminante Enfermo que se Enamoro Donde fue Hospedado
  • A Jupiter
  • A Don Francisco de Quevedo
  • Señora Doña Puente Segoviana
  • Fábula de Polifemo y Galatea
  • Soledades

The last of the list, Soledades, which translates to The Solitudes, was never completed and drew both praise and critique. It was noted for its elaborate language, use of metaphors and references to mythology. Góngora intended to write the work in four parts, but failed to complete his task. Here is an example from the work, full of metaphors:

'And so they all passed by, and in good order

as at the equinox we see furrowing

through oceans of open air

not flights of galley ships

but flocks of swift-sailing cranes,

moons perhaps waxing, perhaps on the wane

their most distant extremes,

perhaps forming letters on the pellucid

paper of the heavens with

the quill feathers on their flight'

Francisco de Quevedo

In contrast to Góngora, who wrote elaborately, Quevedo was more of a simplistic kind of guy. He trended toward the the Conceptismo movement, using direct, witty language in a quick sort of rhythm. Like Góngora, Quevedo was primarily a poet, writing about topics in the world around him such as politics and religion, although he has one novel to his credit titled 'El Buscón.' He was, by definition, both humorous and serious.

In 'El Buscón,' translated The Sharper or The Life of a Scoundrel, he chronicles the life of a crook named Don Pablo who strives for be both a gentleman and virtuous, but succeeds at neither.

A few of his poems:

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