History of Literature









A BRIEF HISTORY OF

WESTERN LITERATURE


 

  CONTENTS:

The Beginnings of Literature. Myths and Legends

Classical Myth

Myth and Mystery

Bible

Hebrew literature

Ancient Greek literature

Ancient Greek literature. Greek theatre

Ancient Greek literature. Philosophical prose

Latin (Roman) literature

Latin (Roman) Literature. The Silver Age

Latin (Roman) Literature. Renaissance

Modern Italian Literature

The Middle Ages Literature

The Middle Ages. Elizabethan England

The Restoration

The Rise of the Novel

Cervantes and Spanish literature

The Enlightenment

Romanticism

Classicism and Naturalism

The 19th century - Prose

The 20th century - Modernism

The 20th century - The Political Novel



Spanish literature



 


Spanish literature

"The Lay of the Cid"

Gonzalo de Berceo
Pedro López de Ayala
Juan de Mena
Luis de León
Juan Boscán Almogáver
Lazarillo de Tormes

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

see also: CERVANTES "Don Quixote" Illustrations by G. Dore

Mateo Aleman
Francisco de Quevedo
Tirso de Molina

Lope de Vega

Benedict de Spinoza

Pedro Calderón

Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro
Félix María
Samaniego
Leandro Fernández de Moratín
José de Espronceda y Delgado
Ángel de Saavedra, duque de Rivas
José Zorrilla y Moral

Benito Pérez Galdós
Vicente Blasco Ibánez

George Santayana
Miguel de Unamuno
Azorín
Pío Baroja
Ramón María del Valle-Inclán
Rubén Darío

Antonio Machado
Juan Ramón Jiménez
Jacinto Benavente y Martínez

Rafael Alberti
Vicente Aleixandre

Federico García Lorca
"Poems"

Jorge Guillén
Camilo José Cela
Miguel Delibes
Ana María Matute


Salvador DaliSoft Construction with Boiled Beans - Premonition of Civil War, 1936

Spanish literature, the body of literary works produced in Spain. Such works fall into three major language divisions: Castilian, Catalan, and Galician. This article provides a brief historical account of each of these three literatures and examines the emergence of major genres.

Although literature in the vernacular was not written until the medieval period, Spain had previously made significant contributions to literature. Lucan, Martial, Quintilian, and Prudentius, as well as Seneca the Younger and Seneca the Elder, are among writers in Latin who lived in, or were born in, Spain before the modern Romance languages emerged. Women were also writing in Spain during the Roman period: Serena, believed to have been a poet; Pola Argentaria, the wife of Lucan, whom she is thought to have assisted in writing his Pharsalia; and the poet and Stoic philosopher Teofila. For works written in Latin during this period, see Latin literature: Ancient Latin literature. Later, the writings of Spanish Muslims and Jews formed important branches of Arabic literature and Hebrew literature. The literature of the former Spanish colonies in the Americas is treated separately under Latin American literature.

 

Castilian literature


Medieval period

The origins of vernacular writing

By 711, when the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula began, Latin spoken there had begun its transformation into Romance. Tenth-century glosses to Latin texts in manuscripts belonging to the monasteries of San Millán de la Cogolla and Silos, in north-central Spain, contain traces of a vernacular already substantially developed. The earliest texts in Mozarabic (the Romance dialect of Spaniards living under the Muslims) were recovered from Hebrew and from Arabic muwashshaḥs (poems in strophic form, with subjects such as panegyrics on love). The last strophe of the muwashshaḥ was the markaz, or theme stanza, popularly called the kharjah and transcribed in Spanish as jarcha. These jarchas provide evidence of a popular poetry begun perhaps as early as the 10th century, and they are related to traditional Spanish lyric types (e.g., the villancico, “carol”) of the later Middle Ages and Renaissance. The jarcha was generally a woman’s love song, and the motif, in Romance, was a cry of passion on which the whole poem was based, providing a clear thematic relationship to Galician-Portuguese cantigas of the late 12th through mid-14th centuries. Women poets in the region of Andalusia writing in Arabic during the 11th and 12th centuries include al-Abbadiyya and Ḥafṣa bint al-Hājj al-Rukuniyya; the best known were Wallada la Omeya, Butayna bint ʿAbbād, and Umm al-Kiram bint Sumadih, all of royal blood.



The rise of heroic poetry


"The Lay of the Cid"

The earliest surviving monument of Spanish literature, and one of its most distinctive masterpieces, is the Cantar de mío Cid (“Song of My Cid”; also called Poema de mío Cid), an epic poem of the mid-12th century (the existing manuscript is an imperfect copy of 1307). It tells of the fall from and restoration to royal favour of a Castilian noble, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, known as the Cid (derived from the Arabic title sidi, “lord”). Because of the poem’s setting, personages, topographical detail, and realistic tone and treatment and because the poet wrote soon after the Cid’s death, this poem has been accepted as historically authentic, a conclusion extended to the Castilian epic generally. The second and third sections of Cantar de mío Cid, however, appear to be imaginative, and the mere six lines accorded the Cid’s conquest of Valencia, taking it from the Muslims, show that the poet’s approach is subjective. Nevertheless, the Cid’s adventures lived on in epic, chronicle, ballad, and drama, reputedly embodying Castilian character.

Folk epics, known as cantares de gesta (“songs of deeds”) and recited by jongleurs, celebrated heroic exploits such as the Cid’s. Medieval historiographers often incorporated prose versions of these cantares in their chronicles, Latin and vernacular; it was by this process that the fanciful Cantar de Rodrigo (“Song of Rodrigo”), chronicling the Cid’s early manhood with elements of the later legend, was preserved. Fragments of the Cantar de Roncesvalles (“Song of Roncesvalles”) and Poema de Fernán González (“Poem of Fernán González”) rework earlier epics. Vernacular chroniclers mention many other heroic minstrel narratives, now lost, but, as a result of the incorporation of these narratives into chronicles, themes and textual passages can be reconstructed. Heroic narratives partially recovered include Los siete infantes de Lara (“The Seven Princes of Lara”), El cerco de Zamora (“The Siege of Zamora”), Bernardo del Carpio, and other themes from Castile’s feudal history, subject matter that echoes remote Visigothic origins rather than French epics.



The beginnings of prose

A major influence on prose was exercised by Arabic. Oriental learning entered Christian Spain with the capture (1085) of Toledo from the Muslims, and the city became a centre of translation from Oriental languages. An anonymous translation from Arabic (1251) of the beast fable Kalīlah wa Dimnah exemplifies early storytelling in Spanish. A romance of the Seven Sages, the Sendebar, was translated likewise through Arabic, with other collections of Eastern stories.

By the mid-12th century, the Christians had recovered Córdoba, Valencia, and Sevilla. A propitious intellectual atmosphere fomented the founding of universities, and under Alfonso X of Castile and Leon (reigned 1252–84) vernacular literature achieved prestige. Alfonso, in whose chancery Castilian replaced Latin, mandated translations and compilations aimed at fusing all knowledge—Classical, Oriental, Hebrew, and Christian—in the vernacular. These works, some under his personal editorship, include the great legal code Las Siete Partidas (“The Seven Divisions”), containing invaluable information on daily life, and compilations from Arabic sources on astronomy, on the magical properties of gems, and on games, especially chess. The Crónica general, a history of Spain, and the General estoria, an attempted universal history from the Creation onward, were foundational works of Spanish historiography. The Crónica general, overseen by Alfonso to ad 711 and completed by his son Sancho IV, was Spain’s most influential medieval work. Alfonso, sometimes called the father of Castilian prose, was also a major poet, and he compiled early Spain’s greatest collection of medieval poetry and music, the Cantigas de Santa María (“Songs to St. Mary”), in Galician.


Learned narrative poetry

The mester de clerecía (“craft of the clergy”) was a new poetic mode, indebted to France and the monasteries and presupposing literate readers. It adapted the French alexandrine in the “fourfold way”—i.e., 14-syllable lines used in four-line monorhyme stanzas—and treated religious, didactic, or pseudohistorical matter. During the 13th century, Gonzalo de Berceo, Spain’s earliest poet known by name, wrote rhymed vernacular chronicles of saints’ lives, the miracles of the Virgin, and other devotional themes with ingenuous candour, accumulating picturesque and affectionately observed popular detail.
 


Gonzalo de Berceo

Gonzalo de Berceo, (b. c. 1198, Berceo, Spain—d. c. 1264), the first author of verse in Castilian Spanish whose name is known.

Berceo was a secular priest associated with the Monastery of San Millán de Cogolla in the Rioja, where he served as an administrator and notary. His works combined classical rhetorical style, popular poetic form, and the exhortative style of the sermon.

Berceo’s subjects were religious topics—the lives of the saints, the Mass, and the miracles of the saints and the Virgin. He wrote in Castilian, a dialect which was then considered inferior to Galician-Portuguese, in order to bring religious learning to the common people. He used both Latin and folk sources and adhered consistently to the cuaderna vía, a verse form of four-line stanzas, 14 syllables to the line, with each line broken by a caesura. In Vida de San Millán (c. 1234; “Life of Saint Millán”), Berceo promoted a local saint in order to encourage contributions to the monastery. Among his other works were Vida de Santa Oria (c. 1265; “Life of Saint Oria”), Milagros de Nuestra Señora (c. 1245–60; “Miracles of Our Lady”), and Sacrificio de la misa (c. 1237; “Sacrifice of the Mass”).

Berceo’s verse rarely reaches poetic heights but has simplicity and homely charm. Its clear and amusing rustic images contrast with the chivalric epics of the period and the author’s own devout mysticism. It also sheds light on medieval thought and its development.
 





The 14th century

Following the period of translation and compilation came brilliant original creations, represented in prose by Alfonso’s nephew Juan Manuel and in poetry by Juan Ruiz (also called Archpriest of Hita). Juan Manuel’s eclectic Libro de los enxiemplos del conde Lucanor et de Patronio (Eng. trans. The Book of Count Lucanor and Patronio)—which consists of 51 moral tales variously didactic, amusing, and practical—drew partly on Arabic, Oriental, and popular Spanish sources. It was Spain’s first collection of prose fiction rendered in the vernacular. Juan Manuel’s seven surviving books treat such subjects as hunting, chivalry, heraldry, genealogy, education, and Christianity. The frame story that links Count Lucanor’s tales anticipates novelistic structure: the young count repeatedly seeks advice from his tutor Patronio, who responds with exemplary tales.

Chivalric romances of the Arthurian or Breton cycle, which had been circulating in translation, partially inspired Spain’s first romance of chivalry and first novel, El caballero Cifar (c. 1305; “The Knight Cifar”), based on St. Eustace, the Roman general miraculously converted to Christianity. Amadís de Gaula—the oldest known version of which, dating from 1508, was written in Spanish by Garci Rodríguez (or Ordóñez) de Montalvo, although it may have begun circulation in the early 14th century—is another chivalric romance related to Arthurian sources. It enthralled the popular imagination through the 16th century with its sentimental idealism, lyrical atmosphere, and supernatural adventure.

Juan Ruiz, an intensely alert, individual early poet, composed the Libro de buen amor (1330, expanded 1343; “Book of Good Love”), which combined disparate elements—Ovid, Aesop, the Roman Catholic liturgy, and the 12th-century Latin Pamphilus de amore, an anonymous elegiac comedy. The result mingled eroticism with devotion and invited readers to interpret often-equivocal teachings. Ruiz’s Trotaconventos became Spanish literature’s first great fictional character. Ruiz handled alexandrine metre with new vigour and plasticity, interspersing religious, pastoral-farcical, amorous, and satirical lyrics of great metrical variety.

More-exotic elements appeared in the Proverbios morales (c. 1355) of Santob de Carrión de los Condes and in an Aragonese version of the biblical story of Joseph, which was based on the Qurʾān and written in Arabic characters. Drawing on the Old Testament, the Talmud, and the Hebrew poet and philosopher Ibn Gabirol, Santob’s Proverbios introduced Hebrew poetry’s grave sententiousness and aphoristic concision.

Pedro López de Ayala dominated poetry and prose during the later 1300s with his Rimado de palacio (“Poem of Palace Life”), the last major relic of the “fourfold-way” verse form, and with family chronicles of 14th-century Castilian monarchs Peter, Henry II, John I, and Henry III, which stimulated production of personal, contemporary history. An early humanist, Ayala translated and imitated Livy, Boccaccio, Boethius, St. Gregory, and St. Isidore.

A subgenre vigorously cultivated was the misogynistic treatise warning against women’s wiles. Rooted in works that condemned Eve for the Fall of Man, they include such works as Disciplina clericalis (The Scholar’s Guide), written in the late 11th or early 12th century by Pedro Alfonso (Petrus Alfonsi); El Corbacho, also known as El Arcipreste de Talavera (c. 1438; Eng. trans. Little Sermons on Sin), by Alfonso Martínez de Toledo; and Repetición de amores (c. 1497; “Repetitious Loves”; Eng. trans. An Anti-feminist Treatise of Fifteenth Century Spain) by Luis Ramírez de Lucena. Numerous examples from medieval Spanish literature and folklore echoed the same themes (e.g., Juan Manuel’s Count Lucanor and Juan Ruiz’s Book of Good Love).
 


Pedro López de Ayala


Detail from Castilian manuscript of
Saint Gregory's Morales (Commentary on Job).
López de Ayala kneels before Saint Gregory.


Pedro López de Ayala, (b. 1332, Vitoria, Castile—d. 1407, Calahorra, Navarre), Spanish poet and court chronicler who observed firsthand the happenings of his time and, unlike earlier chroniclers, recorded them objectively. His Crónicas (standard ed., 1779–80) are marked by this personal observation and vivid expression, making them among the first great Spanish histories.

Ayala had a long and distinguished civil career under four Castilian monarchs, Peter I, Henry II, John I, and Henry III. Holding such posts as captain of the Castilian fleet (1359), ambassador to France (1379–80 and 1395–96), and royal chancellor of Castile (1398 until his death), he spent his lifetime in close association with leading men and events. As a poet, he is chiefly remembered for his Rimado de palacio (c. 1400), one of the last works in cuaderna vía (Spanish narrative verse form consisting of 4-line stanzas, each line having 14 syllables and identical rhyme), an autobiographical satire on contemporary society. Ayala’s translations from Livy, Boccaccio, and others gave him a reputation as the first Castilian humanist.
 





The 15th century

The early 15th century witnessed a renewal of poetry under Italian influence. During the reign of King John II, the anarchy of feudalism’s death throes contrasted with the cultivation of polite letters, which signified good birth and breeding. The Cancionero de Baena (“Songbook of Baena”), compiled for the king by the poet Juan Alfonso de Baena, anthologized 583 poems (mostly courtly lyrics) by 55 poets from the highest nobles to the humblest versifiers. The collection showed not merely the decadence of Galician-Portuguese troubadours but also the stirrings of more-intellectual poetry incorporating symbol, allegory, and Classical allusions in the treatment of moral, philosophical, and political themes. Other significant verse collections include the Cancionero de Estúñiga (c. 1460–63) and the important Cancionero general (1511) of Hernando del Castillo; among the latter’s 128 named poets is Florencia Pinar, one of the first women poets in Castilian to be identified by name. Francisco Imperial, a Genoese who settled in Sevilla and a leader among new poets, drew on Dante, attempting to transplant the Italian hendecasyllable (11-syllable line) to Spanish poetry.

The marqués de Santillana—a poet, scholar, soldier, and statesman—collected masterpieces of foreign literatures and stimulated translation. His Proemio e carta al condestable de Portugal (1449; “Preface and Letter to the Constable of Portugal”), which initiated literary history and criticism in Spanish, reflected his readings in contemporary foreign languages and translated classics. Santillana’s sonnets in the “Italian style” launched the formal enrichment of Spanish poetry. He is still acknowledged as a precursor of the Renaissance, though his sonnets and long poems, which reflect his Italian-influenced training, are often neglected in favour of his charming rustic songs of native inspiration. Juan de Mena’s vast allegorical poem dramatizing history past, present, and future (El laberinto de fortuna, 1444; “The Labyrinth of Fortune”), a more conscious attempt to rival Dante, suffers from pedantry and over-Latinization of syntax and vocabulary.

An outstanding anonymous 15th-century poem, the Danza de la muerte (“Dance of Death”), exemplifies a theme then popular with poets, painters, and composers across western Europe. Written with greater satiric force than other works that treated the dance of death theme, it introduced characters (e.g., a rabbi) not found in its predecessors and presented a cross section of society via conversations between Death and his protesting victims. Although not intended for dramatic presentation, it formed the basis for later dramas.
 


Juan de Mena


 

Juan de Mena, (b. 1411, Córdoba—d. 1456, Torrelaguna, Castile), poet who was a forerunner of the Renaissance in Spain.

Mena belonged to the literary court of King John II of Castile, where he was renowned for the Latin erudition he had acquired at the University of Salamanca and in Italy. He is best known for his poem El laberinto de Fortuna (1444; “The Labyrinth of Fortune”), also called Las trescientas (“The Three Hundreds”) for its length; it is a complex work that owes much to Lucan, Virgil, and Dante. Writing in arte mayor, lines of 12 syllables that lend themselves to stately recitation, Mena sought to make the Spanish language a literary vehicle adequate to his epic vision of Spain and her mission. His themes are medieval, but his use of Latinisms and rhetorical devices and his references to classical personages suggest an affinity to the new manner of expression that came to be associated with the Renaissance.
 




The era of the Renaissance


The beginning of the Siglo de Oro

The unification of Spain in 1479 and the establishment of its overseas empire, which began with Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the New World (1492–93), contributed to the emergence of the Renaissance in Spain, as did the introduction of printing to the country (1474) and the cultural influence of Italy. The early Spanish humanists included the first grammarians and lexicographers of any Romance tongue. Juan Luis Vives, the brothers Juan and Alfonso de Valdés, and others were followers of Erasmus, whose writings circulated in translation from 1536 onward and whose influence appears in the Counter-Reformation figure of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), and in the later religious writer and poet Luis de León. Nor did Spain lack women humanists; some exceptional women renowned for their erudition taught in universities, including Francisca de Nebrija and Lucía Medrano. Beatriz Galindo (“La Latina”) taught Latin to Queen Isabella I; Luisa Sigea de Velasco—a humanist, scholar, and writer of poetry, dialogues, and letters in Spanish and in Latin—taught at the Portuguese court.

Connecting the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is the masterful Comedia de Calixto y Melibea (1499), a novel of 16 “acts” in dialogue form published anonymously but attributed to Fernando de Rojas. The dominant character, the procuress Celestina, is depicted with unsurpassed realism and gives the work the title by which it is commonly known, La Celestina. The analysis of passion and the dramatic conflict that lust unleashes attain great psychological intensity in this early masterpiece of Spanish prose, sometimes considered Spain’s first realistic novel.

These figures and works of the early Renaissance prepared the way for the Siglo de Oro (“Golden Age”), a period often dated from the publication in 1554 of Lazarillo de Tormes, the first picaresque novel, to the death in 1681 of dramatist and poet Pedro Calderón. Comparable to the Elizabethan era in England, albeit longer, Spain’s Siglo de Oro spanned both the Renaissance and Baroque periods and produced not only drama and poetry that match Shakespeare’s in stature but also Miguel de Cervantes’s celebrated novel Don Quixote.
 


Luis de León


 

Luis de León, (b. 1527, Belmonte, Cuenca Province, Spain—d. Aug. 23, 1591, Madrigal de las Altas), mystic and poet who contributed greatly to Spanish Renaissance literature.

León was a monk educated chiefly at Salamanca, where he obtained his first chair in 1561. Academic rivalry between the Dominicans and the Augustinians, whom he had joined in 1544, led to his denunciation to the Inquisition for criticizing the text of the Vulgate, imprudent at that period in Spain, particularly because one of his great-grandmothers had been Jewish. After almost five years’ imprisonment (1572–76), he was exonerated and restored to his chair, which, however, he resigned in favour of the man who had replaced him. But he subsequently gained a new one, also at Salamanca; a second denunciation, in 1582, did not succeed. His prose masterpiece, De los nombres de Cristo (1583–85), a treatise in the dialogue form popularized by the followers of Erasmus on the various names given to Christ in Scripture, is the supreme exemplar of Spanish classical prose style: clear, lofty, and, though studied, entirely devoid of affectation. His translations from Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Italian include the Song of Solomon (modern edition by J. Guillén, 1936) and the Book of Job, both with commentary. León’s poems, containing many of the motifs of De los nombres de Cristo, were posthumously published by Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Villegas in 1631 because their sincerity of expression and emphasis on content rather than form were useful in the struggle against the attempts of the Gongorists to re-Latinize the language. The Spanish classicists of the 18th century used his lyrics as models. Among his more familiar poems are “Vida retirada” (1557; “Withdrawn Life”) and “Noche Serena” (1571; “Serene Night”). His poetic works reflect the tension between his Horatian ideals of moderation and the turbulent life of a man of an honest and naturally pugnacious temperament inhabiting a world of ecclesiastical intrigue and rancorous academic politics. His other works include theological treatises and commentaries in Latin on various psalms and books of the Bible and La perfecta casada (1583; “The Perfect Married Woman”), a commentary in Spanish on Proverbs 31, incorporating elements of the medieval ascetic tradition of misogyny interspersed with picturesque glimpses of feminine customs of the day.
 



Poetry

Surviving for centuries in the oral tradition, Spanish ballads (romances) link medieval heroic epic to modern poetry and drama. The earliest datable romances—from the mid-15th century, although the romance form itself has been traced to the 11th century—treated frontier incidents or lyrical themes. Anonymous romances on medieval heroic themes, commemorating history as it happened, formed everyman’s sourcebook on national history and character; they were anthologized in the Antwerp Cancionero de romances (“Ballad Songbook”) and the Silva de varios romances (“Miscellany of Various Ballads”), both published about 1550 and repeatedly thereafter. The romance form (octosyllabic, alternate lines having a single assonance throughout) was quickly adopted by cultured poets and also became the medium of choice for popular narrative verse.

The Catalan Juan Boscán Almogáver revived attempts to Italianize Spanish poetry by reintroducing Italian metres; he preceded Garcilaso de la Vega, with whom the cultured lyric was reborn. Garcilaso added intense personal notes and characteristic Renaissance themes to a masterful poetic technique derived from medieval and Classical poets. His short poems, elegies, and sonnets shaped the development of Spain’s lyric poetry throughout the Siglo de Oro.

Fray Luis de León, adopting some of Garcilaso’s verse techniques, typified the “Salamanca school,” which emphasized content rather than form. Poet and critic Fernando de Herrera headed a contrasting school in Sevilla, which was derived equally from Garcilaso but was concerned with subtly refined sentiment; Herrera’s remarkable verse vibrantly expressed topical heroic themes. The popularity of the short native metres was reinforced by traditional ballad collections (romanceros) and by the evolving drama.

Models for epic poetry were the works of Italian poets Ludovico Ariosto and Torquato Tasso, but the themes and heroes of Spanish epics celebrated overseas conquest or defense of the empire and the faith. Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga achieved epic distinction with Araucana (published 1569–90), chronicling native resistance to Spain’s conquest of Chile. A similar attempt at epic, Lope de Vega’s Dragontea (1598), retells Sir Francis Drake’s last voyage and death.
 


Juan Boscán Almogáver

Juan Boscán, original name Joan Boscà I Almogàver (b. c. 1490, Barcelona, Aragon [Spain]—d. Sept. 21, 1542, Barcelona), Catalan poet who wrote exclusively in Castilian and adapted the Italian hendecasyllable to that language.

Though a minor poet, Boscán is of major historical importance because of his naturalizing of Italian metres and verse forms, an experiment that induced one of the greatest of all Spanish poets, Boscán’s younger friend Garcilaso de la Vega, to follow his example. Their works appeared together posthumously in 1543, and the tide of Petrarchianism dominated over Spanish poetry for the next century and a half.

Boscán had published in 1534 a translation of Baldassare Castiglione’s Il cortegiano (The Courtier). His prose was greatly superior to his verse, and El Cortesano is not only one of the influential books of the Spanish Renaissance but a work of art in its own right.
 

 


Early drama

Spanish drama originated in the church. The Auto de los reyes magos (“Play of the Three Wise Kings”), dated from the second half of the 12th century, is an incomplete play of the Epiphany cycle. It is medieval Spanish drama’s only extant text. The play’s realistic characterization of the Magi and of Herod and his advisers and its polymetric form foreshadowed aspects of later dramatic development in Spain.

A reference in King Alfonso X’s legal code suggested the existence of some popular secular drama in the 13th century, but no texts have survived. These juegos (short satiric entertainments given by traveling players) antedated the plays that constitute one of Spain’s main contributions to dramatic genres: the pasos, entremeses, and sainetes, all short, typically humorous works originally used as interludes.

Juan del Encina helped emancipate the drama from ecclesiastical ties by giving performances for noble patrons. His Cancionero (1496; “Songbook”) contains pastoral-religious dramatic dialogues in rustic dialect, but he soon turned to secular themes and vivid farce. His conception of drama evolved during his long stay in Italy, with native medievalism transforming into Renaissance experimentation. The work of Encina’s Portuguese disciple Gil Vicente, a court poet at Lisbon who wrote in both Castilian and Portuguese, showed a significantly improved naturalness of dialogue, acuteness of observation, and sense of situation.

Drama’s transition from court to marketplace and the creation of a broader public were largely accomplished by Lope de Rueda, who toured Spain with his modest troupe performing a repertoire of his own composition. His four prose comedies have been called clumsy, but his 10 pasos showed his dramatic merits. He fathered Spain’s one-act play, perhaps the country’s most vital and popular dramatic form.

The first dramatist to realize the ballads’ theatrical possibilities was Juan de la Cueva. His comedies and tragedies derived largely from Classical antiquity, but in Los siete infantes de Lara (“The Seven Princes of Lara”), El reto de Zamora (“The Challenge of Zamora”), and La libertad de España por Bernardo del Carpio (“The Liberation of Spain by Bernardo del Carpio”), all published in 1588, he revived heroic legends familiar in romances and helped to found a national drama.
 



PICARESQUE


The adjective picaresque comes from the Spanish picaro, a rogue,
and is applied to a story in which the roguish hero undergoes a series
of loosely-linked adventures, often encountered on a journey, as in the
English novels of Fielding or Smollett. Usually cited as the first
picaresque novel is the anonymous Lazarillo de Tormes (1533).
Cervantes's famous story of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza is the
greatest example of the genre, but it is much more than that, and is now
often regarded as the first 'modern' novel. Moreover, many would argue
it is the greatest novel ever written, which influenced not only the early
English novelists but also writers of many cultures over the centuries.

 




Prose

Historical writing

Prose before the Counter-Reformation produced some notable dialogues, especially Alfonso de Valdés’s Diálogo de Mercurio y Carón (1528; “Dialogue Between Mercury and Charon”). His brother Juan de Valdés’s Diálogo de la lengua (“Dialogue About the Language”) attained great critical prestige. The themes of history and patriotism flourished as Spain’s power increased; among the finest achievements from this epoch was Juan de Mariana’s own translation into Spanish (1601) of his Latin history of Spain, which marked the vernacular’s triumph for all literary purposes.

Major landmarks in historical writing emanated from the New World, transmuting vital experience into literature with unaccustomed vividness. Christopher Columbus’s letters and accounts of his voyages, the letters and accounts to King Charles V by Hernán Cortés, and similar narratives by more humble conquistadores opened new horizons to readers. Attempting to capture exotic landscapes in words, they enlarged the language’s resources. The most engaging of such writings was the Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (1632; True History of the Conquest of New Spain) by the explorer Bernal Díaz del Castillo. Friar Bartolomé de Las Casas, sometimes called the “Apostle of the Indies,” wrote Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias (A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, or The Tears of the Indians) in 1542, criticizing Spanish colonial policy and abuse of the native population. His work helped to give rise among Spain’s enemies to the infamous Leyenda Negra (“Black Legend”).


The novel
 

Popular taste in the novel was dominated for a century by progeny of the medieval courtly romance Amadís de Gaula. These chivalric romances perpetuated certain medieval ideals, but they also represented pure escapism, eventually provoking such literary reactions as the pastoral novel and the picaresque novel. The former, imported from Italy, oozed nostalgia for an Arcadian golden age; its shepherds were courtiers and poets who, like the knights-errant of chivalric romance, turned their backs on reality. Jorge de Montemayor’s Diana (1559?) initiated Spain’s pastoral vogue, which was later cultivated by such major writers as Cervantes (La Galatea, 1585) and Lope de Vega (La Arcadia, 1598).

Another reaction appeared in the picaresque novel, a genre initiated with the anonymous Lazarillo de Tormes (1554). This native Spanish genre, widely imitated elsewhere, featured as its protagonist a pícaro (“rogue”), essentially an antihero, living by his wits and concerned only with staying alive. Passing from master to master, he depicted life from underneath. Significant for guiding fiction to direct observation of life, the picaresque formula has long been imitated, up to such 20th-century writers as Pío Baroja, Juan Antonio de Zunzunegui, and Camilo José Cela.

 


 

Miguel de Cervantes, the preeminent figure in Spanish literature, produced in Don Quixote (part 1, 1605; part 2, 1615) the prototype of the modern novel. Nominally satirizing the moribund chivalric romance, Cervantes presented “reality” on two levels: the “poetic truth” of Don Quixote and the “historic truth” of his squire, Sancho Panza. Where Don Quixote saw and attacked an advancing army, Sancho saw only a herd of sheep; what Sancho perceived as windmills were menacing giants to the questing knight-errant. The constant interaction of these rarely compatible attitudes revealed the novel’s potential for philosophical commentary on existence; the dynamic interplay and evolution of the two characters established psychological realism and abandoned prior fiction’s static characterizations. In the Novelas ejemplares (1613; “Exemplary Tales”), Cervantes claimed to be the first to write novelas (short stories in the Italian manner) in Spanish, differentiating between narratives that interest for their action and those whose merit lies in the mode of telling.

María de Zayas y Sotomayor, Spain’s first woman novelist, was among the few women writers of the period who did not belong to a religious order. She too published Italian-inspired short stories, in the collections Novelas amorosas y ejemplares (1637; Eng. trans. The Enchantments of Love: Amorous and Exemplary Novels) and Desengaños amorosos (1647; “Disillusion in Love”). Both employ framing structures in which, like Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, men and women gather to tell stories; many characters from the first collection appear in the second, including the protagonist, Lisis. The stories of Novelas amorosas are told during the nights, those of Desengaños during the days; most concern the “battle of the sexes,” featuring innocent victims and evildoers of both sexes, but plots turn upon men’s seduction, treachery, abuse, and even torture of defenseless women.
 


CERVANTES


Cervantes


Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
(1547—1616) was a slightly younger contemporary - and rival — of Lope de Vega. He had an adventurous career as a soldier for Philip II of Spain and in 1571 fought in the great sea battle of Lepanto, where he lost the use of his left hand. He was captured by Barbary pirates in 1575 and spent nearly five years as a slave, making several unsuccessful attempts to escape before he was ransomed. Back in Spain, he became a lowly, underpaid official in the government while writing rather unsuccessful plays, a pastoral romance, and a lament in verse for the defeat of the Armada (1588). He was several times imprisoned for debt, and began writing The History of the Valorous and Witty Knight Errant Don Quixote while in prison. It was published in 1605 and was an immediate success not only in Spain but across Europe. Cashing in on the success, someone brought out a spurious sequel, provoking Cervantes into writing a second part himself. It appeared in 1615, not long before Cervantes died, which was apparently on the same day as Shakespeare (23 April 1616).
 


Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra




CERVANTES "Don Quixote " Illustrations by G. Dore


see also:
CERVANTES "Don Quixote " Illustrations by G. Dore



born September 29?, 1547, Alcalá de Henares, Spain
died April 22, 1616, Madrid


in full Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Spanish novelist, playwright, and poet, the creator of Don Quixote (1605, 1615) and the most important and celebrated figure in Spanish literature. His novel Don Quixote has been translated, in full or in part, into more than 60 languages. Editions continue regularly to be printed, and critical discussion of the work has proceeded unabated since the 18th century. At the same time, owing to their widespread representation in art, drama, and film, the figures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are probably familiar visually to more people than any other imaginary characters in world literature. Cervantes was a great experimenter. He tried his hand in all the major literary genres save the epic. He was a notable short-story writer, and a few of those in his collection of Novelas exemplares (1613; Exemplary Stories) attain a level close to that of Don Quixote, on a miniature scale.

Cervantes was born some 20 miles from Madrid, probably on September 29 (the day of San Miguel). He was certainly baptized on October 9. He was the fourth of seven children in a family whose origins were of the minor gentry but which had come down in the world. His father was a barber-surgeonwho set bones, performed bloodlettings, and attended lessermedical needs. The family moved from town to town, and little is known of Cervantes's early education. The supposition, based on a passage in one of the Exemplary Stories, that he studied for a time under the Jesuits, though not unlikely, remains conjectural. Unlike most Spanish writers of his time, including some of humble origin, he apparently did not go to a university. What is certain is that at some stage he became an avid reader of books. The head of a municipal school in Madrid, a man with Erasmist intellectual leanings named Juan López de Hoyos, refers to aMiguel de Cervantes as his “beloved pupil.” This was in 1569, when the future author was 21, so—if this was the same Cervantes—he must either have been a pupil-teacher at the school or have studied earlier under López de Hoyos. His first published poem, on the death of Philip II's young queen, Elizabeth of Valois, appeared at this time.


Soldier and slave

That same year he left Spain for Italy. Whether this was because he was the “student” of the same name wanted by the law for involvement in a wounding incident is another mystery; the evidence is contradictory. In any event, in going to Italy Cervantes was doing what many young Spaniards of the time did to further their careers in one way or another. It seems that for a time he served as chamberlainin the household of Cardinal Giulio Acquaviva in Rome. However, by 1570 he had enlisted as a soldier in a Spanish infantry regiment stationed in Naples, then a possession of the Spanish crown. He was there for about a year before he saw active service.

Relations with the Ottoman Empire under Selim II were reaching a crisis, and the Turks occupied Cyprus in 1570. A confrontation between the Turkish fleet and the naval forcesof Venice, the papacy, and Spain was inevitable. In mid-September 1571 Cervantes sailed on board the Marquesa, part of the large fleet under the command of Don Juan de Austria that engaged the enemy on October 7 in the Gulf of Lepanto near Corinth. The fierce battle ended in a crushing defeat for the Turks that was ultimately to break their control of the Mediterranean. There are independent accounts of Cervantes's conduct in the action, and they concur in testifying to his personal courage. Though stricken with a fever, he refused to stay below and joined the thick of the fighting. He received two gunshot wounds in the chest, and a third rendered his left hand useless for the rest of his life. He always looked back on his conduct in the battle with pride. From 1572 to 1575, based mainly in Naples, he continued his soldier's life; he was at Navarino and saw action in Tunis and La Goleta. He must also, when opportunity offered, have been familiarizing himself with Italian literature. Perhaps with a recommendation for promotion to the rank of captain, more likely just leaving the army, he set sail for Spain in September 1575 with letters of commendation to the king from the duque de Sessa and Don Juan himself.

On this voyage his ship was attacked and captured by Barbary corsairs, and Cervantes, together with his brother Rodrigo, was sold into slavery in Algiers, the centre of the Christian slave traffic in the Muslim world. The letters he carried magnified his importance in the eyes of his captors. This had the effect of raising his ransom price, and thus prolonging his captivity, while also, it appears, protecting his person from punishment by death, mutilation, or torture when his four daring bids to escape were frustrated. His masters, the renegade Dali Mami and later Hasan Paşa, treated him with considerable leniency in the circumstances,whatever the reason. At least two contemporary records of the life led by Christian captives in Algiers at this time mention Cervantes. He clearly made a name for himself for courage and leadership among the captive community. Atlong last, in September 1580, three years after Rodrigo had earned his freedom, Miguel's family, with the aid and intervention of the Trinitarian friars, raised the 500 gold escudos demanded for his release. It was only just in time, right before Hasan Paşa sailed for Constantinople (now Istanbul), taking his unsold slaves with him. Not surprisingly, this, the most adventurous period of Cervantes's life, supplied subject matter for several of his literary works, notably the Captive's tale in Don Quixote and the two Algiersplays, El trato de Argel (“The Traffic of Algiers”) and Los baños de Argel (“The Bagnios [an obsolete word for “prisons”] of Algiers”), as well as episodes in a number of other writings, although never in straight autobiographical form.


Civil servant and writer

Back in Spain, Cervantes spent most of the rest of his life ina manner that contrasted entirely with his decade of action and danger. He would be constantly short of money and in tedious and exacting employment; it would be 25 years before he scored a major literary success with Don Quixote. On his return home he found that prices had risen and the standard of living for many, particularly those of the middle class, like his family, had fallen. The euphoria of Lepanto was a thing of the past. Cervantes's war record did not now bring the recompense he expected. He applied unsuccessfully for several administrative posts in Spain's American empire. The most he succeeded in acquiring was a brief appointment as royal messenger to Oran, Algeria, in 1581. In vain he followed Philip II and the court to Lisbon in newly annexed Portugal.

About this time he had an affair with a young married woman named Ana de Villafranca (or Ana Franca de Rojas), the fruit of which was a daughter. Isabel de Saavedra, Cervantes's only child, was later brought up in her father's household. Late in 1584 he married Catalina de Salazar y Palacios, 18 years his junior. She had a small property in the village of Esquivias in La Mancha. Little is known about their emotional relationship. There is no reason to suppose that the marriage did not settle down into an adequate companionableness, despite Cervantes's enforced long absences from home. Neither is there any special reason to suppose that Catalina was an inspiration or a model for characters in the poetry Cervantes was now writing or in his first published fiction, La Galatea (1585; Galatea: A Pastoral Romance), in the newly fashionable genre of the pastoral romance. The publisher, Blas de Robles, paid him 1,336 reales for it, a good price for a first book. The dedication of the work to Ascanio Colonna, a friend of Acquaviva, was a bid for patronage that does not seem to have been productive. Doubtless helped by a small circle of literary friends, such as the poet Luis Gálvez de Montalvo, the book did bring Cervantes's name before a sophisticated reading public. But the only later editions in Spanish to appear in the author's lifetime were those of Lisbon, 1590, and Paris, 1611. La Galatea breaks off in mid-narrative; judging by his repeatedly expressed hopes of writing a sequel, Cervantes evidently maintained a lasting fondness for the work.

Cervantes also turned his hand to the writing of drama at this time, the early dawn of the Golden Age of the Spanish theatre. He contracted to write two plays for the theatrical manager Gaspar de Porras in 1585, one of which, La confusa (“Confusion”), he later described as the best he ever wrote.Many years afterward he claimed to have written 20 or 30 plays in this period, which, he noted, were received by the public without being booed off the stage or having the actorspelted with vegetables. The number is vague; only two certainly survive from this time, the historical tragedy of La Numancia (1580s; Numantia: A Tragedy) and El trato de Argel (1580s; “The Traffic of Algiers”). He names nine plays, the titles of a few of which sound like the originals of plays reworked and published years later in the collection Ocho comedias, y ocho entremeses nuevos (1615; “Eight Plays and Eight New Interludes”). Fixed theatre sites were just becoming established in the major cities of Spain, and there was an expanding market geared to satisfying the demandsof a public ever more hungry for entertainment. Lope de Vega was about to respond to the call, stamping his personal imprint on the Spanish comedia and rendering all earlier drama, including that of Cervantes, old-fashioned or inadequate by comparison. Though destined to be a disappointed dramatist, Cervantes went on trying to get managers to accept his stage works. By 1587 it was clear that he was not going to make a living from literature, and hewas obliged to turn in a very different direction.

Cervantes became a commissary of provisions for the great Armada. Requisitioning corn and oil from grudging rural communities was a thankless task, but it was at least a steady job, with a certain status. It took him traveling all overAndalusia, an experience he was to put to good use in his writing. He was responsible for finances of labyrinthine complexity, and the failure to balance his books landed him in prolonged and repeated trouble with his superiors. There also was constant argument with municipal and church authorities, the latter of which more than once excommunicated him. The surviving documentation of the accountancy and negotiations involved is considerable.

After the disastrous defeat of the Armada in 1588, Cervantes gravitated to Sevilla (Seville), the commercial capital of Spain and one of the largest cities in Europe. In 1590 he applied to the Council of the Indies for any one of four major crown posts vacant in Central and South America. His petition was curtly rejected. Wrangles over his accounts and arrears of salary dragged on. He seems to have kept some contact with the literary world; there is a record of his buying certain books, and he must have managed to find time for reading. In 1592 he signed a contract to supply six plays to a theatrical manager, one Rodrigo Osorio. Nothing came of this. His commissary work continued, and the litigation came to a head; in September 1592 he was imprisoned for a few days in Castro del Río.

In 1594 Cervantes was in Madrid seeking a new post. He received an appointment that took him back to Andalusia to collect overdue taxes. Although it was in effect a promotion, the job was no more rewarding than the previous one and was similarly fraught with financial difficulties and confrontations. Cervantes was not by temperament a businessman. Probably by mutual agreement the appointment was terminated in 1596. The previous year he had won first prize (three silver spoons) in a poetry competition in Zaragoza. Back in Sevilla, he likely started seriously writing stories at about this time, not to mention a wickedly satirical sonnet on the conduct of the duque de Medina Sidonia, to be followed by one obliquely disrespectful of the recently deceased king himself. Again he met with financial troubles. In the summer of 1597 discrepancies in his accounts of three years previous landed him in the Crown Jail of Sevilla. He was confined until the endof April 1598 and perhaps conceived there the idea of Don Quixote, as a remark in the first prologue suggests:

And so, what was to be expected of a sterile and uncultivated wit such as that which I possess if not an offspring that was dried up, shriveled, and eccentric: a story filled with thoughts that never occurred to anyone else, of a sort that might be engendered in a prison where every annoyance has its home and every mournful sound its habitation?

Information about Cervantes's life over the next four or five years is sparse. He had left Sevilla, and, perhaps for a while in Esquivias and Madrid, later for certain in Valladolid (where the royal court established itself from 1601 to 1606), he must have been writing the first part of Don Quixote. Early versions of two of his stories, "Rinconete y Cortadillo" (“Rinconete and Cortadillo”) and "El celoso extremeño" (“The Jealous Extremaduran”), found their way into a miscellaneous compilation, unpublished, made by one Francisco Porras de la Cámara.
 

 


CERVANTES "Don Quixote " Illustrations by G. Dore
 


DON QUIXOTE

The hero of Cervantes's masterpiece, from whom we gain the word 'quixotic', is an elderly, stick-thin and destitute nobleman of La Mancha, labouring under delusions induced by reading too many chivalric romances. He embarks on a one-man knightly crusade through Andalucia, riding his emaciated 'charger', Rosinante, and accompanied by his weary, cynical but loyal 'squire', the tubby Sancho Panza, seeking adventures through which he may gain honour and fame. He treats everyone he meets as if they are characters from pastoral or chivalric romance, including Dulcinea, a humble peasant girl whom he sees as the exquisite high-born maiden that every chivalrous knight required to spur him on his quest. In perhaps the most famous episode, the gallant hero attacks windmills that he takes for giants (hence our phrase, 'tilting at windmills'); in another, he rides to assist a great Christian host fighting a Muslim army, heedless of Sancho Panza's advice that they are in fact a flock of sheep. His exploits generally end in bruises and embarrassment.

Don Quixote is one of the funniest books ever written, but as in all good humour there are deeper resonances. Cervantes himself declared that his purpose was to put an end to the popularity of Spanish chivalric romances. The book is certainly fine satire: the Don is the very antithesis of a knightly hero, being old, ugly and barmv. Yet he is also sympathetic. He represents romantic imagination and idealism as against the earthy realism of the picaresque Sancho Pan/a. By combining these two traditions, broadly 'medieval' and 'modern',
Cervantes creates a rich tapestry, incorporating a picture of contemporary life and culture, with vivid, comic characters equalled on this scale perhaps only by Chaucer and Dickens.
 

"Blessings on him who invented sleep, the mantle that covers all human thoughts, the food that satisfies hunger, the drink that slakes thirst, the lire that warms cold, the cold that moderates heat, and lastly, the common currency that buys all things, the balance and weight that equalizes the shepherd and the king, the simpleton and the sage"

Cervantes, Don Quixote, ch. 68.
 




SPAIN AND DON QUIXOTE

In the end Don Quixote, having been tricked by friends, returns sadly home, rid of his delusions, renouncing the knightly enterprise. 1 he curtain is coming down, just as the curtain was coming down on the 'golden age' of Spain, an age built largely on illusions — such as the belief that importing American treasure by the ton would make the country rich. But while Spam, the greatest Christian power, entered its decline, Spanish literature, with Castilian now-established as the language of Spanish culture, flourished. Besides the world-renowned figures of Cervantes and Lope de Vega, Mateo Aleman's Guzman de Alffarache, an orthodox picaresque novel, was also read all over Europe. Francisco de Quevedo, best known as a satirist, wrote a picaresque novel, The Rogue, in 1626, and many playwrights found an audience, despite Lope de Vega's prodigious output. Still, the enduring image of the country is the dusty plain of La Mancha, heroically if unsteadily traversed by a lean and lengthy Don, 'the Knight of the Doleful Countenance', followed by a short round squire on his donkey, with windmills slowly turning m the background. The image has fascinated the world, and it is as Spanish as dry sherry.
 


Mateo Aleman


 

Mateo Alemán, (baptized September 28, 1547, Sevilla, Spain—d. c. 1614, Mexico), novelist, a master stylist best known for his early, highly popular picaresque novel, Guzmán de Alfarache.

Descended from Jews who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism, Alemán expressed many aspects of the experiences and feelings of the New Christians in 16th-century Spain. His most important literary work, Guzmán de Alfarache (1599; a second part, 1604; Eng. trans., The Spanish Rogue, 1622, 1924), which brought him fame throughout Europe but little profit, is one of the earliest picaresque novels. The first part ran through many editions, almost all pirated; even before he could finish the second part, a spurious sequel had appeared. Alemán’s life, in many ways like that of his protagonist, Guzmán, was afflicted with severe economic and personal reverses. He was the son of a prison doctor and studied medicine at Salamanca and Alcalá for four years after graduating from the University of Sevilla (Seville) in 1564, but he never practiced. In 1580 he was imprisoned for debt. Only after he emigrated to Mexico in 1608 did his fortunes become settled and his life stable.
 

 

 


Francisco de Quevedo



 

Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Villegas, (b. Sept. 17, 1580, Madrid, Spain—d. Sept. 8, 1645, Villanueva de los Infantes), poet and master satirist of Spain’s Golden Age, who, as a virtuoso of language, is unequaled in Spanish literature.

Quevedo was born to a family of wealth and distinction. He studied at the universities of Alcalá and Valladolid from 1596 to 1606, was versed in several languages, and by the age of 23 had distinguished himself as a poet and wit. His elder contemporaries, Miguel de Cervantes and Lope de Vega, both expressed their esteem for his poetry, but Quevedo was more interested in a political career. In 1613 he became a counsellor to the Duke de Osuna, viceroy of Sicily and later of Naples, whom he served with distinction for seven years. On the ascension of Philip IV of Spain, Osuna fell from favour and Quevedo was placed under house arrest. He thereafter refused political appointment and devoted himself to writing, producing a steady stream of satirical verse and prose aimed at the follies of his contemporaries. In 1639 he was again arrested, supposedly for a satirical poem, and was confined in a monastery. Released in 1643, broken in health, he died shortly after.

Quevedo reveals his complex personality in the extreme variety of tone in his works, ranging from the obscene to the devout. His learning and wide culture impelled him to write works of high moral seriousness, treatises on Stoic philosophy, and translations of Epictetus and Seneca, but he demonstrates equal familiarity with low life and the cant of the underworld.

The bulk of his satirical writings were aimed at specific abuses of the day and are no longer of interest, but he is remembered for his picaresque novel La vida del buscón (1626; “The Life of a Scoundrel”), which describes the adventures of “Paul the Sharper” in a grotesquely distorted world of thieves, connivers, and impostors. Quevedo’s Sueños (1627; Dreams), fantasies of hell and death, written at intervals from 1606 to 1622, shows his development as a master of the then new Baroque style conceptismo, a complicated form of expression depending on puns and elaborate conceits. An anthology of his poems in English translation was published in 1969.
 



Mystical writings
The flowering of Spanish mysticism coincided with the Counter-Reformation, although antecedents appear, particularly in the expatriate Spanish Jew León Hebreo, whose Dialoghi di amore (1535; “The Dialogues of Love”), written in Italian, profoundly influenced 16th-century and later Spanish thought. The mystics’ literary importance derives from attempts to transcend language’s limitations, liberating previously untapped resources of expression. The writings of St. Teresa of Ávila, notably her autobiography and letters, reveal a great novelist in embryo. In his prose as in his poetry, Fray Luis de León showed passionate devotion, sincerity, and profound feeling for nature in a style of singular purity; he also wrote a conservative tract on educating women, La perfecta casada (1583; The Perfect Wife), glossing Proverbs 31. St. John of the Cross achieved preeminence through poems of exalted style expressing the experience of mystic union.


Writings about women
Among the feminine voices that defended women’s interests during the Renaissance and Siglo de Oro were Sor Teresa de Cartagena in the 15th century and Luisa de Padilla, Isabel de Liaño, and Sor María de Santa Isabel in the early 16th century. They were champions of women’s rights to education and free choice in matrimony. Traditionalist reactions during the Counter-Reformation included treatises on the training of women, such as Fray Alonso de Herrera’s Espejo de la perfecta casada (c. 1637, “Mirror of the Perfect Wife”).


Later drama

The drama achieved its true splendour in the genius of Lope de Vega (in full Lope Félix de Vega Carpio). Its manifesto was Lope’s own treatise, Arte nuevo de hacer comedias en este tiempo (1609; “New Art of Writing Plays at This Time”), which rejected Neoclassical “rules,” opting to blend comedy and tragedy with metrical variety, and made public opinion the arbiter of good taste. The new comedia (“drama”) advocated respect for the crown, church, and human personality. The last was symbolized in the theme that Lope considered best of all: the pundonor (“point of honour”), grounded in a gender code that made women the repository of family honour, which could be tarnished or lost by the woman’s slightest indiscretion. Lope’s drama was concerned less with character than with action and intrigue, seldom approaching the essence of tragedy. What this great Spanish playwright did possess was a remarkable sense of stagecraft and the ability to make the most intricate plot gripping.

Lope, who claimed authorship of more than 1,800 comedias, towered over his contemporaries. With his unerring sense of what could move an audience, he exploited evocations of Spain’s greatness, making its drama “national” in the truest sense. Two main categories of his work are the native historical drama and the comedia capa y espada (“cloak-and-sword drama”) of contemporary manners. Lope ransacked the literary past for heroic themes, chosen to illustrate aspects of the national character or of social solidarity. The cloak-and-sword play, which dominated drama after Lope, was pure entertainment, exploiting disguise, falling in and out of love, and false alarms about honour. In it affairs of the lady and her gallant are often parodied through the actions of the servants. The cloak-and-sword play delighted by the dexterity of its intricate plotting, its sparkling dialogue, and the entangled relationships depicted between the sexes.

The greatest of Lope’s immediate successors, Tirso de Molina (pseudonym of Fray Gabriel Téllez), first dramatized the Don Juan legend in his Burlador de Sevilla (1630; “The Trickster of Sevilla”). La prudencia en la mujer (1634; “Prudence in Woman”) figured among Spain’s greatest historical dramas, as did El condenado por desconfiado (1635; The Doubter Damned) among theological plays. Tirso’s cloak-and-sword comedies excelled in liveliness. Mexican-born Juan Ruiz de Alarcón struck a distinctive note. His 20 plays were sober, studied, and imbued with serious moral purpose, and his Verdad sospechosa (1634; “The Truth Suspected”) inspired the great French dramatist Pierre Corneille’s Menteur (1643). Corneille’s famous Le Cid (1637) similarly drew upon the conflict between love and honour presented in Las mocedades del Cid (1599?; “The Youthful Exploits of the Cid”) by Guillén de Castro y Bellvís.

Although their names were suppressed and their works left largely unperformed for centuries, several women dramatists of the Siglo de Oro left extant plays. Ángela de Acevedo—a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth (Isabel de Borbón), wife of King Philip IV—left three extant plays of unknown dates: El muerto disimulado (“The Pretending Dead Man”), La Margarita del Tajo que dió nombre a Santarem (“Margarita of Tajo Who Named Santarem”), and Dicha y desdicha del juego y devoción de la Virgen (“Bliss and Misfortune in Gaming and Devotion to the Virgin”). Ana Caro Mallén de Soto, friend of the novelist María de Zayas, wrote El Conde Partinuplés (“Count Partinuples”) and Valor, agravio y mujer (“Valour, Dishonour, and Woman”), both probably during the 1640s. Feliciana Enríquez de Guzmán—thought to have flourished about 1565 but whose identity is disputed—wrote Tragicomedia de los jardines y campos Sabeos (“Tragicomedy of the Sabaean Gardens and Fields”). In the middle of the 17th century María de Zayas wrote Traición en la amistad (“Betrayal in Friendship”). Sor Marcela de San Félix was an illegitimate daughter of Lope de Vega; born Marcela del Carpio, she entered a convent at age 16 and wrote, directed, and acted in six one-act allegorical plays, the Coloquios espirituales (“Spiritual Colloquies”). She also penned short dramatic panegyrics, romances, and other books. Common denominators in these women’s works are religious themes, honour, friendship, love, and misfortune.
 


Tirso de Molina




 

Tirso de Molina, pseudonym of Gabriel Téllez (b. March 9?, 1584, Madrid, Spain—d. March 12, 1648, Soria), one of the outstanding dramatists of the Golden Age of Spanish literature.

Tirso studied at the University of Alcalá and in 1601 was professed in the Mercedarian Order. As the order’s official historian he wrote Historia general de la orden de la Merced in 1637. He was also a theologian of repute. Guided to drama by an inborn sense of the theatrical and inspired by the achievements of Lope de Vega, creator of the Spanish comedia, Tirso built on the “free-and-easy” prescriptions that Lope had propounded for dramatic construction. In his plays he sometimes accentuated the religious and philosophical aspects that attracted his theological interest; at other times he drew on his own topographical and historical knowledge, gained while traveling for his order through Spain, Portugal, and the West Indies. Sometimes he borrowed from the vast common stock of Spanish stage material, and at other times he relied on his own powerful imagination.

Three of his dramas appeared in his Cigarrales de Toledo (1621; “Weekend Retreats of Toledo”), a set of verses, tales, plays, and critical observations that, arranged after the Italian fashion in a picturesque framework, affect to provide a series of summer recreations for a group of friends. Otherwise his extant output of about 80 dramas—a fragment of the whole—was published chiefly in five Partes between 1627 and 1636. The second part presents apparently insoluble problems of authenticity, and the authorship of certain other of his plays outside this part has also been disputed.

The most powerful dramas associated with his name are two tragedies, El burlador de Sevilla (“The Seducer of Seville”) and El condenado por desconfiado (1635; The Doubted Damned). The first introduced into literature the hero-villain Don Juan, a libertine whom Tirso derived from popular legends but recreated with originality. The figure of Don Juan subsequently became one of the most famous in all literature through Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni (1787). El burlador rises to a majestic climax of nervous tension when Don Juan is confronted with the statue-ghost of the man he has killed, and deliberately chooses to defy this emanation of his diseased conscience. El condenado por desconfiado dramatizes a theological paradox: the case of a notorious evildoer who has kept and developed the little faith he had, and who is granted salvation by an act of divine grace, contrasted with the example of a hitherto good-living hermit, eternally damned for allowing his one-time faith to shrivel. Tirso was at his best when portraying the psychological conflicts and contradictions involved in these master characters. At times he reaches Shakespearean standards of insight, tragic sublimity, and irony. The same qualities are found in isolated scenes of his historical dramas, for example in Antona García (1635), which is notable for its objective analysis of mob emotion; in La prudencia en la mujer (1634; “Prudence in Woman”), with its modern interpretation of ancient regional strife; and in the biblical La venganza de Tamar (1634), with its violently realistic scenes.

When inspired, Tirso could dramatize personality and make his best characters memorable as individuals. He is more stark and daring than Lope but less ingenious, more spiritually independent than Pedro Calderón de la Barca but less poetic. His plays of social types and manners, such as El vergonzoso en palacio (written 1611, published 1621; “The Bashful Man in the Palace”), are animated, varied in mood, and usually lyrical. At the same time, however, Tirso’s style is erratic and sometimes trite. In pure comedy he excels in cloak-and-sword situations; and in, for example, Don Gil de las calzas verdes (1635; “Don Gil of the Green Stockings”), he manipulates a complex, rapidly moving plot with exhilarating vitality. His tragedies and comedies are both famous for their clowns, whose wit has a tonic air of spontaneity. Naturalness in diction suited his dramatic purpose better than the ornamental rhetoric then coming into vogue, and generally he avoided affectations, remaining in this respect nearer to Lope than to Calderón. Tirso was not as consistently brilliant as these great contemporaries, but his finest comedies rival theirs, and his best tragedies surpass them.

Ivy Lilian McClelland
 




LOPE DE VEGA

The period was also a fruitful one for drama in the golden age of Spain. As in England, all parts in Spanish plays in the 16th century were played by males, and actors were organized into companies run by a manager. Public theatres were owned by local authorities or religious organizations and were set up in large open yards between buildings. The actual theatres were similar to those in England, with a platform stage backed by a building on two storeys, the spectators on balconies in the houses surrounding the yard or benches in the 'pit'. In the 17th century, the patronage of the Court became increasingly important, and stage design fell increasingly under Italian influence.

The greatest Spanish playwright was
Lope de Vega (1562-1635), "the Spanish Shakespeare", a passionate man, author of many love poems (to a variety of lovers), and of a ferocious attack on the depredations of the English, in particular Sir Francis Drake (Lope took part in the Armada). He had an inexhaustible imagination and is said to have written nearly 1,500 plays. About 500 survive, in every possible style, sacred and secular, pastoral and heroic, romance, tragedy and low-life comedy. He is remembered above all for the Spanish comedia, criticized at the time for its rejection of Aristotelian principles but very popular with less learned audiences. His influence spread well beyond Spain.

Lope's follower and nearest rival was Calderon de la Barca (1600—81), a royal chaplain and author of over 100 plays, similarly diverse in type, though later in life Calderon concentrated on highly regarded religious allegories.
 


Lope de Vega




Spanish author

born Nov. 25, 1562, Madrid
died Aug. 27, 1635, Madrid

Main
in full Lope Félix De Vega Carpio, byname The Phoenix Of Spain, Spanish El Fénix De España outstanding dramatist of the Spanish Golden Age, author of as many as 1,800 plays and several hundred shorter dramatic pieces, of which 431 plays and 50 shorter pieces are extant.

Life.
Lope de Vega was the second son and third child of Francisca Fernandez Flores and Félix de Vega, an embroiderer. He was taught Latin and Castilian in 1572–73 by the poet Vicente Espinel, and the following year he entered the Jesuit Imperial College, where he learned the rudiments of the humanities. Captivated by his talent and grace, the bishop of Ávila took him to the Alcalá de Henares (Universidad Complutense) in 1577 to study for the priesthood, but Vega soon left the Alcalá on the heels of a married woman.

On his father’s death in 1578, the embroidery shop passed to the husband of one of the poet’s sisters, Isabel del Carpio. Vega later adopted the noble name of Carpio in order to give an aristocratic tone to his own. He acquired a humanistic education from his abundant though haphazard readings in erudite anthologies. In 1583 he took part in the Spanish expedition against the Azores.

By this time Vega had established himself as a playwright in Madrid and was living from his comedias (tragicomic social dramas). He also exercised an undefined role as gentleman attendant or secretary to various nobles, adapting his role as servant or panderer according to the situation. By this time, also, the poet’s life was already launched on a course of tempestuous passion. The “remote beauty” who took him from the Alcalá was followed by Elena Osorio, an actress of exceptional beauty and maturity. His romantic involvement with her was intense, violent, and marred by Vega’s jealousy over Elena’s liaison with the powerful gallant Don Francisco Perrenot de Granvelle, nephew of the cardinal de Granvelle. Finally, when Elena abandoned the poet, he wrote such fierce libels against her and her family that he landed in prison. The libel continued in a court case in 1588, which sent him into exile from Castile for eight years. In the middle of this incredible court scandal, Vega abducted Isabel de Urbina (the “Belisa” of many of his poems), the beautiful 16-year-old sister of Philip II’s earl marshal. They were forced to marry, and the new husband immediately departed with the Spanish Armada against England. On his return, he passed the remainder of his exile in Valencia, at that time a centre of considerable dramatic activity, and took to the serious writing of plays. Here, too, he engaged in writing romanceros, or ballad poetry, which had become fashionable. In 1590 he was appointed secretary to the duke of Alba, whom he followed to Toledo and then to the ducal estate at Alba de Tormes, where his wife died in childbirth in 1595. He auctioned off everything he owned and left for Madrid, where his public concubinage with the widow Antonia Trillo de Armenta caused him another lawsuit (1596).

He had left the duke’s service in 1595, and in 1598 he went to the home of the marqués de Sarriá, with whom he remained until 1600. Sometime around 1595 he also met the illiterate and singularly beautiful actress Micaela de Luján, who was to be for nearly 20 years the poet’s most peaceful love; she was the “Camila Lucinda” of numerous magnificent verses composed for her by Vega. He took a second wife, Juana de Guardo, the daughter of a wealthy pork butcher, by whom he had two children, Carlos Félix and Feliciana. He was mercilessly pilloried by his literary enemies for such an opportunistic union.


Height of literary productivity.
From 1605 until his death he remained a confidential secretary and counselor to the duke of Sessa, with whom he maintained a voluminous and revealing correspondence. In 1608 he was also named to a sinecure position as a familiar of the Inquisition and then prosecutor (promotor fiscal) of the Apostolic Chamber. By this time, Vega had become a famous poet and was already regarded as the “phoenix of Spanish wits.” In 1609 he published Arte nuevo de hacer comedias en este tiempo (“New Art of Writing Plays in This Time”), a poetic treatise in which he defended his own plays with more wit than effectiveness.

In 1610, in the midst of full literary production—on the road to his 500 comedias—Vega moved his household definitively from Toledo to Madrid. In Madrid, Vega was afflicted by painful circumstances that complicated his life in a period when he was still very creative. Juana became ill, miscarried, and lived in precarious health under Vega’s constant care; Carlos Félix, his favourite son, also became ill and died, in 1612. Juana died in childbirth with Feliciana, and Micaela de Luján must also have died during that time, since Vega took into his own home the children remaining from this relationship, Marcela and Lope Félix, or Lopito.

These heartbreaks moved the poet to a deep religious crisis. In 1609 he entered the first of several religious orders. From this time on he wrote almost exclusively religious works, though he also continued his theatrical work, which was financially indispensable. In 1614 he entered the priesthood, but his continued service as secretary and panderer to his patron, the duke of Sessa, hindered him from obtaining the ecclesiastical benefits he sought. The duke, fearful of losing Vega’s services, succeeded in having one of the poet’s former lovers, the actress Lucia de Salcedo, seduce Vega. The duke thus permanently recovered his secretary. Vega thereafter became involved in new and scandalous romantic relationships. In 1627 his verse epic on the life and execution of Mary, queen of Scots, La corona trágica, which was dedicated to Pope Urban VIII, brought in reward a doctorate in theology of the Collegium Sapientiae and the cross of the Order of Malta, out of which came his proud use of the title Frey (“Brother”). His closing years were full of gloom. His last lover, Marta de Nevares, who shared his life from 1619 until her death in 1632, lost first her sight and then her sanity in the 1620s. The death at sea of his son Lope Félix del Carpio y Luján and the abduction and abandonment of his youngest daughter, Antonia Clara, both in 1634, were blows that rent his soul. His own death in Madrid in August 1635 evoked national mourning.


Works.
Vega became identified as a playwright with the comedia, a comprehensive term for the new drama of Spain’s Golden Age. Vega’s productivity for the stage, however exaggerated by report, remains phenomenal. He claimed to have written an average of 20 sheets a day throughout his life and left untouched scarcely a vein of writing then current. Cervantes called him “the prodigy of nature.” Juan Pérez de Montalván, his first biographer, in his Fama póstuma (1636), attributed to Vega a total of 1,800 plays, as well as more than 400 autos sacramentales (short allegorical plays on sacramental subjects). The dramatist’s own first figure of 230 plays in 1603 rises to 1,500 in 1632; more than 100, he boasts, were composed and staged in 24 hours. The titles are known of 723 plays and 44 autos, and the texts survive of 426 and 42, respectively.

The earliest firm date for a play written by Vega is 1593. His 18 months in Valencia in 1589–90, during which he was writing for a living, seem to have been decisive in shaping his vocation and his talent. The influence in particular of the Valencian playwright Cristóbal de Virués (1550–1609) was obviously profound. Toward the end of his life, in El laurel de Apolo, Vega credits Virués with having, in his “famous tragedies,” laid the very foundations of the comedia. Virués’ five tragedies, written between 1579 and 1590, do indeed display a gradual evolution from a set imitation of Greek tragedy as understood by the Romans to the very threshold of romantic comedy. In the process the five acts previously typical of Spanish plays have become three; the classical chorus has given way to comment within the play, including that implicit in the expansion of a servant’s role to that of confidant; the unities of time, place, and action have disappeared, leaving instead to each act its own setting in time and space; and hendecasyllabic blank verse has yielded to a metrical variety that, seeking to reflect changing moods and situations, also suggests the notable degree of lyricism soon to permeate the drama. The Spanish drama’s confusing of tragic effect with a mere accumulation of tragic happenings has deflected the emphasis from in-depth character portrayal to that of complexity of plot, action, and incident, and the resulting emphasis on intrigues, misunderstandings, and other devices of intricate and complicated dramatic plotting have broken down the old divisions between dramatic genres in favour of an essentially mixed kind, tragicomedy, that would itself soon be known simply as comedia. Finally, from initially portraying kings and princes of remote ages, Virués began to depict near-contemporary Spain and ordinary men and women.

There can be no claiming that Vega learned his whole art from Virués. Bartolomé de Torres Naharro at the beginning of the 16th century had already adumbrated the cloak and sword (cape y espada) play of middle-class manners. A decade before Virués, Juan de la Cueva had discovered the dramatic interest latent in earlier Spanish history and its potential appeal to a public acutely responsive to national greatness. In the formation of the comedia this proved another decisive factor on which Vega fastened instinctively.

It was at this point that Vega picked up the inheritance and, by sheer force of creative genius and fertility of invention, gave the comedia its basic formula and raised it to a peak of splendour. The comedia’s manual was Vega’s own poetic treatise, El arte nuevo de hacer comedias en este tiempo, in which he firmly rejected the Classical and Neoclassical “rules,” opted for a blend of comedy and tragedy and for metrical variety, and made public opinion the ultimate arbiter of taste.

The comedia was essentially, therefore, a social drama, ringing a thousand changes on the accepted foundations of society: respect for crown, for church, and for the human personality, the latter being symbolized in the “point of honour” (pundonor) that Vega commended as the best theme of all “since there are none but are strongly moved thereby.” This “point of honour” was a matter largely of convention, “honour” being equivalent, in a very limited and brittle sense, to social reputation; men were expected to be brave and proud and not to put up with an insult, while “honour” for women basically meant maintaining their chastity (if unmarried) or their fidelity (if married). It followed that this was a drama less of character than of action and intrigue that rarely, if ever, grasped the true essence of tragedy.

Few of the plays that Vega wrote were perfect, but he had an unerring sense for the theme and detail that could move an audience conscious of being on the crest of its country’s greatness to respond to a mirroring on the stage of some of the basic ingredients of that greatness. Because of him the comedia became a vast sounding board for every chord in the Spanish consciousness, a “national” drama in the truest sense.

In theme Vega’s plays range over a vast horizon. Traditionally his plays have been grouped as religious, mythological, classical, historical (foreign and national), pastoral, chivalric, fantastic, and of contemporary manners. In essence the categories come down to two, both Spanish in setting: the heroic, historical play based on some national story or legend, and the cloak and sword drama of contemporary manners and intrigue.

For his historical plays Vega ransacked the medieval chronicle, the romancero, and popular legend and song for heroic themes, chosen for the most part as throwing into relief some aspect either of the national character or of that social solidarity on which contemporary Spain’s greatness rested. The conception of the crown as fount of justice and bulwark of the humble against oppression inspires some of his finest plays. Peribáñez y el comendador de Ocaña (Peribáñez and the Commander of Ocaña), El mejor alcalde, el rey (The King, the Greatest Alcalde), and Fuente Ovejuna (All Citizens Are Soldiers) are still memorable and highly dramatic vindications of the inalienable rights of the individual, as is El caballero de Olmedo (The Knight from Olmedo) on a more exalted social plane. In Fuente Ovejuna the entire village assumes responsibility before the king for the slaying of its overlord and wins his exoneration. This experiment in mass psychology, the best known outside Spain of all his plays, evoked a particular response from audiences in tsarist Russia.

Vega’s cloak and sword plays are all compounded of the same ingredients and feature the same basic situations: gallants and ladies falling endlessly in and out of love, the “point of honour” being sometimes engaged, but very rarely the heart, while servants imitate or parody the main action and one, the gracioso, exercises his wit and common sense in commenting on the follies of his social superiors. El perro del hortelano (The Gardener’s Dog), Por la puente Juana (Across the Bridge, Joan), La dama boba (The Lady Nit-Wit), La moza de cántaro (The Girl with the Jug), and El villano en su rincón (The Peasant’s House Is His Castle) are reckoned among the best in this minor if still-entertaining kind of play.

All Vega’s plays suffer from haste of composition, partly a consequence of the public’s insatiable desire for novelty. His first acts are commonly his best, with the third a hasty cutting of knots or tying up of loose ends that takes scant account both of probability and of psychology. There was, too, a limit to his inventiveness in the recurrence of basic themes and situations, particularly in his cloak and sword plays. But Vega’s defects, like his strength, derive from the accuracy with which he projected onto the stage the essence of his country and age. Vega’s plays remain true to the great age of Spain into which he had been born and which he had come to know, intuitively rather than by study, as no one had ever known it before.

Vega’s nondramatic works in verse and prose filled 21 volumes in 1776–79. Much of this vast output has withered, but its variety remains impressive. Vega wrote pastoral romances, verse histories of recent events, verse biographies of Spanish saints, long epic poems and burlesques upon such works, and prose tales, imitating or adapting works by Ariosto and Cervantes in the process. His lyric compositions—ballads, elegies, epistles, sonnets (there are 1,587 of these)—are myriad. Formally they rely much on the conceit, and in content they provide a running commentary on the poet’s whole emotional life.

Among specific nondramatic works that deserve to be mentioned are the 7,000-line Laurel de Apolo (1630), depicting Apollo’s crowning of the poets of Spain on Helicon, which remains of interest as a guide to the poets and poetasters of the day; La Dorotea (1632), a thinly veiled chapter of autobiography cast in dialogue form that grows in critical esteem as the most mature and reflective of his writings; and, listed last because it provides a bridge and key to his plays, the Arte nuevo de hacer comedias en este tiempo. This verse apology rested on the sound Aristotelian principle that the dramatist’s first duty is to hold and satisfy his audience: the comedia, he says in effect, had developed in response to what the Spanish public demanded of the theatre. The treatise provides a clear picture of the principles and conventions of a drama entitled to be called national in its close identification with the social values and emotional responses of the age.

 



Culteranismo and conceptismo

In poetry and prose the early 17th century in Spain was marked by the rise and spread of two interrelated stylistic movements, often considered typical of the Baroque. Authors shared an elitist desire to communicate only with the initiated, so that writings in both styles present considerable interpretive difficulties. Culteranismo, the ornate, roundabout, high-flown style of which Luis de Góngora y Argote was archpriest, attempted to ennoble the language by re-Latinizing it. Poets writing in this style created hermetic vocabulary and used stilted syntax and word order, with expression garbed (and disguised) in Classical myth, allusion, and complicated metaphor, all of which rendered their work sometimes incomprehensible. Góngora’s major poetic achievement (Soledades [1613; “Solitudes”]) invited many untalented imitations of his uniquely elaborate style, which came to be known as Gongorism (gongorismo). The other stylistic movement, conceptismo, played on ideas as culteranismo did on language. Aiming at the semblance of profundity, conceptista style was concise, aphoristic, and epigrammatic and thus belonged primarily to prose, especially satire. Concerned with stripping appearances from reality, it had as its best outlet the essay.

Francisco Gómez de Quevedo
y Villegas, the greatest satirist of his time and a master of language, was, in Sueños (1627; “Dreams”), an outstanding exponent of conceptismo; similar traits appear in his picaresque satire La vida del buscón llamado don Pablos (1626; “The Life of the Trickster Called Don Pablos”; Eng. trans. The Scavenger and The Swindler). Baltasar Gracián reduced conceptista refinement to an exact code in Agudeza y arte de ingenio (1642, 2nd ed. 1648; “Subtlety and the Art of Genius”); he also tried to codify in a series of treatises the art of living. Gracián’s thought in his allegorical novel El criticón (1651, 1653, 1657; The Critick) reflected a pessimistic vision of life as “daily dying.”



The plays of
Calderón

Pedro Calderón de la Barca adapted Lope de Vega’s formula for producing tightly structured dramas wherein formal artistry and poetic texture combine with thematic profundity and unified dramatic purpose. One of the world’s outstanding dramatists, Calderón wrote plays that were effective in both the public playhouses and Madrid’s newly built court theatre of Buen Retiro, whose elaborate stage technology allowed him to excel in mythological drama (La estatua de Prometeo [1669; “The Statue of Prometheus”]). Calderón contributed to an emerging musical comedy form, the zarzuela (El jardín de Falerina [1648; “The Garden of Falerina”]), and cultivated many subgenres; his numerous secular plays encompassed both comedy and tragedy. His best comedies provide subtle critiques of urban mores, combining laughter with tragic foreboding (La dama duende [1629; The Phantom Lady]). His tragedies probe the human predicament, exploring personal and collective guilt (Las tres justicias en una [c. 1637; Three Judgments at a Blow]), the bathos of limited vision and lack of communication (El pintor de su deshonra [c. 1645; The Painter of His Own Dishonour]), the destructiveness of certain social codes (El médico de su honra [1635; The Surgeon of His Honour]), and the conflict between the constructive nature of reason and the destructive violence of self-centred passion (La hija del aire [1653; “The Daughter of the Air”]). His best-known plays, appropriately classified as high drama, include El alcalde de Zalamea (c. 1640; The Mayor of Zalamea), which rejects social honour’s tyranny, preferring the inner nature of true human worth and dignity. Philosophical problems of determinism and free will dominate La vida es sueño (1635; Life Is a Dream), a masterpiece that explores escaping from life’s confusion to awareness of reality and self-knowledge.

Calderón’s overtly religious plays range from Jesuit drama emphasizing conversion (El mágico prodigioso [1637; The Wonder-Working Magician]) and heroic saintliness (El príncipe constante [1629; The Constant Prince]) to his autos sacramentales, liturgical plays employing formal abstractions and symbols to expound the Fall of Man and Christian redemption, in which he brought to perfection the medieval tradition of the morality play. These liturgical plays range in their artistry from the immediate metaphorical appeal of El gran teatro del mundo (c. 1635; The Great Theatre of the World) to the increasingly elaborate patterns of his later productions (La nave del mercader [1674; “The Merchant’s Ship”]).

After Calderón’s death, Spanish drama languished for 100 years. Culteranismo and conceptismo, although symptoms rather than causes of decline, contributed to stifling imaginative literature, and, by the close of the 17th century, all production characterizing the Siglo de Oro had essentially ceased.
 


Pedro Calderón




Spanish author

born Jan. 17, 1600, Madrid, Spain
died May 25, 1681, Madrid

Main
dramatist and poet who succeeded Lope de Vega as the greatest Spanish playwright of the Golden Age. Among his best-known secular dramas are El médico de su honra (1635; The Surgeon of His Honour), La vida es sueño (1635; Life Is a Dream), El alcalde de Zalamea (c. 1640; The Mayor of Zalamea), and La hija del aire (1653; “The Daughter of the Air”), sometimes considered his masterpiece. He also wrote operas and plays with religious and mythological themes.

Early life
Calderón’s father, a fairly well-to-do government official who died in 1615, was a man of harsh and dictatorial temper. Strained family relations apparently had a profound effect on the youthful Calderón, for several of his plays show a preoccupation with the psychological and moral effects of unnatural family life, presenting anarchical behaviour directly traced to the abuse of paternal authority.

Destined for the church, Calderón matriculated at the University of Alcalá in 1614 but transferred a year later to Salamanca, where he continued his studies in arts, law, and probably theology until 1619 or 1620. Abandoning an ecclesiastical career, he entered the service of the constable of Castile and in 1623 began to write plays for the court, rapidly becoming the leading member of the small group of dramatic poets whom King Philip IV gathered around him. In 1636 the king made him a Knight of the Military Order of St. James. Calderón’s popularity was not confined to the court, for these early plays were also acclaimed in the public theatres, and on the death of Lope de Vega (1635) Calderón became the master of the Spanish stage. On the outbreak of the Catalan rebellion, he enlisted in 1640 in a cavalry company of knights of the military orders and served with distinction until 1642, when he was invalided out of the army. In 1645 he entered the service of the Duke de Alba, probably as secretary. A few years later an illegitimate son was born to him; nothing is known about the mother, and the idea that sorrow at her death led him to return to his first vocation, the priesthood, is pure surmise. He was ordained in 1651 and announced that he would write no more for the stage. This intention he kept as regards the public theatres, but at the king’s command he continued to write regularly for the court theatre. He also wrote each year the two Corpus Christi plays for Madrid. Appointed a prebendary of Toledo Cathedral, he took up residence in 1653. The fine meditative religious poem Psalle et sile (“Sing Psalms and Keep Silent”) is of this period. Receiving permission to hold his prebend without residence, he returned to Madrid in 1657 and was appointed honorary chaplain to the king in 1663.


Aesthetic milieu and achievement
The court patronage that Calderón enjoyed constitutes the most important single influence in the development of his art.

The court drama grew out of the popular drama, and at first there was no distinction in themes and style between the two. The construction, however, of a special theatre in the new palace, the Buen Retiro, completed in 1633, made possible spectacular productions beyond the resources of the public stage. The court plays became a distinctive Baroque genre, combining drama with dancing, music, and the visual arts and departing from contemporary life into the world of classical mythology and ancient history. Thus Calderón, as court dramatist, became associated with the rise of opera in Spain. In 1648 he wrote El jardín de Falerina (“The Garden of Falerina”), the first of his zarzuelas, plays in two acts with alternating spoken and sung dialogue. In 1660 he wrote his first opera, the one-act La púrpura de la rosa (“The Purple of the Rose”), with all of the dialogue set to music. This was followed by Celos, aun del aire matan (1660; “Jealousy Even of the Air Can Kill”), an opera in three acts with music by Juan Hidalgo. As in the Italian tradition, the music was subordinate to the poetry, and all of Calderón’s musical plays are poetic dramas in their own right.

Calderón’s drama must be placed within the context of the court theatre, with its conscious development of an unrealistic and stylized art form. For two centuries after his death, his preeminence remained unchallenged, but the realistic canons of criticism that came to the fore toward the end of the 19th century produced a reaction in favour of the more “lifelike” drama of Lope de Vega. Calderón appeared mannered and conventional: the structure of his plots artificially contrived, his characters stiff and unconvincing, his verse often affected and rhetorical. Although he used technical devices and stylistic mannerisms that by constant repetition became conventional, Calderón remained sufficiently detached to make his characters, on occasion, poke fun at his own conventions. This detachment indicates a conception of art as a formal medium that employs its artistic devices so as to compress and abstract the externals of human life, the better to express its essentials.

In this direction Calderón developed the dramatic form and conventions established by Lope de Vega, based on primacy of action over characterization, with unity in the theme rather than in the plot. He created a tightly knit structure of his own, while leaving intact the formal framework of Lope’s drama. From the start he manifested his technical skill by utilizing the characters and incidents of his plots in the development of a dominant idea. As his art matured his plots became more complex and the action more constricted and compact. The creation of complex dramatic patterns in which the artistic effect arises from perception of the totality of the design through the inseparability of the parts is Calderón’s greatest achievement as a craftsman. El pintor de su deshonra (c. 1645; The Painter of His Own Dishonor) and La cisma de Ingalaterra (c. 1627; “The Schism of England”) are masterly examples of this technique, in which poetic imagery, characters, and action are subtly interconnected by dominant symbols that elucidate the significance of the theme. Although rhetorical devices typical of the Spanish Baroque style remained a feature of his diction, his verse developed away from excessive ornamentation toward a taut style compressed and controlled by a penetrating mind.


Secular plays
The difficulties that Calderón’s art presents to the modern reader have tended to obscure the originality of his themes. Accepting the conventions of the comedy of intrigue, a favourite form on the Spanish stage, he used them for a fundamentally serious purpose: La dama duende (1629; The Phantom Lady) is a neat and lively example. In Casa con dos puertas, mala es de guardar (1629; “A House with Two Doors Is Difficult to Guard”), the intrigues of secret courtship and the disguises that it necessitates are so presented that the traditional seclusion of women on which these intrigues are based is shown to create social disorder by breeding enmity and endangering love and friendship. No siempre lo peor es cierto (c. 1640; “The Worst Is Not Always True”) and No hay cosa como callar (1639; “Silence Is Golden”) mark the peak of this development: although the conventions of comedy remain, the overtones are tragic. Both plays also implicitly criticize the accepted code of honour. Calderón’s rejection of the rigid assumptions of the code of honour is evident also in his tragedies. In the famous El alcalde de Zalamea, the secrecy and the vengeance demanded by the code are rejected. This play also presents a powerful contrast between the aristocracy and the people: the degeneration of the aristocratic ideal is exposed, wealth is associated with manual labour, and honour is shown to be the consequence and prerogative of moral integrity regardless of class. Yet Calderón’s humanity has been questioned in connection with El médico de su honra. The critics who allege that he approves of the murder of an innocent wife because honour demands it overlook the fact that the horror one feels at this deed is precisely what he intended.

A keynote of Calderon’s tragic view of life is his deep-seated realization that a man can be responsible through his own wrongdoing for the wrongdoing of another. This realization probably derives from Calderón’s own family experience. In La devoción de la cruz (c. 1625; Devotion to the Cross) and Las tres justicias en una (c. 1637; Three Judgments at a Blow), the heart of the tragedy lies in the fact that the greatest sinner is also the most sinned against—in that others, before he was born, had begun to dig his grave. El pintor de su deshonra is built on a similar plot.

The fully developed court plays are best represented by La hija del aire. This play in two parts dramatizes the legend of Semiramis (the warrior queen of Babylon whose greed for political power led her to conceal and impersonate her son on his accession). It is often considered Calderón’s masterpiece. Highly stylized, it conveys a strong impression of violence. It presents, with considerable complexity, the contrast between passion and reason. Passion, in its self-seeking, in its grasping for power and devouring of everything in the urge to domination, breeds disorder and leads to destruction; reason, in its sacrificing of self-interest to justice and loyalty, produces order. This basic contrast underlies the themes of Calderón’s last period, its various aspects being expanded in a number of interesting variations, many directly concerned with the positive values of civilization. Though none has the intensity of La hija del aire, most exemplify a thoughtful, dignified, and restrained art. Mythological themes predominate, with a more or less allegorical treatment, as in Eco y Narciso (1661; “Echo and Narcissus”), La estatua de Prometeo (1669; “The Statue of Prometheus”), and Fieras afemina amor (1669; “Wild Beasts Are Tamed by Love”).


Religious plays
Calderón’s vision of the human world in his secular plays is one of confusion and discord arising out of the inevitable clash of values in the natural order. His religious plays round off his view of life by confronting natural values with supernatural ones. The most characteristic of these religious plays, following the tradition established outside Spain by the Jesuit drama, are based on stories of conversion and martyrdom, usually of the saints of the early church. One of the most beautiful is El príncipe constante (1629; The Constant Prince), which dramatizes the martyrdom of Prince Ferdinand of Portugal. El mágico prodigioso (1637; The Wonder-Working Magician) is a more complex religious play; Los dos amantes del cielo (The Two Lovers of Heaven) and El Joséf de las mujeres (c. 1640; “The Joseph of Womankind”) are the most subtle and difficult. The basic human experience upon which Calderón relies for rational support of religious faith is decay and death and the consequent incapacity of the world to fulfill its promise of happiness. This promise is centred in such natural values as beauty, love, wealth, and power that, although true values if pursued with prudence, cannot satisfy the mind’s aspiration for truth or the heart’s longing for happiness. Only the apprehension of an “infinite Good” can assuage the restlessness of men.

This religious philosophy is given its most moving expression, in terms of Christian dogma, in the autos sacramentales. Seventy-six of these allegorical plays, written for open-air performance on the Feast of Corpus Christi, are extant. In them Calderón brought the tradition of the medieval morality play to a high degree of artistic perfection. The range of his scriptural, patristic, and scholastic learning, together with the assurance of his structural technique and poetic diction, enable him to endow the abstract concepts of dogmatic and moral theology with convincing dramatic life. At their weakest the autos tend to depend for their effect upon the ingenuity of their allegories, but at their best they are imbued with profound moral and spiritual insight and with a poetic feeling varying from tenderness to forcefulness. La cena de Baltasar (c. 1630; Belshazzar’s Feast) and El gran teatro del mundo (c. 1635; The Great Theatre of the World) are fine examples of the early style; the greater complexity of his middle period is represented by No hay más fortuna que Dios (c. 1652; “There Is No Fortune but God”) and Lo que va del hombre a Dios (1652–57; “The Gulf Between Man and God”). But his highest achievement in this type of drama is to be found among those autos of his old age that dramatize the dogmas of the Fall and the redemption, notably La viña del Señor (1674; “The Lord’s Vineyard”), La nave del mercader (1674; “The Merchant’s Ship”), El nuevo hospicio de pobres (1675; “The New Hospital for the Poor”), El día mayor de los días (1678; “The Greatest Day of Days”), and El pastor fido (1678; “The Faithful Shepherd”). Here is found Calderón’s most moving expression of his compassionate understanding of human waywardness.

To have found a dramatic form that conveys the doctrines of the Christian faith gives Calderón a special place in literature. But his greatness is not confined to this; the depth and consistency of his thought, his supremely intelligent craftsmanship and artistic integrity, his psychological insight, and the rationality and humanity of his moral standards make him one of the major figures of world drama.

Alexander A. Parker
 



 

 


Benedict de Spinoza



Dutch-Jewish philosopher
Hebrew forename Baruch, Latin forename Bendictus, Portuguese Bento De Espinosa
(English: )
born Nov. 24, 1632, Amsterdam
died Feb. 21, 1677, The Hague

Main
Dutch-Jewish philosopher, the foremost exponent of 17th-century Rationalism.

Early life and career.
Spinoza’s grandfather and father were Portuguese and had been crypto-Jews after the Spanish Inquisition had compelled them to embrace Christianity. Later, after Holland’s successful revolt against Spain and the granting of religious freedom, they found refuge in Amsterdam. His mother, who also came from Portugal, died when Benedict was barely six years old. The Spinozas were prosperous merchants and respected members of the Jewish community, and it may be assumed that Spinoza attended the school for Jewish boys founded in Amsterdam in about 1638. Outside school hours the boys had private lessons in secular subjects. Spinoza was taught Latin by a German scholar, who may also have taught him German; and he knew to some extent all of the other significant continental languages. In March 1654 Benedict’s father died. There was some litigation over the estate, with Benedict’s only surviving stepsister claiming it all. Benedict won the lawsuit but allowed her to retain nearly everything.

His studies so far had been mainly Jewish, but he was an independent thinker and had found more than enough in his Jewish studies to wean him from orthodox doctrines and interpretations of Scripture; moreover, the tendency to revolt against tradition and authority was much in the air in the 17th century. But the Jewish religious leaders in Amsterdam were fearful that heresies (which were no less anti-Christian than anti-Jewish) might give offense in a country that did not yet regard the Jews as citizens. Spinoza soon incurred the disapproval of the synagogue authorities. In conversations with other students, he had held that there is nothing in the Bible to support the views that God had no body, that angels really exist, or that the soul is immortal; and he had also expressed his belief that the author of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) was no wiser in physics or even in theology than were they, the students. The Jewish authorities, after trying vainly to silence Spinoza with bribes and threats, excommunicated him in July 1656, and he was banished from Amsterdam for a short period by the civil authorities. There is no evidence that he had really wanted to break away from the Jewish community, and indeed the scanty knowledge available would suggest the opposite. On Dec. 5, 1655, for example, he had attended the synagogue and made an offering that, in view of his poverty, must have been a rare event for him, and, about the time of his excommunication, he had addressed a defense of his views to the synagogue.

Among Spinoza’s Christian acquaintances was Franciscus van den Enden, who was a former Jesuit, an ardent classical scholar, and something of a poet and dramatist and who had opened a school in Amsterdam. For a time, Spinoza stayed with him, helping with the teaching of the schoolchildren and receiving aid in his own further education. In this way he improved his knowledge of Latin, learned some Greek, and was introduced to Neoscholastic philosophy. It may have also been through van den Enden’s school that Spinoza became acquainted with the “new philosophy” of René Descartes, later acknowledged to be the father of modern philosophy. Spinoza’s other Christian acquaintances were mostly of the Collegiants, a brotherhood that later merged with the Mennonites; they were especially interested in Cartesianism, the dualistic philosophy of Descartes and his followers.

At the same time, he was becoming expert at making lenses, supporting himself partly by grinding and polishing lenses for spectacles, telescopes, and microscopes; he also did tutoring. A kind of reading and discussion circle for the study of religious and philosophical problems came into being under the guidance of Spinoza. In order to collect his thoughts, however, and reduce them to a system, he withdrew in 1660 to Rijnsburg, a quiet village on the Rhine, near Leiden. Rijnsburg was the headquarters of the Collegiants, and Spinoza’s lodgings there were with a surgeon named Hermann Homan. In Homan’s cottage Spinoza wrote Korte Verhandeling van God, de Mensch en deszelfs Welstand (written c. 1662; Spinoza’s Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being, 1910) and Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione (“Treatise on the Correction of the Understanding”), both of which were ready by April 1662. He also completed the greater part of his geometrical version of Descartes’s Principia Philosophiae and the first book of his Ethica. Spinoza’s attitude in these works already showed a departure from Cartesianism. It was also during this stay that he met Heinrich Oldenburg, soon to become one of the two first secretaries of the Royal Society in London.


Influence of Descartes and the geometrical method.
His version of Descartes’s Principia was prepared while Spinoza was giving instruction in the philosophy of Descartes to a private pupil. It was published by his Cartesian friends under the title Renati des Cartes Principiorum Philosophiae Pars I et II, More Geometrico Demonstratae, per Benedictum de Spinoza (1663), with an introduction explaining that Spinoza did not share the views expressed in the book. This was the only book published in Spinoza’s lifetime with his name on the title page.

The philosophy of Spinoza may thus be regarded as a development from and a reaction to that of his contemporary Descartes (1596–1650). Though it has been argued that Spinoza was also much influenced by medieval philosophy (especially Jewish), he seems to have been much more conscious of the Cartesian influence, and his most striking doctrines are most easily understood as solutions of Cartesian difficulties. Clearly, he had studied Descartes in detail. He accepted Descartes’s physics in general, though he did express some dissatisfaction with it toward the end of his life. As for the Cartesian metaphysics, he found three unsatisfactory features: the transcendence of God, the substantial dualism of mind and body, and the ascription of free will both to God and to human beings. In Spinoza’s eyes, those doctrines made the world unintelligible. It was impossible to explain the relation between God and the world or between mind and body or to account for events occasioned by free will.

The publication of Spinoza’s version of Descartes’s Principia had been intended to prepare the way for that of his own philosophy, for he had both to secure the patronage of influential men and to show the more philosophically minded that his rejection of Cartesianism was not out of ignorance.

Spinoza became dissatisfied with the informal method of exposition that he had adopted in the Korte Verhandeling and the De Intellectus Emendatione and turned instead to the geometrical method in the manner of Euclid’s Elements. He assumed without question that it is possible to construct a system of metaphysics that will render it completely intelligible. It is therefore possible, in his view, to present metaphysics deductively—that is, as a series of theorems derived by necessary steps from self-evident premises expressed in terms that are either self-explanatory or defined with unquestionable correctness. His masterpiece, the Ethica, was set out in this manner—Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata, according to the reading of its subtitle. Its first part, “De Deo” (“Concerning God”), was finished and in the hands of his friends early in 1663. Initially the work was intended to have three parts only, but it eventually appeared (in 1677) in five parts. Spinoza’s desire for an impersonal presentation was probably his chief motive for adopting the geometrical method, appreciating that the method guarantees true conclusions only if the axioms are true and the definitions correct. Spinoza, like his contemporaries, held that definitions are not arbitrary but that there is a sense in which they may be correct or incorrect.

The question was discussed at length in his unfinished Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione. A sound definition, he held, should make clear the possibility or the necessity of the existence of the object defined. Because the Ethica begins with the definition of “substance,” the necessary existent, the entire system is vulnerable to anyone disputing that definition, however cogent the subsequent reasoning may be. In fact, as Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a Rationalist philosopher and mathematician, pointed out, though the system is closely knit, its demonstrations do not proceed with mathematical rigour.

Period of the “Ethica.” In June 1663 Spinoza moved to Voorburg, near The Hague, and it appears that by June 1665 he was nearing the completion of the three-part version of the Ethica. During the next few years, however, he was at work on his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, which was published anonymously at Amsterdam in 1670. This work aroused great interest and was to go through five editions in as many years. It was intended “to show that not only is liberty to philosophize compatible with devout piety and with the peace of the state, but that to take away such liberty is to destroy the public peace and even piety itself.” As this work shows, Spinoza was far ahead of his time in advocating the application of the historical method to the interpretation of the biblical sources. He argued that the inspiration of the prophets of the Old Testament extended only to their moral and practical doctrines and that their factual beliefs were merely those appropriate to their time and are not philosophically significant. Complete freedom of scientific and metaphysical speculation is therefore consistent with all that is important in the Bible. Miracles are explained as natural events misinterpreted and stressed for their moral effect.

In May 1670 Spinoza moved to The Hague, where he remained until his death. He began to compose a Hebrew grammar, Compendium Grammatices Linguae Hebraeae, but did not finish it; instead, he returned to the Ethica, although the prospect of its publication became increasingly remote. There were many denunciations of his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus as an instrument “forged in hell by a renegade Jew and the devil.” When the Ethica was completed in 1675, Spinoza had to abandon the idea of publishing it, though manuscript copies were circulated among his close friends.


Last years and posthumous influence.
Spinoza concentrated his attention on political problems and began his Tractatus Politicus, which he did not live to finish. During the post-Ethica period, he was visited by several important people, among them Ehrenfried Walter von Tschirnhaus (in 1675), a scientist and philosopher, and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (in 1676), like Spinoza, one of the foremost Rationalists of the time. Leibniz, having heard of Spinoza as an authority on optics, had sent him an optical tract and had then received from Spinoza a copy of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, which deeply interested him. According to Leibniz’ own account, he “conversed with him often and at great length.” Spinoza, however, was now in an advanced stage of consumption, aggravated by the inhaling of glass dust from the polishing of lenses in his shop. He died in 1677, leaving no heir, and his few possessions were sold by auction. These included about 160 books, the catalog of which has been preserved.

In accordance with Spinoza’s previous instructions, several of his friends prepared his manuscripts secretly for the press, and they were sent to a publisher in Amsterdam. The Opera Posthuma (Dutch version: Nagelate Schriften), published before the end of 1677, was composed of the Ethica, Tractatus Politicus, and Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione, as well as letters and the Hebrew grammar. His Stelkonstige reeckening van den regenboog (“On the Rainbow”) and his Reeckening van kanssen (“On the Calculation of Chances”) were printed together in 1687. The Korte Verhandeling was lost to the world until E. Boehmer’s publication of it in 1852.

Spinoza has an assured place in the intellectual history of the Western world, though his direct influence on technical philosophy has not been great. Throughout the 18th century he was almost universally decried as an atheist—or sometimes used as a cover for the detailing of atheist ideas. The tone had been set by Pierre Bayle, a Skeptical philosopher and encyclopaedist, in whose Dictionnaire historique et critique Spinozism was described as “the most monstrous hypothesis imaginable, the most absurd”; and even David Hume, a Scottish Skeptic and historian, felt obliged to speak of the “hideous hypothesis” of Spinoza.

Spinoza was rendered intellectually respectable by the efforts of literary critics, especially of the Germans G.E. Lessing and J.W. von Goethe and the English poet S.T. Coleridge, who admired the man and found austere excitement in his works, in which they saw an intensely religious attitude entirely divorced from dogma. Spinoza has also been much studied by professional philosophers since the beginning of the 19th century. Both absolute Idealists and Marxists have read their own doctrines into his work, and Empiricists, while rejecting his metaphysical approach, have developed certain detailed suggestions from his theory of knowledge and psychology.
 

 

 



The 18th century


New critical approaches

In 1700 Charles II, the last monarch of the Habsburg dynasty, died without an heir, thereby provoking the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14), a European conflict over control of Spain. The resultant establishment of the Bourbon dynasty initiated French domination of Spain’s political and cultural life. Following patterns of the Enlightenment in England and France, numerous academies were created, such as the Real Academia de la Lengua Española (1713, now the Real Academia Española [Royal Spanish Academy]), founded to guard linguistic integrity. Men of letters began again to study abroad, discovering how far Spain had diverged from the intellectual course of western Europe. New inquiries into the national heritage led scholars to unearth forgotten medieval literature. Gregorio Mayáns y Siscar produced the first biographical study of Cervantes in 1737, and church historian Enrique Flórez, embarking in 1754 on a vast historical enterprise, España sagrada, resurrected the cultural backgrounds of medieval Christian Spain. Literary landmarks included the first publication of the 12th-century epic Poema de mío Cid, the works of Gonzalo de Berceo, and Juan Ruiz’s Libro de buen amor.

Debates concerning values of the old and the new raged during the century’s middle decades, compelling both sides to initiate new critical approaches to literature. Leaders included Ignacio de Luzán Claramunt, whose work on poetics launched the great Neoclassical polemic in Spain, and Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro, a Benedictine monk who assailed error, prejudice, and superstition wherever he found them, contributing significantly to Spain’s intellectual emancipation. Fray Martín Sarmiento (Benedictine name of Pedro José García Balboa), a scholar and friend of Feijóo, treated subjects from religion and philosophy to science and child rearing; much of his work remains unpublished. Feijóo’s monumental Theatro crítico universal (1726–39; “Universal Critical Theatre”), a compendium of knowledge, exemplifies the interests and achievements of the encyclopaedists. Another major encyclopaedic talent, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, produced streams of reports, essays, memoirs, and studies on agriculture, the economy, political organization, law, industry, natural science, and literature, as well as ways to improve them, in addition to writing Neoclassical drama and poetry.

Pedro de Montengón y Paret introduced narrative genres then popular in France—philosophical and pedagogical novels in the style of Jean-Jacques Rousseau—with such works as Eusebio (1786–88), a four-volume novel set in America that exalted the religion of nature. Montengón also published El Antenor (1778) and El Rodrigo, romance épico (1793; “Roderick, Epic Ballad”). Fray Gerundio (1758) by José Francisco de Isla, satirizing exaggerated pulpit oratory, reincorporated aspects of the picaresque novel. This genre was also echoed in works of Diego de Torres Villarroel, whose Vida, ascendencia, nacimiento, crianza y aventuras (1743–58; “Life, Ancestry, Birth, Upbringing, and Adventures”), whether a novel or an autobiography, remains among the century’s most readable narratives. Torres Villarroel experimented with all literary genres, and his collected works, published 1794–99, are fertile sources for studying 18th-century character, aesthetics, and literary style. Josefa Amar y Borbón defended women’s admission to learned academies, asserting their equal intelligence in Discurso en defensa del talento de las mujeres y de su aptitud para el gobierno y otros cargos en que se emplean los hombres (1786; “Discourse in Defense of the Talent of Women and Their Aptitude for Government and Other Positions in Which Men Are Employed”). Amar published on many topics, most frequently women’s right to education.

About 1775 Diego González led the Salamanca poetry revival group seeking inspiration in Fray Luis de León; two decades later a group at Sevilla turned to Fernando de Herrera. Juan Meléndez Valdés, a disciple of English philosopher John Locke and English poet Edward Young, best exemplified the new influences on poetry during this period. Employing Classical and Renaissance models, these reformers rejected Baroque excess, restoring poetry’s clarity and harmony. Tomás de Iriarte—a Neoclassical poet, dramatist, theoretician, and translator—produced successful comedies (e.g., El señorito mimado [1787; “The Pampered Youth”] and La señorita malcriada [1788; “The Ill-Bred Miss”]) and the satire Los literatos en cuaresma (1772; “Writers in Lent”), which attacked Neoclassicism’s foes. His fame rests on Fábulas literarias (1782; “Literary Fables”), a collection of fables and Neoclassical precepts rendered in verse. The fabulist, literary critic, and poet Félix María Samaniego published an enduringly popular collection, Fábulas en verso (1781; “Fables in Verse”), which—with Iriarte’s fables—is among Neoclassicism’s most enjoyable, best-loved poetic productions.

In drama, the second half of the century witnessed disputes concerning the Neoclassical “rules” (chiefly the unities of place, time, and action). La Raquel (1778), a Neoclassical tragedy by Vicente García de la Huerta, showed the capabilities of the reformist school. Ramón de la Cruz, representing the Spanish “nationalist” dramatists against the afrancesados (imitators of French models), resurrected the earlier pasos and longer entremeses of Lope de Rueda, Cervantes, and Luis Quiñones de Benavente. Satires of the Madrid scene, Cruz’s one-act sketches neither transgressed the unities nor offended the purist; they delighted the public, bringing drama back to observation of life and society. Leandro Fernández de Moratín applied the lesson to full-length plays, producing effective comedies imbued with deep social seriousness. His dialogue in La comedia nueva (1792; “The New Comedy”) and El sí de las niñas (1806; The Maiden’s Consent) ranks with the 18th century’s best prose.

The work of the dramatist, poet, essayist, and short-fiction writer José de Cadalso y Vázquez (pseudonym Dalmiro) moves between Neoclassic aesthetics and Romantic cosmic despair. Scion of a distinguished noble family, he chose a military career and died in 1782, at age 41, during Spain’s unsuccessful attempt to recover Gibraltar from Great Britain. Banished from Madrid to Aragón in 1768 on suspicion of being the author of a sharp satire, he wrote the poems later collected in Ocios de mi juventud (1773; “Pastimes of My Youth”). In 1770 he returned to Madrid, where his close friendships with Moratín and leading actresses prompted his heroic tragedy Don Sancho García (1771) as well as Solaya; o, los circasianos (“Solaya; or, The Circassians”) and La Numantina (“The Girl from Numancia”). Cadalso’s most important works are two satires—Los eruditos a la violeta (published 1772; “Wise Men Without Learning”) and the brilliant Cartas marruecas (written c. 1774, published 1793; “Moroccan Letters”), inspired by the epistolary fictions of Oliver Goldsmith and Montesquieu—and the enigmatic Noches lúgubres (written c. 1774, published 1798; “Mournful Nights”), a Gothic and Byronic work that anticipates Romanticism.

 


Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro



 

Friar Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro (Spanish pronunciation: [be'nito xe'ronimo fej'xoo]; 8 October 1676 – 26 September 1764) was a Spanish monk and scholar noted for encouraging scientific and empirical thought in an effort to debunk myths and superstitions.

He joined the Benedictine order at the age of 12, and had taken classes in Galicia, León, and Salamanca. He later taught theology and philosophy at the University of Oviedo, where he earned a professorship in theology. Feijóo was a prominent essayist for the Spanish, and his critiques, letters, and plays helped change the steadfast beliefs of many during the 18th century.

His two famous works, Teatro crítico universal (1726-1739) and Cartas eruditas y curiosas, are multi-volume collections of essays that cover a range of subjects, from education, law, and medicine, to superstitions and popular beliefs. He is also of interest as a writer in the Galician language. He also wrote what is considered to be one of the first pieces of feminist literature in his essay entitled "Defensa de las mujeres". In which, he discusses the lack of reason and/or evidence, a huge focus of the Enlightenment, in the attitudes towards women during that era in Spain. However, in some occasions, he showed certain credulity, assuming as a natural possibility the existence of the "Anfibio de Liérganes" (Lierganes Amphibious Man), a being half man, half fish.

Father Feijoo was a debunker of myths. He had great interest in natural science and many of his essays touch on topics related to this subject and to the many myths about creatures and lands that abounded at that time. One example of how far his naturalistic bent went can be found in a story told by Julio A. Feijoo, one of his descendents, born in Cuba in 1910. Father Feijoo believed that demonic possession was a psychological phenomenon. Once he was called upon to perform an exorcism, and in order to demonstrate that this phenomenon was more due to suggestibility than anything else, in performing a spurious exorcism on the "possessed" subject, he read from Bocaccio's famous bawdy work the Decameron. Upon hearing the Latin lines, the "possessed" individual settled down and declared himself to be free of demonic influence.
 

 

 


Félix María Samaniego


Félix María Samaniego, (b. Oct. 12, 1745, Laguardia, Spain—d. Aug. 11, 1801, Laguardia), poet whose books of fables for schoolchildren have a grace and simplicity that has won them a place as the first poems that Spanish children learn to recite in school.

Born into an aristocratic Basque family, Samaniego came under the influence of the French Encyclopédistes during his early travels in France. Returning to his native country, he devoted the rest of his life to the welfare of his fellow Basques. He joined the Basque Society and taught at its seminary, composing the Fábulas morales (1781; “Moral Fables”) for its students. They were an immediate success and were quickly established as part of the Spanish curriculum. The next year, Samaniego became involved in a literary dispute with his former friend and fellow fabulist Tomás de Iriarte, and, because of an anonymous attack on Iriarte that contained criticisms of the church, Samaniego was imprisoned in a monastery in 1793.

 

 


Leandro Fernández de Moratín



Leandro Fernández de Moratín, (b. March 10, 1760, Madrid, Spain—d. July 21, 1828, Paris, France), dramatist and poet, the most influential Neoclassic literary figure of the Spanish Enlightenment.

The son of the poet and playwright Nicolás Fernández de Moratín, he was an apologist of the French Encyclopaedists, a translator of Molière and William Shakespeare, and a satirist of contemporary society. The two predominant themes of his plays are dramatic criticism, as seen in La comedia nueva (1792; “The New Comedy”), in which he satirizes the absurd characters and plots of the popular plays of the time, and attacks on excessive parental authority and marriages of convenience, as seen in El sí de las niñas (1806; The Maiden’s Consent). Because of political and ecclesiastical opposition to his French sympathies, he spent most of his life after 1814 in France, where he died; he was buried between his models Molière and Jean de La Fontaine, but his remains were later transferred to Madrid.
 



Women writers

Several women writers emerged during the Enlightenment and were active from 1770 onward in the male-dominated Spanish theatre. They wrote Neoclassic drama: comedias lacrimosas (tearful plays), zarzuelas (musical comedies), sainetes, Romantic tragedies, and costumbrista comedies. While some women wrote for small private audiences (convents and literary salons), others wrote for the public stage: Margarita Hickey and María Rosa Gálvez were both quite successful, with the former producing translations of Jean Racine and Voltaire and the latter composing some 13 original plays from opera and light comedy to high tragedy. Gálvez’s Moratín-style comedy Los figurones literarios (1804; “The Literary Nobodies”) ridicules pedantry; her tragedy Florinda (1804) attempts to vindicate the woman blamed for Spain’s loss to the Muslims; and her biblical drama Amnón (1804) recounts the biblical rape of Tamar by her brother Amnon. Neoclassical poet Manuel José Quintana praised Gálvez’s odes and elegies and considered her the best woman writer of her time.

Some women exerted influence during the Enlightenment through their salons; that of Josefa de Zúñiga y Castro, countess of Lemos, called the Academia del Buen Gusto (Academy of Good Taste), was famous, as were those of the duchess of Alba and the countess-duchess of Benavente. The number of periodicals for women increased dramatically, and La Pensadora Gaditana (1763–64), the first Spanish newspaper for women, was published by Beatriz Cienfuegos (believed by some to have been a man’s pseudonym). But the death of King Charles III in 1788 and the horror spread by the French Revolution brought an abrupt halt to Spain’s incursion into the Age of Reason.

 

The 19th century


The Romantic movement

Early 19th-century Spanish literature suffered as a result of the Napoleonic Wars and their economic repercussions. Spain experienced soaring inflation, and manpower across the peninsula was at low ebb as a result of emigration and military service. Spain’s agriculture was crippled, its cottage industries dwindled and nearly disappeared, and industrialization lagged behind that of other western European countries. These problems were further aggravated by the loss of its American colonies. Ferdinand VII’s anachronistic attempts to restore absolutist monarchy drove many liberals into exile in England and France, both countries then under the sway of Romanticism. Traditional scholarship has viewed Spanish Romanticism as imported by liberals returning after Ferdinand’s death in 1833, the year frequently deemed the beginning of Spanish Romanticism. Some, however, recognize Cadalso and several lesser cultivators of Gothic fiction as 18th-century Spanish antecedents. Debates that prepared the way for Romanticism flourished from 1814 onward: in Cádiz in discussions of literary values initiated by Johann Niklaus Böhl von Faber, in Barcelona with the founding of the literary periodical El europeo (“The European”) in 1823, and in Madrid with Agustín Durán’s essay (1828) on Siglo de Oro drama and his Colección de romances antiguos (1828–32; “Collection of Ancient Ballads”).

Romanticism in Spain was, in many respects, a return to its earlier classics, a continuation of the rediscovery initiated by 18th-century scholars. Important formal traits of Spanish Romantic drama—mingling genres, rejecting the unities, diversifying metrics—had characterized Lope de Vega and his contemporaries, whose themes reappeared in Romantic garb. Some have therefore argued that the native flowering of Spanish Romanticism was not a tardy import; its principles were instead already present in Spain, but their full expression was delayed by the reactionary, tyrannical monarchy’s persecution of members of a movement that was, at its beginning, liberal and democratic. Production of Romantic dramas was also postponed until after Ferdinand VII’s death.

Spanish Romanticism, typically understood as having two branches, had no single leader. José de Espronceda y Delgado and his works epitomize the “Byronic,” revolutionary, metaphysical vein of Spanish Romanticism, and his Estudiante de Salamanca (in two parts, 1836 and 1837; “Student of Salamanca”), Canciones (1840; “Songs”), and El diablo mundo (unfinished, published 1840; “The Devilish World”) were among the period’s most celebrated subjective lyrics. The enormously successful drama Don Álvaro o la fuerza del sino (1835; “Don Alvaro; or, The Force of Destiny”) by Ángel de Saavedra, duque de Rivas, and the preface, by the critic Antonio Alcalá Galiano, to Saavedra’s narrative poem El moro expósito (1834; “The Foundling Moor”) embody the Christian and monarchical aesthetics and ideology of the second, more traditional branch of Spanish Romanticism, whose quintessential representative is José Zorrilla y Moral, author of the period’s most enduring drama, Don Juan Tenorio (1844). Prolific, facile, and declamatory, Zorrilla produced huge numbers of plays, lyric and narrative verse collections, and enormously popular rewrites of Siglo de Oro plays and legends; he was treated as a national hero.

One major Romantic theme concerned liberty and individual freedom. The late Romantic poet Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, in Rimas (published posthumously in 1871; “Rhymes”), expressed his own tortured emotions, suffering, and solitude but also celebrated love, poetry, and intimacy while experimenting with free verse. Rimas influenced more 20th-century Spanish poets than any other 19th-century work.

A number of notable women writers emerged under Romanticism. Carolina Coronado’s early fame rested on a collection of poetry, Poesías, first published in 1843. Her poems sounded many feminist notes, although she in later life became conservative. In 1850 she published two short novels, Adoración and Paquita. La Sigea (1854), the first of three historical novels, re-created the experience of the Renaissance humanist Luisa Sigea de Velasco; Jarilla and La rueda de desgracia (“The Wheel of Misfortune”) appeared in 1873. Poet, dramatist, and prose writer Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda was born in Cuba but spent most of her adult life in Spain. She was the author of a pioneering abolitionist novel, Sab (1841), as well as novels on Mexico’s Aztec past and a protofeminist novel (Dos mujeres [1842; “Two Women”]). She also wrote 16 full-length original plays, 4 of which were major successes. Rosalía de Castro is known primarily for her poetry and novels in Galician, but her last collection of poems, En las orillas del Sar (1884; Beside the River Sar), written in Castilian, brought her a wider audience.

While poetry and theatre claimed the major honours, Spanish Romanticism also produced many novels—but none that rivaled those of Scottish contemporary Sir Walter Scott. The best, El Señor de Bembibre (1844) by Enrique Gil y Carrasco, reflects Gil’s carefully researched history of the Templars in Spain. Other important novels are Mariano José de Larra’s El doncel de Don Enrique el doliente (1834; “The Page of King Enrique the Invalid”) and Espronceda’s Sancho Saldaña (1834).
 


José de Espronceda y Delgado


 

José de Espronceda y Delgado, (b. March 25, 1808, Almendralejo, Spain—d. May 23, 1842, Madrid), Romantic poet and revolutionary, often called the Spanish Lord Byron.

He fled Spain in 1826 for revolutionary activities and in London began a tempestuous affair with Teresa Mancha (the subject of Canto a Teresa) that dominated the next 10 years of his life. He participated in the July Revolution of France (1830), and following the death of Ferdinand VII in 1833 he was allowed to return to Spain, where he was a founder-member of the Republican Party and was imprisoned several times for revolutionary activities. His historical novel Sancho Saldaña (1834), influenced by Sir Walter Scott, was written in prison in Badajoz. El estudiante de Salamanca (1839; “The Student of Salamanca”), a milestone of Iberian Romanticism, is a variant of the Don Juan legend that carries to extremes the antisocial and antireligious attitudes of its protagonist. Espronceda was most admired for his lyric poetry, and his Poesías (1840; “Poems”) shows the influence of both Lord Byron and Scott. The unfinished poem El diablo mundo (“The Devilish World”) contains ideological reflections and is considered one of his best works. Espronceda served as secretary of the diplomatic legation to The Hague (1840) and deputy to the Cortes from Almeria (1842). He also wrote several plays—Blanca de Borbón (1870), Ni el tío ni el sobrino (1834; “Neither the Uncle nor the Nephew”), and Amor venga sus agravios (1838; “Love Avenges Its Affronts”).
 

 

 


Ángel de Saavedra, duque de Rivas




 

Ángel de Saavedra , duke de Rivas, (b. March 10, 1791, Córdoba, Spain—d. June 22, 1865, Madrid), Spanish poet, dramatist, and politician, whose fame rests principally on his play Don Álvaro, o la fuerza del sino (“Don Álvaro, or the Power of Fate”), which marked the triumph of Romantic drama in Spain.

After entering politics Saavedra was condemned to death in 1823 for his extreme liberal views. He fled to London and lived subsequently in Italy, Malta, and France, where he earned his living by painting. During his exile he came under that Romantic influence which, already visible in El moro expósito (1834; “The Foundling Moor”), was to triumph in his Romances históricos (1841; “Historical Romances”), both significant examples of his Romantic poetry.

Returning to Spain after the amnesty of 1833, he presently inherited the title of duke de Rivas and on March 22, 1835, staged Don Álvaro, whose place in the history of the Spanish theatre is analogous to that of Victor Hugo’s drama Hernani in France. The Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi later used Don Álvaro as the source for his opera La forza del destino. Saavedra’s later dramas are undistinguished. In 1836 he became minister of the interior under Francisco de Istúriz and in the following year was again compelled to flee the country owing to his conversion to conservative opinions. Returning to Spain in 1838, he entered the Senate and was subsequently ambassador in Naples and Paris. He died while serving as president of the Spanish Royal Academy.

 

 


José Zorrilla y Moral



 

José Zorrilla y Moral, (b. Feb. 21, 1817, Valladolid, Spain—d. Jan. 23, 1893, Madrid), poet and dramatist, the major figure of the nationalist wing of the Spanish Romantic movement. His work was enormously popular and is now regarded as quintessentially Spanish in style and tone.

After studying law at Toledo and Valladolid, Zorilla y Moral left the university and went to Madrid to devote himself to literature. In 1837 he became an overnight success with his recitation of an elegy at the funeral of the poet Mariano José de Larra. He ran away from his wife and financial distress and was abroad from 1855 to 1866, where he wrote prolifically but remained insolvent. In 1889 he was crowned as the national poet and was granted a government pension.

Zorrilla wrote effortlessly: he was an improviser who made his name with his leyendas (“legends”), which told of remote times and places. His first collection of verse legends, Cantos del trovador (1841), however, suffered—like much of his other poetry—from its carelessness and verbosity.

Zorrilla’s greatest success was achieved with his version of the Don Juan story, the play Don Juan Tenorio (1844). Written while he was in his 20s and later despised by him as a failure, it was the most popular play of 19th-century Spain and is still frequently performed. Like his other works, it exhibits those typically Spanish qualities that have made Zorrilla a uniquely national author: picturesque characters, intrigues and coincidences in its plot, lyrical flights, and great Romantic colouring.

 




Costumbrismo

Costumbrismo began before Romanticism, contributing to both Romanticism and the later realism movement through realistic prose. The cuadro de costumbres and artículo de costumbres—short literary sketches on customs, manners, or character—were two types of costumbrista writing, typically published in the popular press or included as an element of longer literary works such as novels. The cuadro was inclined to description for its own sake, whereas the artículo was more critical and satirical. Cartas de un pobrecito holgazán (1820; “Letters from a Poor Idler”) by Sebastián de Miñano points the way, but the most important costumbrista titles were by Larra, an outstanding prose writer and the best critical mind of his age, who dissected society pitilessly in Artículos (1835–37). Ramón de Mesonero Romanos in Escenas matritenses (1836–42; “Scenes of Madrid”) humorously portrayed contemporary life, and Serafín Estébanez Calderón depicted the manners, folklore, and history of Andalusia in Escenas andaluzas (1847; “Andalusian Sketches”). Such writings, realistically observing everyday life and regional elements, bridged the transition to realism.


Revival of the Spanish novel

For two centuries the novel, Spain’s greatest contribution to literature, had languished. Early revival novels are of interest more for their powers of observation and description (a continuation of costumbrismo) than for their imaginative or narrative quality. Fernán Caballero (pseudonym of Cecilia Böhl de Faber) essayed techniques of observation new to the novel in La gaviota (1849; The Seagull). The regional novel’s flowering began with El sombrero de tres picos (1874; The Three-Cornered Hat), a sparkling tale of peasant malice by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón. Andalusian regionalism prevailed in many of Juan Valera’s novels, but his remarkable psychological insights in Pepita Jiménez (1874) and Doña Luz (1879) made him the father of Spain’s psychological novel. He was a prolific writer, his works ranging from poetry and newspaper articles to critical essays and memoirs. Regionalist José María de Pereda produced minute re-creations of nature, which was depicted as an abiding reality that dwarfed individuals. His most celebrated novels, Sotileza (1884; “Subtlety”) and Peñas arriba (1895; “Up the Mountains”), support a rigid class structure and traditional values of religion, family, and country life. Emilia, condesa (countess) de Pardo Bazán, attempted to combine the aesthetics of naturalism with traditional Roman Catholic values in her novels of Galicia, Los pazos de Ulloa (1886; The Son of a Bondwoman) and La madre naturaleza (1887; “Mother Nature”), sparking considerable controversy. Her 19 major novels also represent mainstream Spanish realism, experiments with Symbolism, and spiritualism; she figures among Spain’s major short-story writers with some 800 stories. Armando Palacio Valdés was the novelist of Asturias, his native province, while Jacinto Octavio Picón was more cosmopolitan; both experimented with naturalism. The reputed author of more than 100 works, María del Pilar Sinués y Navarro made women her primary subjects, treating marriage, motherhood, domestic life, and women’s education. Ana García de la Torre (Ana García del Espinar), a more progressive contemporary, treated problems of class, gender, and the proletariat, writing especially on the “working girl” and portraying utopian workers’ socialist movements.

Benito Pérez Galdós, Spain’s most significant novelist after Cervantes, perfected the Spanish realistic novel and created a new type of historical novel, imaginatively reproducing many turbulent chapters of Spain’s 19th-century history. His Episodios nacionales (1873–79 and 1898–1912; “National Episodes”) comprise 46 volumes and cover the 70 years from the Napoleonic Wars to Spain’s short-lived First Republic. Galdós’s enduring fame rests, however, on what have come to be known as the Novelas españolas contemporáneas (“Contemporary Spanish Novels”), especially his portrayals of Madrid’s bureaucracy and its middle class and pueblo (working class). Included among these many novels is his masterpiece, Fortunata y Jacinta (1886–87; Fortunata and Jacinta), a paradigm of Spanish realism. This massive four-volume work presents the whole of Madrid’s social spectrum via the families, loves, and acquaintances of the two women in the life of a wealthy but weak bourgeois: Fortunata, his mistress and the mother of his son, and Jacinta, his wife. The novel has been seen as an allegory of the sterility of the upper classes, but its complexity transcends facile summary. His later works represent naturalism or reflect turn-of-the-century spiritualism. Galdós was a liberal crusader whose criticism of the Roman Catholic Church’s interventions in civic matters, of caciquism (caciquismo, or political bossism), and of reactionary power-grabs made him many enemies. He also wrote more than 20 successful and often controversial plays. Some have argued that his political enemies conspired to deny him the Nobel Prize, but today he ranks with such world-class realists as the English novelist Charles Dickens and the French novelist Honoré de Balzac.

In the late 1880s—a time of nascent industrialism, a growing proletariat, and an influx of international labour organizers—other naturalistic novelists followed, notably Vicente Blasco Ibáñez. A crusader, adventurer, and short-story writer, he achieved enormous international success with novels widely translated and adapted for the screen and became Spain’s best-known novelist in the first third of the 20th century, though he was seldom well received at home. Contemporaneous with the Generation of 1898 but belonging aesthetically to the 19th century, Blasco Ibáñez wrote regional novels of Valencia, crusaded for socialism, and treated contemporary social problems from an anarchist perspective in such novels as La bodega (1905; “The Wine Vault”; Eng. trans. The Fruit of the Vine) and La horda (1905; The Mob). He won international renown with Los cuatro jinetes del apocalipsis (1916; The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse), on World War I, and Mare nostrum (1918; Our Sea), on German submarine warfare in the Mediterranean.

Leopoldo Alas (byname Clarín), like Valera a well-respected critic and author of volumes of influential articles, has long been considered a naturalist, but his works exhibit none of the sordidness and social determinism typical of that movement. Rich in detail, his writings abound in irony and satire as they expose the evils of Spanish Restoration society, most notably in La Regenta (1884–85; “The Regent’s Wife”; Eng. trans. La Regenta), which is today considered Spain’s most significant novel of the 19th century. Alas’s masterful short stories rank with the best in Spanish and world literature.
 


Benito Pérez Galdós


Benito Pérez Galdós, (b. May 10, 1843, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain—d. Jan. 4, 1920, Madrid), writer who was regarded as the greatest Spanish novelist since Miguel de Cervantes. His enormous output of short novels chronicling the history and society of 19th-century Spain earned him comparison with Honoré de Balzac and Charles Dickens.

Born into a middle-class family, Pérez Galdós went to Madrid in 1862 to study law but soon abandoned his studies and took up journalism. After the success of his first novel, La fontana de oro (1870; “The Fountain of Gold”), he began a series of novels retelling Spain’s history from the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) to the restoration of the Bourbons in Spain (1874). The entire cycle of 46 novels would come to be known as the Episodios nacionales (1873–1912; “National Episodes”). In these works Galdós perfected a unique type of historical fiction that was based on meticulous research using memoirs, old newspaper articles, and eyewitness accounts. The resulting novels are vivid, realistic, and accurate accounts of historical events as they must have appeared to those participating in them. The Napoleonic occupation of Spain and the struggles between liberals and absolutists preceding the death of Ferdinand VII in 1833 are respectively treated in the first two series of 10 novels each, all composed in the 1870s.

In the 1880s and ’90s Pérez Galdós wrote a long series of novels dealing with contemporary Spain, beginning with Doña Perfecta (1876). Known as the Novelas españolas contemporáneas (“Contemporary Spanish Novels”), these books were written at the height of the author’s literary maturity and include some of his finest works, notably La desheredada (1881; The Disinherited Lady) and his masterpiece, the four-volume novel Fortunata y Jacinta (1886–87), a study of two unhappily married women from different social classes. Pérez Galdós’ earlier novels in the series show a reforming liberal zeal and an intransigent opposition to Spain’s ubiquitous and powerful clergy, but after the 1880s he displayed a newly tolerant acceptance of Spain’s idiosyncracies and a greater sympathy for his country. He demonstrated a phenomenal knowledge of Madrid, of which he showed himself the supreme chronicler. He also displayed a deep understanding of madness and abnormal psychological states. Pérez Galdós gradually came to admit more elements of spirituality into his work, eventually accepting them as an integral part of reality, as evident in the important late novels Nazarín (1895) and Misericordia (1897; Compassion).

Financial difficulties prompted Pérez Galdós in 1898 to begin a third series of novels (covering the Carlist wars of the 1830s) in the Episodios nacionales, and he eventually went on to write a fourth series (covering the period from 1845 to 1868) and begin a fifth, so that by 1912 he had brought his history of Spain down to 1877 and retold events of which he himself had been a witness. The books of the fifth series, however, and his last works showed a decline in mental powers compounded by the blindness that overtook him in 1912.

Pérez Galdós also wrote plays, some of which were immensely popular, but their success was largely owing to the political views presented in them rather than to their artistic value.
 

 

 


Vicente Blasco Ibánez


Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, (b. Jan. 29, 1867, Valencia, Spain—d. Jan. 28, 1928, Menton, Fr.), Spanish writer and politician, who achieved world renown for his novels dealing with World War I, the most famous of which, Los cuatro jinetes del Apocalipsis (1916; The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1918), was used as the basis for two U.S. films. He was associated with the Generation of ’98.

At the age of 18, while studying law at Madrid and contributing articles to political journals, Blasco Ibáñez wrote an antimonarchist poem for which he was sent to prison—the first of many such punishments for his political beliefs. He founded the republican journal El Pueblo in 1891 and was first elected to the Cortes (parliament) in 1901, to which he was returned seven times before he voluntarily exiled himself in 1923 and settled on the French Riviera. He did so because of his opposition to the military dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera.

Blasco Ibáñez’ early work, composed mainly of regional novels such as Flor de mayo (1895; Mayflower, 1921), La barraca (1898; The Cabin, 1917), and Cañas y barro (1902; Reeds and Mud, 1966), is marked by a vigorous and intense realism and considerable dramatic force in the depiction of the life of Valencia. Later novels, such as La bodega (1906; The Fruit of the Vine, 1919), are held to have suffered from a heavy ideological treatment of serious social problems. More popular novels, Sangre y arena (1909; Blood and Sand, 1922); La maja desnuda (1906; Woman Triumphant); his best known, Los cuatro jinetes del Apocalipsis; and others, brought him fame but cost him critical approval because of their sensational nature. He became a member of the French Legion of Honour in 1906.
 




Post-Romantic drama and poetry

Realistic drama in Spain produced few masterpieces but established a bourgeois comedy of manners further developed in the 20th century. Manuel Tamayo y Baus achieved fame with Un drama nuevo (1867; A New Drama), whose characters, members of William Shakespeare’s acting company, include Shakespeare himself. Adelardo López de Ayala pilloried bourgeois vices in El tejado de vidrio (1857; “The Glass Roof”) and Consuelo (1870). The more than 60 plays of José Echegaray y Eizaguirre include both enormously popular melodramas lacking verisimilitude of character, motivation, and situation and serious bourgeois dramas of social problems. In 1904 he shared the Nobel Prize for Literature with the Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral. Joaquín Dicenta utilized class conflict and social injustice as themes, dramatizing working-class conditions in Juan José (performed 1895).

In poetry, realistic trends produced little of note. Ramón de Campoamor y Campoosorio wrote Doloras (1845; “Sufferings”), Pequeños poemas (1871; “Little Poems”), and Humoradas (1886; “Pleasant Jokes”), works that attempted to establish a poetry of ideas. The poet, playwright, and politician Gaspar Núñez de Arce published Gritos del combate (1875; “Combat Cries”), patriotic declamatory exhortations defending democracy. He used a realistic approach to treat contemporary moral, religious, and political conflicts in his works, although his work also shows Romantic and medieval themes.

 

 


The modern period


The Generation of 1898

Novels and essays

For some two decades before 1900, political and social unrest grew in Spain, conditions that inspired Ángel Ganivet’s influential Idearium español (1897; Spain, an Interpretation), which analyzed Spanish character. The Spanish empire, founded in 1492, ended with defeat in the Spanish-American War of 1898, which prompted Spanish intellectuals to diagnose their country’s ills and to seek ways to jolt the nation out of what they perceived to be its abulia (lack of will). The novel acquired new seriousness, and critical, psychological, and philosophical essays gained unprecedented importance. Novelists and essayists constituted what Azorín (pseudonym of José Martínez Ruiz) named the Generation of 1898, today considered an “Age of Silver,” second only to Spain’s Siglo de Oro (Golden Age).

Miguel de Unamuno studied national problems perceptively in En torno al casticismo (1895), a collection of essays whose title—which means, roughly, “Concerning Spanishness”—reflects its analysis of the “essence” of Spanish national identity. In Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho (1905; The Life of Don Quixote and Sancho) Unamuno explored the same subject by way of an examination of Cervantes’s fictional characters. He despairingly questioned immortality in his most important work, Del sentimiento trágico de la vida (1913; The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Peoples). A provocative, somewhat unsystematic thinker, Unamuno aimed at sowing spiritual disquiet. The novel became his medium for exploring personality, as in Niebla (1914; Mist), Abel Sánchez (1917), and Tres novelas ejemplares y un prólogo (1920; “Three Cautionary Tales and a Prologue”), with his final spiritual position—Kierkegaardian existentialism—revealed in San Manuel Bueno, mártir (1933; “San Manuel Bueno, Martyr”). Unamuno was an influential journalist and an unsuccessful but powerful dramatist who also ranks among Spain’s greatest 20th-century poets.

In novels such as Don Juan (1922) and Doña Inés (1925), Azorín created retrospective, introspective, and nearly motionless narratives that shared many of the qualities of works by his contemporary Marcel Proust. Azorín’s essays—in El alma castellana (1900; “The Castilian Soul”), La ruta de Don Quijote (1905; “Don Quixote’s Route”), Castilla (1912), and numerous additional volumes—reinterpreted and sought to eternalize earlier literary values and visions of rural Spain. An artistic critic and sensitive miniaturist, he excelled in precision and ekphrasis (description of a visual work of art). Philosopher José Ortega y Gasset developed themes from criticism and psychology (Meditaciones del Quijote [1914; “Meditations on Quixote”]) to national problems (España invertebrada [1921; Invertebrate Spain]) and international concerns (El tema de nuestro tiempo [1923; The Modern Theme], La rebelión de las masas [1929; The Revolt of the Masses]). He and Unamuno were Spain’s intellectual leaders during the first half of the 20th century.

Novelist Pío Baroja repudiated tradition, religion, and most forms of social organization and government, initially advocating something approaching anarchism but later turning more conservative. A neonaturalist, he saw the world as a cruel place, and many of his works—including the trilogies La raza (1908–11; “The Race”) and La lucha por la vida (1903–04; “The Struggle for Life”) and the two-part Agonías de nuestro tiempo (1926; “Agonies of Our Time”)—portray squalid, subhuman conditions, prostitutes and criminals, and ignorance and disease. His most-read work is El árbol de la ciencia (1911; The Tree of Knowledge), which tells the story of the education of the protagonist, a medical student; it depicts the shortcomings of those teaching medicine, the callousness of many doctors treating Spanish society’s most vulnerable, and the abject poverty and filth in the village where the protagonist first practices. Baroja also wrote adventure novels that glorified the “man of action,” a type that recurs throughout his novels. In his later works he experimented with Impressionism and Surrealism.

Sometimes omitted from the Generation of 1898, given his Modernist beginnings, Ramón María del Valle-Inclán—a poet, journalist, essayist, short-story writer, and profoundly influential dramatist and novelist—suffered critical neglect following his death in 1936 when the Francisco Franco regime prohibited studies of Republican writers. The three stages of his literary evolution exhibit radical aesthetic change, beginning with exquisite, sometimes decadent, erotic Modernista tales, as in his four Sonatas (1902–05; Eng. trans. The Pleasant Memoirs of the Marquis de Bradomin: Four Sonatas). Each represents a season (of the year and of human life) corresponding to the youth, plenitude, maturity, and old age of the narrator, a decadent Don Juan; intertextual allusions, nostalgia for an idealized past, aristocratic posing, melancholy, underlying parody, and humour abound. The trilogy Comedias bárbaras (1907, 1908, 1923), set in an anachronistic, semifeudal Galicia and linked by a single protagonist, is in dialogue form, which gives these novels the feel of impossibly long cinematographic dramas. This series initiated Valle’s aesthetic movement away from Modernismo’s quest for beauty, which continued with his violent trilogy (1908–09) on the 19th-century Carlist wars. Valle’s third artistic stage, characterized by his invention of the esperpento style, is expressionistic, involving deliberate distortion and calculated inversion of heroic models and values. “Esperpentic” visions appear in the novels Tirano Banderas (1926; Eng. trans. The Tyrant), La corte de los milagros (1927; “The Court of Miracles”), and Viva mi dueño (1928; “Long Live My Lord”), the last two belonging to another trilogy, El ruedo ibérico (“The Iberian Cycle”). Valle’s works usually treat his native Galicia; Tirano Banderas, satirizing desultory revolutions and set in a fictional Latin American country, is sometimes considered his masterpiece.
 

 

George Santayana



Spanish philosopher
original name Jorge Augustín Nicolás Ruiz De Santayana

born December 16, 1863, Madrid, Spain
died September 26, 1952, Rome, Italy

Main
Spanish-American philosopher, poet, and humanist who made important contributions to aesthetics, speculative philosophy, and literary criticism. From 1912 he resided in Europe, chiefly in France and Italy.

Early life and career
George Santayana was born in Madrid of Spanish parents. He never relinquished his Spanish citizenship, and, although he was to write in English with subtlety and poise, he did not begin to learn that language until taken to join his mother in Boston in 1872. Santayana was to reside in New England for most of the ensuing 40 years. He went through the Boston Latin School and Harvard College, graduating summa cum laude in 1886. He then spent two years studying philosophy at the University of Berlin before returning to Harvard to complete his doctoral thesis under the pragmatist William James. He joined the faculty of philosophy in 1889, forming with James and the idealist Josiah Royce a brilliant triumvirate of philosophers. Yet his attachment to Europe was strong. He spent his summers in Spain with his father, visited England, and spent his sabbatical leaves abroad: at the University of Cambridge, in Italy and the East, and at the Sorbonne.

At Harvard he began to write. The Sense of Beauty (1896) was an important contribution to aesthetics. The essay, which is concerned with the nature and elements of aesthetic feelings, holds that to judge that anything is beautiful is “virtually to establish an ideal” and that to understand why something is thought to be beautiful enables one to distinguish transitory ideals from those that, springing from more fundamental feelings, are “comparatively permanent and universal.” The vital affinity between aesthetic faculties and moral faculties is illustrated in Santayana’s next book, Interpretations of Poetry and Religion (1900), particularly in the discussion of the poetry of Robert Browning, which is a model of its kind.

The Life of Reason (1905–06) was a major theoretical work consisting of five volumes. Conceived in his student days after a reading of G.W.F. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind, it was described by Santayana as “a presumptive biography of the human intellect.” The life of reason, for Santayana as for Hegel, is not restricted to purely intellectual activities, for reason in all of its manifestations is a union of impulse and ideation. It is instinct become reflective and enlightened. The theory is given practical illustration in a series of essays, gathered into two volumes: Three Philosophical Poets: Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe (1910); and Winds of Doctrine (1913), in which the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley and the philosophies of Henri Bergson, a French evolutionary philosopher, and of Bertrand Russell are trenchantly discussed.


Return to Europe
Santayana was appointed a full Harvard professor in 1907. In 1912, however, while he was in Europe, his mother died, and he sent in his resignation from there. He never returned to America, although several attractive offers were made by Harvard in an attempt to draw him back.

Santayana’s resignation astonished his colleagues, for it came at the height of his career. All of his books were admired and influential, and there seemed to be an intimate connection between them and his teaching. Clearly, he was a gifted teacher: interested in his students, devoid of pedantry, and with a superb capacity for analyzing philosophies and related poetry with lucid sympathy while judging them by standards that remained rational and humane. His resignation, nevertheless, can be seen as inevitable: he disliked the academic straitjacket; he wished to devote himself exclusively to his writing; and he was ill at ease in America. His Latin heritage and allegiance gave to his thinking a striking range and perspective, but the net result was to make him want “to say plausibly in English as many un-English things as possible.” From the strain of doing this, he was thankful to escape.

When World War I began, Santayana was in Oxford, and he settled there for the duration. Though he enjoyed the friendship of several eminent people, the war saddened him, and he led a secluded life. Egotism in German Philosophy appeared in 1916, making clear his strong allegiance to the Allied cause; he also wrote a number of popular essays centring on the English character and countryside. At the end of the war he was offered a life membership in Corpus Christi College, Oxford, but he declined.


Santayana’s system of philosophy
In 1924 he settled permanently in Rome. The atmosphere was congenial to a native-born Roman Catholic who, though evolving into a philosophical materialist for whom the world of spirit was wholly ideal and nonexistent, had always admired the Catholic and classical traditions. Three new books consolidated his reputation as a humanist critic and man of letters, and this side was brought to perfect expression in a novel, The Last Puritan (1935).

The bulk of his energies in the interwar years, however, went into speculative philosophy. Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923) marks an important departure from his earlier philosophy and serves as “a critical introduction” to and résumé of his new system developed in the four-volume Realms of Being (1928, 1930, 1937, 1940), an ontological (nature of being) treatise of great concentration and finish. In these later works Santayana enhanced his stature as a philosopher by achieving greater theoretical precision, depth, and coherence. Scepticism and Animal Faith conveys better than any other volume the essential import of his philosophy. It formulates his theory of immediately apprehended essences and describes the role played by “animal faith” in various forms of knowledge.

In Realms of Being extraordinarily complex problems are elucidated with luminous succinctness: Santayana makes his way with athletic ease through forests in which ontological philosophers like Edmund Husserl or Existentialist ones like Jean-Paul Sartre flounder self-indulgently. “The realm of essence,” in Santayana’s system, is that of the mind’s certain and indubitable knowledge. Essences are universals that have being or reality but do not exist. They include colours, tastes, and odours as well as the ideal objects of thought and imagination. “The realm of matter” is the world of natural objects; belief in it rests—as does all belief concerning existence—on animal faith. Naturalism, the dominant theme of his entire philosophy, appears in his insistence that matter is prior to the other realms.

Such a philosophy enabled Santayana to accept imperturbably another onset of war. He took rooms in a Catholic nursing home and began a three-volume autobiography, Persons and Places (1944, 1945, 1953). When Rome was liberated in 1944, the 80-year-old author found himself visited by an “avalanche” of American admirers. By now he was immersed in Dominations and Powers (1951), an analysis of man in society; and then with heroic tenacity—for he was nearly deaf and half blind—he gave himself to translating Lorenzo de’ Medici’s love poem, “Ambra,” during which he was overtaken by his last illness. He died in September 1952, a few months before his 89th birthday, and was buried, as he had wished, in the Catholic cemetery of Rome in a plot reserved for Spanish nationals.

Norman V. Henfrey

 

 

 


Miguel de Unamuno



 

Miguel de Unamuno, in full Miguel De Unamuno Y Jugo (b. Sept. 29, 1864, Bilbao, Spain—d. Dec. 31, 1936, Salamanca), educator, philosopher, and author whose essays had considerable influence in early 20th-century Spain.

Unamuno was the son of Basque parents. After attending the Vizcayan Institute of Bilbao, he entered the University of Madrid in 1880 and in four years received a doctorate in philosophy and letters. Six years later he became professor of Greek language and literature at the University of Salamanca.

In 1901 Unamuno became rector of the university, but he was relieved of his duties in 1914 after publicly espousing the Allied cause in World War I. His opposition in 1924 to General Miguel Primo de Rivera’s rule in Spain resulted in his forced exile to the Canary Islands, from which he escaped to France. When Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship fell, Unamuno returned to the University of Salamanca and was reelected rector of the university in 1931, but in October 1936 he denounced General Francisco Franco’s Falangists, was removed once again as rector, and was placed under house arrest. He died of a heart attack two months later.

Unamuno was an early existentialist who concerned himself largely with the tension between intellect and emotion, faith and reason. At the heart of his view of life was his personal and passionate longing for immortality. According to Unamuno, man’s hunger to live on after death is constantly denied by his reason and can only be satisfied by faith, and the resulting tension results in unceasing agony.

Although he also wrote poetry and plays, Unamuno was most influential as an essayist and novelist. If his vigorous and iconoclastic essays have any common theme, it is that of the need to preserve one’s personal integrity in the face of social conformity, fanaticism, and hypocrisy. His first published work was the essays collected in En torno al casticismo (1895), in which he critically examined Spain’s isolated and anachronistic position in western Europe at the time. His Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho (1905; Life of Don Quixote and Sancho) is a detailed analysis of Miguel de Cervantes’ literary characters. Unamuno’s mature philosophy found its fullest expression in Del sentimiento trágico de la vida en los hombres y en los pueblos (1913; The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Peoples), in which he stressed the vital role spiritual anxiety plays in driving man to live the fullest possible life. This and other themes were explored in La agonía del cristianismo (1925; The Agony of Christianity).

Unamuno’s novels are intensely psychological depictions of agonized characters who illustrate and give voice to his own philosophical ideas. His most famous novel is Abel Sánchez: una historia de pasión (1917; Abel Sanchez), a modern re-creation of the biblical story of Cain and Abel, which centres on the painfully conflicting impulses of the character representing Cain. His other novels include Amor y pedagogía (1902; “Love and Pedagogy”), which describes a father’s attempt to raise his son scientifically, ending in failure and the son’s ruin; Niebla (1914; Mist); and San Manuel Bueno, mártir (1933; “Saint Manuel the Good, Martyr”), the story of an unbelieving priest. Unamuno’s El Cristo de Velázquez (1920; The Christ of Velázquez), a study in poetic form of the great Spanish painter, is regarded as a superb example of modern Spanish verse.
 

 

 


Azorín




 

Azorín, pseudonym of José Martínez Ruiz (b. June 8/11, 1873, Monóvar, Spain—d. March 2, 1967, Madrid), novelist, essayist, and the foremost Spanish literary critic of his day. He was one of a group of writers who were engaged at the turn of the 20th century in a concerted attempt to revitalize Spanish life and letters. Azorín was the first to identify this group as the Generation of ’98—a name that prevails.

Azorín studied law at Valencia, Granada, and Salamanca, but later he went to Madrid to be a journalist, only to find that his outspokenness closed most doors. He then wrote a trilogy of novels, La voluntad (1902; “Volition”), Antonio Azorín (1903), and Las confesiones de un pequeño filósofo (1904; “The Confessions of a Minor Philosopher”), which are actually little more than impressionistic essays written in dialogue. This trilogy operated with unifying force on the Generation of ’98, however. Animated by a deep patriotism, Azorín tirelessly sought through his work to bring to light what he believed was of lasting value in Spanish culture. His book El alma castellana (1900; “The Castilian Soul”) and his essay collections La ruta de Don Quijote (1905; “The Route of Don Quixote”) and Una hora de España 1560–1590 (1924; An Hour of Spain, 1560–1590) carefully and subtly reconstruct the spirit of Spanish life, directing the reader’s sensibility by the suggestive power of their prose. Azorín’s literary criticism, such as Al margen de los clásicos (1915; “Marginal Notes to the Classics”), helped to open up new avenues of literary taste and to arouse a new enthusiasm for the Spanish classics at a time when a large portion of Spanish literature was virtually unavailable to the public. The simplicity of Azorín’s style attracted innumerable imitators, all of whom failed to achieve his intellectual subtlety, vitality, and poetic rhythm.

Because he was interested in keeping Spain aware of current foreign thinking, Azorín edited the periodical Revista de Occidente (“Magazine of the West”) from 1923 to 1936. He spent the period of the Spanish Civil War in Paris, writing for the Argentine newspaper La Nación, but he returned to Madrid in 1949. After his death a museum including his library was opened at Monóvar.
 

 

 


Pío Baroja




 

Pío Baroja, (b. December 28, 1872, San Sebastián, Spain—d. October 30, 1956, Madrid), Basque writer who is considered to be the foremost Spanish novelist of his generation.

After receiving his medical degree, Baroja practiced medicine for a short time in a village in northern Spain, later returning to Madrid to work in the family bakery. As a member of the Generation of ’98, Baroja revolted against the stultification of Spanish life. His first two books, a collection of short stories, Vidas sombrías (1900; “Sombre Lives”), and a novel, La casa de Aizgorri (1900; The House of the Aizgorri, 1958), clearly show the direction his later work would take. Attempting to arouse people to action, he wrote 11 trilogies dealing with contemporary social problems, the best known of which, La lucha por la vida (1904; The Struggle for Life, 1922–24), portrays the misery and squalor in the poor sections of Madrid. Himself a confirmed rebel and nonconformist, Baroja wrote at length about vagabonds and people who reflected his own thinking; El árbol de la ciencia (1911; The Tree of Knowledge, 1928) is considered to be basically autobiographical. Of the almost 100 novels he wrote, the most ambitious project was Memorias de un hombre de acción (1913–28; “Memoirs of a Man of Action”), a series of 14 novels and 8 volumes of shorter narratives dealing with a 19th-century insurgent and his era. One of his best novels, Zalacaín el aventurero (1909), is written in an intentionally abrupt style reflecting Baroja’s vision of reality as disjointed.

Because of his anti-Christian views, his stubborn insistence on nonconformity, and a somewhat pessimistic attitude, Baroja’s novels never achieved great popularity. His terse and unadorned style, which relied heavily upon understatement, is said to have had great influence on Ernest Hemingway.
 

 

 


Ramón María del Valle-Inclán



 

Ramón María del Valle-Inclán, (b. Oct. 28, 1866, Villanueva de Arosa, Spain—d. Jan. 5, 1936, Santiago de Compostela), Spanish novelist, dramatist, and poet who combined a sensuous use of language with bitter social satire.

Valle-Inclán was raised in rural Galicia, and after attending law school and visiting Mexico City he settled in Madrid, where he became known for his colourful personality. He early came under French Symbolist influence, and his first notable works, the four novelettes known as the Sonatas (1902–05), feature a beautifully evocative prose and a tone of refined and elegant decadence. They narrate the seductions and other doings of a Galician womanizer who is partly an autobiographical figure. In his subsequent works Valle-Inclán developed a style that is rich in both popular and literary appeal, as in several plays featuring the patriarchal Don Juan Manuel de Montenegro and his brood of wild sons.

Some of Valle-Inclán’s later plays and novels are in the manner he called esperpento (“horrible, nauseating persons, or things”). This intentionally absurd and cruelly satirical style is intended to express the tragic meaning of Spanish life—which he saw as a gross deformation of European civilization—through the systematic distortion of classic heroes. The best of his esperpento plays are Luces de Bohemia (1920; “Lights of Bohemia”) and Los cuernos de Don Friolera (1921; “Don Friolera’s Horns”). His major novels of the later period include two works, La corte de los milagros (1927) and Viva mi dueño (1928), as well as an unfinished one, Baza de espadas (1958), that were part of an unfinished nine-volume cycle of historical novels collectively entitled El ruedo ibérico (1927–28; “The Iberian Circle”); the completed works deal with the political corruption and social degradation of Spain in the latter 19th century. Valle-Inclán’s novel Tirano Banderas (1926) is a vivid portrayal of a Latin-American despot.
 



Poetry

Rubén Darío, Latin America’s greatest poet, took Modernismo to Spain in 1892. Modernismo rejected 19th-century bourgeois materialism and instead sought specifically aesthetic values. Darío greatly enriched the musical resources of Spanish verse with the daring use of new rhythms and metres, creating an introspective, cosmopolitan, and aesthetically beautiful poetry.

Antonio Machado, one of the 20th century’s greatest poets, explored memory through recurrent symbols of multiple meanings, the dimly drawn boundaries of dream and reality, and time past and present. A consummate creator of introspective Modernist poems in Soledades (1903, augmented 1907; “Solitudes”), Machado abandoned the cult of beauty in Campos de Castilla (1912, augmented 1917; “Fields of Castile”), producing powerful visions of the Spanish condition and the character of the Spanish people that became a guiding precedent for postwar “social” poets. In his anguished grappling with Spain’s problems—a characteristic of the Generation of 1898—Machado correctly foresaw the coming Civil War.

Juan Ramón Jiménez, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1956, practiced the aesthetics of Modernismo during his first two decades. Anguished by transient reality, Jiménez next sought salvation in an absorbing, manic dedication to poetry stripped of adornment—what he called poesía desnuda (“naked poetry”)—as in Eternidades (1918; “Eternities”) and Piedra y cielo (1919; “Stone and Sky”). Seeking Platonic absolutes in his final years, he produced measured, exact poetry that increasingly exulted in mystical discoveries of transcendence within the immanence of self and physical reality. Jiménez’s voluminous output—Rimas (1902; “Rhymes”); Sonetos espirituales (1914–15) (1917; “Spiritual Sonnets [1914–15]”); Diario de un poeta recién casado (1917; “Diary of a Poet Recently Married”); Animal de fondo (1947; “Animal of the Depth”)—springs from his lifelong pursuit of poetry and its modes of expression. Sofía Pérez Casanova de Lutoslawski, a successful early Modernist poet, spent her married life outside Spain. A pioneering feminist and social worker, she was also a prolific novelist, a translator, and an author of short stories, essays, and children’s books. She became a foreign correspondent during World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917.
 


Rubén Darío




 

Rubén Darío, pseudonym of Félix Rubén García Sarmiento (b. January 18, 1867, Metapa, Nicaragua—d. February 6, 1916, León), influential Nicaraguan poet, journalist, and diplomat. As a leader of the Spanish American literary movement known as Modernismo, which flourished at the end of the 19th century, he revivified and modernized poetry in Spanish on both sides of the Atlantic through his experiments with rhythm, metre, and imagery. Darío developed a highly original poetic style that founded a tradition.

Life and work
Precocious and prolific, from the age of 14 he signed the name Rubén Darío to his poems and stories of love, heroism, and adventure, which, although imitative in form, showed a strikingly vivid imagination. In 1886 he left Nicaragua, beginning the travels that continued throughout his life. He settled for a time in Chile, where in 1888 he published his first major work, Azul (“Blue”), a collection of short stories, descriptive sketches, and verse. This volume was soon recognized in Europe and Latin America as the herald of a new era in Spanish American literature. Darío had only recently become acquainted with French Parnassian poetry, and Azul represents his attempt to apply to Spanish the tenets of that stylistic movement. In the prose works in Azul he discarded the traditional long and grammatically complex Spanish sentence structure, replacing it with simple and direct language. Both the prose and poetry in this volume are generally concerned with objective description, and both deal with exotic subjects, chiefly classical mythology, France, and Asia. As a whole, the volume exhibits Darío’s concern with “art for art’s sake,” and it reveals little interest in everyday life.

After his return to Central America in 1889 and two brief marriages (the first ended by his wife’s death and the other by separation), he left to take up an appointment in 1893 as Colombian consul in Buenos Aires, where he found the cosmopolitan atmosphere stimulating. Young writers there hailed him as their leader, and the modernist movement organized around him. Darío’s next significant work, Prosas profanas y otros poemas (1896; “Profane Hymns and Other Poems”), a collection of verse, continued the innovative stylistic trends of Azul but treated its exotic scenes and personages in a manner more symbolic than objective, for it was influenced by the contemporary French Symbolist poets.

Darío went to Europe in 1898 as a correspondent for the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nación. Based in Paris and Majorca, he traveled extensively on the European continent on journalistic and diplomatic missions. By this time, world events and his own advancing age had brought about a profound change in his outlook on life. He became vitally concerned with the world outside the realm of art: the possible threat of North American imperialism after the defeat of Spain in 1898, the solidarity of Spanish-speaking peoples, the future of Spanish America after the collapse of Spain’s empire in the New World, and the age-old problems of human existence. The collection that is generally considered to be his masterpiece, Cantos de vida y esperanza (1905; “Songs of Life and Hope”), reflects these concerns and is the culmination of his technical experimentation and his artistic resourcefulness.

On the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Darío left Europe, physically ill and on the brink of poverty. In an attempt to alleviate his financial difficulties, he began a lecture tour of North America, but he developed pneumonia in New York and died shortly after his return to his homeland.

Among the many editions of Darío’s work in Spanish is Obras completas, 2 vol. (1971), edited by A.M. Plancarte. Selected Poems, translated by Lysander Kemp (1965), contains an introduction by Octavio Paz and a tribute—originally given before the Buenos Aires Pen Club in 1933—by Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda.


Assessment
In addition to the three major collections on which his greatest fame rests, Darío wrote approximately 100 short stories and tales, several volumes of poetry and penetrating literary criticism, and the journalistic articles that appeared in La Nación and elsewhere.

From the standpoint of artistic resourcefulness and technical perfection, Darío is considered by many to be one of the greatest poets who ever wrote in Spanish. Throughout his career he boldly experimented with many forms of verse, and he probably introduced more metrical innovations than any other Spanish-language poet. Darío’s poetry is notable for its remarkable musicality, grace, and sonority, and he had a masterly command of rhyme and metrical structure. His earlier anecdotal and descriptive poems treat faraway places, mythology, and other exotic subjects with a rich lyricism, while the later poems in Cantos de vida contain a pronounced philosophical note and exhibit a poignant and powerful sense of the tragic side of life.

 

 


Antonio Machado


 

Antonio Machado, in full Antonio Machado y Ruiz (b. July 26, 1875, Sevilla, Spain—d. February 22, 1939, Collioure, France), outstanding Spanish poet and playwright of Spain’s Generation of ’98.

Machado received a doctoral degree in literature in Madrid, attended the Sorbonne, and became a secondary school French teacher. He rejected the modernism of his contemporaries and adopted what he called “eternal poetry,” which was informed more by intuition than by intellect. Three stages can be distinguished in his artistic evolution. The first, typified by the poems in Soledades (1903; “Solitudes”) and Soledades, galerías, y otros poemas (1907; “Solitudes, Galleries, and Other Poems”), established his links with romanticism. These poems are concerned largely with evoking memories and dreams and with the subjective identification of the poet with natural phenomena, especially the sunset. In his second stage Machado turned away from pure introspection, and in Campos de Castilla (1912; “Plains of Castile”) he sought to capture the stark landscape and spirit of Castile in a severely denuded and sombre style. His later works, Nuevas canciones (1924; “New Songs”) and Poesías completas (1928; “Complete Poems”), express profound Existential views and reflect on the solitude of the poet. He also wrote plays in collaboration with his brother Manuel and a collection of philosophical reflections with strong Existentialist overtones, Juan de Mairena (1936). A strong supporter of the Spanish Republic, Machado fled Spain when the Republic collapsed in early 1939; he died soon afterward in exile.
 

 

 


Juan Ramón Jiménez




 

Juan Ramón Jiménez, (b. Dec. 24, 1881, Moguer, Spain—d. May 29, 1958, San Juan, P.R.), Spanish poet awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1956.

After studying briefly at the University of Salamanca, Jiménez went to Madrid (1900) at the invitation of the poet Rubén Darío. His first two volumes of poetry, Almas de violeta (“Souls of Violet”) and Ninfeas (“Waterlilies”), came out that same year. The two books, printed in violet and green, respectively, so embarrassed Jiménez in his later years by their excessive sentiment that he destroyed every copy he could find. A man of frail constitution, he left Madrid for reasons of health. His published volumes of that period, including Pastorales (1911), Jardines lejanos (1905; “Distant Gardens”), and Elegías puras (1908; “Pure Elegies”), clearly reflect the influence of Darío, with their emphasis on individuality and subjectivity expressed in free verse.

Jiménez returned to Madrid in 1912 and, for the next four years, lived at the Residencia de Estudiantes and worked as an editor of that educational institution’s periodicals. In 1916 he traveled to New York City, where he married Zenobia Camprubí Aymar, the Spanish translator of the Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore. Shortly after his return to Spain, he published Diario de un poeta recién casado (1917; “Diary of a Poet Recently Married”), which was issued in 1948 under the title Diario de un poeta y mar (“Diary of a Poet and the Sea”). That volume marked his transition to what he called “la poesía desnuda” (“naked poetry”), an attempt to strip his poetry of all extraneous matter and to produce it in free verse, without formal metres, of a purer nature. During the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), he allied himself with the Republican forces, until he voluntarily exiled himself to Puerto Rico, where he spent most of the rest of his life.

Although primarily a poet, Jiménez achieved popularity in the United States with the translation of his prose work Platero y yo (1917; Platero and I), the story of a man and his donkey. He also collaborated with his wife in the translation of the Irish playwright John Millington Synge’s Riders to the Sea (1920). His poetic output during his life was immense. Among his better-known works are Sonetos espirituales 1914–1915 (1916; “Spiritual Sonnets, 1914–15”), Piedra y cielo (1919; “Stones and Sky”), Poesía, en verso, 1917–1923 (1923), Poesía en prosa y verso (1932; “Poetry in Prose and Verse”), Voces de mi copla (1945; “Voices of My Song”), and Animal de fondo (1947; “Animal at Bottom”). A collection of 300 poems (1903–53) in English translation by Eloise Roach was published in 1962.
 



Drama

Contemporaneous with the Generation of 1898 but ideologically and aesthetically distinct was Jacinto Benavente y Martínez. A prolific playwright noted for his craftsmanship and wit, he profoundly altered Spanish theatrical practice and fare. Excelling in the comedy of manners with sparkling dialogue and satiric touches, Benavente never alienated his devoted upper-class public. Los intereses creados (1907; The Bonds of Interest), echoing the 16th-century commedia dell’arte, is his most enduring work. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1922. The poetic, nostalgic drama of Eduardo Marquina revived lyric theatre, together with the so-called género chico (light dramatic or operatic one-act playlets). Serafín and Joaquín Alvarez Quintero appropriated the latter’s popular costumbrista setting for comedy, while Carlos Arniches developed it in satirical pieces (often compared with the 18th-century sainete) and Pedro Muñoz Seca used it in popular farces. More-intellectual theatrical experiments by Unamuno attempted the drama of ideas; Azorín renewed comedy, introducing lessons from vaudeville, and produced experimental Surrealist works.

Although undervalued during his lifetime because his radically innovative, shocking works went mostly unproduced, Valle-Inclán is today considered Spain’s most significant dramatist since Calderón. This brilliant, original playwright attempted, often futilely, to overcome Spanish theatre’s bourgeois complacency and artistic mediocrity. His dramas inveighed against hypocrisy and corrupt values with mordant irony. Luces de Bohemia (1920; Bohemian Lights) illustrates his theory and practice of esperpento, an aesthetic formula he also used in his fiction to depict reality through a deliberately exaggerated mimesis of its grotesqueness. His work sometimes recalls that of Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, or Picasso. Jacinto Grau, another would-be reformer, attempted tragedy in El Conde Alarcos (1917), adding dignity to his pessimistic view of an absurd reality in El señor de Pigmalión (1921). Generally overlooked is María de la O Lejárraga, who collaborated with her husband, Gregorio Martínez Sierra, and wrote most of the essays, poems, short stories, novels, and newspaper articles they published jointly, plus the more than 50 plays on which their fame rests. She continued writing his plays even after he abandoned her for another woman. Their best-known plays include Canción de cuna (1911; Cradle Song) and El reino de Dios (1916; The Kingdom of God), which feature strong, resourceful, maternal women who represent an idealization of motherhood, a typical feature of their plays. Brothers Manuel and Antonio Machado collaborated on several lyric plays during the 1920s and early 1930s.
 


Jacinto Benavente y Martínez



 

Jacinto Benavente y Martínez, (b. Aug. 12, 1866, Madrid, Spain—d. July 14, 1954, Madrid), one of the foremost Spanish dramatists of the 20th century, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1922. He returned drama to reality by way of social criticism: declamatory verse giving way to prose, melodrama to comedy, formula to experience, impulsive action to dialogue and the play of minds. Benavente showed a preoccupation with aesthetics and later with ethics.

The extent to which he broadened the scope of the theatre is shown by the range of his plays—e.g., Los intereses creados (performed 1903, published 1907; The Bonds of Interest, performed 1919), his most celebrated work, based on the Italian commedia dell’arte; Los malhechores del bien (performed 1905; The Evil Doers of Good); La noche del sábado (performed 1903; Saturday Night, performed 1926); and La malquerida (1913; “The Passion Flower”), a rural tragedy with the theme of incest. La malquerida was his most successful play in Spain and in North and South America. Señora Ama (1908), said to be his own favourite play, is an idyllic comedy set among the people of Castile.

In 1928 his play Para el cielo y los altares (“Toward Heaven and the Altars”), prophesying the fall of the Spanish monarchy, was prohibited by the government. During the Spanish Civil War Benavente lived in Barcelona and Valencia and was for a time under arrest. In 1941 he reestablished himself in public favour with Lo increíble (“The Incredible”). His extraordinary productivity as a dramatist (he wrote more than 150 plays) recalled Spain’s Golden Age and the prolific writer Lope de Vega. With the exception, however, of the harsh tragedy La infanzona (1948; “The Ancient Noblewoman”) and El lebrel del cielo (1952), inspired by Francis Thompson’s poem “Hound of Heaven,” Benavente’s later works did not add much to his fame.
 



Novecentismo

The term novecentistas applies to a generation of writers that fall between the Generation of 1898 and the vanguardist Generation of 1927. The novecentistas—sometimes also called the Generation of 1914—were more classical and less revolutionary than their predecessors. They sought to renew intellectual and aesthetic standards while reaffirming Classical values. Ortega y Gasset exerted influence over the novel as a genre with La deshumanización del arte (1925; The Dehumanization of Art), which analyzed contemporary “depersonalized” (i.e., nonrepresentational) art. Ramón Pérez de Ayala made the novel a polished art form and a forum for philosophical discussion. Belarmino y Apolonio (1921; Belarmino and Apolonio) examines the age-old debate between faith and reason, utilizing symbolic characters and multiple narrative viewpoints, while Tigre Juan (1926; Tiger Juan) dissects traditional Spanish concepts of honour and matrimony. Gabriel Miró’s polished descriptive prose slowed and nearly displaced the novelistic action; like Pérez de Ayala, he dealt repeatedly with ecclesiastical intrusions into civil life and satirized the lack of sexual education in Spanish culture. Benjamín Jarnés and others attempted to apply vanguardist and experimental techniques to the novel, emphasizing minimal action, alienated characters, the psychological probing of memory, and experiments with internal monologue. Vanguardism’s paradigmatic exponent, Ramón Gómez de la Serna, was the author of some 100 novels, biographies, dramas, collections of articles and short stories, books on art, and works of humour.

Among women writers, Carmen de Burgos Seguí (pseudonym Colombine) wrote hundreds of articles, more than 50 short stories, some dozen long novels and numerous short ones, many practical books for women, and socially oriented treatises on subjects such as divorce. An active suffragist and opponent of the death penalty, she treated feminist themes (La malcasada [“The Unhappily Married Woman”], En la sima [1915; “On Top”], La rampa [1917; “The Ramp”]) as well as spiritualism, the occult, and the supernatural (El retorno [“The Reappearance”], Los espirituados [1923; “The Possessed”]). Concepción (Concha) Espina, often considered the first Spanish woman writer to earn her living exclusively from her writings, enjoyed tremendous popularity and was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize. Her novels, with their detailed descriptions, most nearly approach the regional novel as epitomized by Pereda; their melodrama and moralizing also show Espina’s independence from novecentismo’s influence. El metal de los muertos (1920; The Metal of the Dead), a work of social-protest fiction, was among her most successful works, as were La esfinge maragata (1914; Mariflor) and Altar mayor (1926; “High Altar”).



The Generation of 1927

The name Generation of 1927 identifies poets that emerged about 1927, the 300-year anniversary of the death of Baroque poet Luis de Góngora y Argote, to whom these poets paid homage and which sparked a brief flash of neo-Gongorism. These outstanding poets—among them Rafael Alberti, Vicente Aleixandre, Dámaso Alonso, Luis Cernuda, Gerardo Diego, Federico García Lorca, Jorge Guillén, and Pedro Salinas—drew upon the past (ballads, traditional songs, early metrical structure, and Góngora’s poetry), but they also incorporated vanguardism (Surrealism, Futurism, Ultraism), producing intensely personal poetry. Images and metaphors—frequently illogical, hermetic, or irrational—became central to poetic creation. Most of these poets experimented with free verse or exotic forms drawn from the Japanese, Arabic, and Afro-Caribbean literary traditions. By the end of the Spanish Civil War, in 1939, many writers of the Generation of 1927 were dead or in exile.

Federico García Lorca, a consummate artist, musician, dramatist, and poet, captured the stark emotions and powerful effects that characterize traditional song and ballad forms. In Romancero gitano (1928; The Gypsy Ballads), he blended popular styles with sophisticated mythic and symbolic elements evoking mysterious, ambivalent visions of nature. Symbols and metaphors turn hermetic in Poeta en Nueva York (1940; Poet in New York), a Surrealist reflection of urban inhumanity and disorientation written during his visit to the United States in 1929–30. Salinas sought pure poetry through clearly focused poems and a heightened sensitivity to language. In La voz a ti debida (1934; “The Voice Inspired by You”; Eng. trans. Truth of Two and Other Poems), profoundly personal love experiences inspire subtle observations on the solidity of external reality and the fleeting world of subjective perception.

Guillén’s lifelong poetic effort, Cántico (Cántico: A Selection), first published in 1928 and repeatedly enlarged in successive editions, constitutes a disciplined hymn to the joys of everyday reality. Later works (Clamor [1957–63; “Clamour”] and Homenaje [1967; “Homage”]) displayed keener awareness of suffering and disorder.

Vicente Aleixandre, influenced by Surrealism, dabbled in the subconscious and created his own personal myths. In La destrucción o el amor (1935; Destruction or Love), he evoked human despair and cosmic violence. With his postwar “social” poetry, Aleixandre moved beyond pure poetry, broadening his focus without abandoning a cosmic vision (Mundo a solas [1950; World Alone], Historia del corazón [1954; “History of the Heart”], En un vasto dominio [1962; “In a Vast Dominion”]). He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1977. Like Lorca, Alberti initially incorporated popular forms and folk elements. The playful poetry of Marinero en tierra (1925; “Landlocked Sailor”) yielded to stylistic complexities in Cal y canto (1927; “Quicklime and Song”) and to the sombre, introspective mood of Sobre los ángeles (1929; Concerning the Angels), a Surrealist collection reflecting personal crisis.

Rafael Alberti joined the Communist Party in the 1930s, and during the Civil War and his subsequent exile in Argentina, he wrote poetry of political commitment; later he resumed personal, intimate themes. Cernuda’s poetry, as suggested by the title of his collected works La realidad y el deseo (first published 1936; “Reality and Desire”), contemplates the gulf between harsh reality and ideal personal aspirations. The tension, melancholy, and sense of alienation resulting from the unbridgeable gap between these realms pervade Cernuda’s work.

This generation of Spanish poetry also includes Emilio Prados and Manuel Altolaguirre. Miguel Hernández, a younger poet of the Civil War, bridged the gap between the Generation of 1927 and the post-Civil War poets.
 


Rafael Alberti




 

Rafael Alberti, (b. Dec. 16, 1902, Puerto de Santa María, Spain—d. Oct. 28, 1999, Puerto de Santa María), Spanish writer of Italian Irish ancestry, regarded as one of the major Spanish poets of the 20th century.

Alberti studied art in Madrid and enjoyed some success as a painter before 1923, when he began writing and publishing poems in magazines. His first book of poetry, Marinero en tierra (1925; “Sailor on Land”), recalled the sea of his native Cádiz region and won a national prize. A member of the so-called Generation of 1927, Alberti helped to celebrate the tercentenary of Luis de Góngora in 1927, and Góngorist influence is apparent in the work published in that period, El alba del alhelí (1927; “The Dawn of the Wallflower”) and Cal y canto (1928; “Quicklime and Song”). With his next book, the somewhat Surrealist Sobre los ángeles (1929; Concerning the Angels), Alberti established himself as a mature and individual voice.

In the 1930s Alberti’s work became overtly political; he wrote plays, traveled widely, joined the Communist Party—from which he was later expelled—and founded a review, Octubre. He fought for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War and afterward fled to Argentina, where he worked for the Losado publishing house and resumed both his poetry and his earlier interest, painting. In 1941 he published a collection of poems, Entre el clavel y la espada (“Between the Carnation and the Sword”), and in 1942 a book of drama, prose, and poetry about the Civil War, De un momento a otro (“From One Moment to Another”). He published a collection of poems inspired by painting, A la pintura (1945; “On Painting”), and collections on maritime themes, such as Pleamar (1944; “High Tide”). After 1961, he lived in Italy, returning to Spain in 1977. Alberti’s autobiography, La arboleda perdida (The Lost Grove), was published in two volumes, the first in 1942 and the second in 1975.

 

 


Vicente Aleixandre





 

Vicente Aleixandre, (b. April 26, 1898, Sevilla, Spain—d. December 14, 1984, Madrid), Spanish poet, a member of the Generation of 1927, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1977. He was strongly influenced by the Surrealist technique of poetic composition.

Aleixandre was the son of a railway engineer. He studied law and business management and from 1920 to 1922 taught commercial law. He became seriously ill in 1925 and during his convalescence wrote his first poems. He remained in Spain during the Spanish Civil War although his poetry was banned from 1936 to 1944. In 1949 Aleixandre was elected to the Spanish Royal Academy.

Aleixandre was considered a master of free verse, the style that appears in his first major book, La destrucción o el amor (1935; “Destruction or Love”), which was awarded the National Prize for Literature. In this work the poet explored the theme of human identification with the physical cosmos. Similar themes appear in Sombra del paraíso (1944; “Shadow of Paradise”). A greater emphasis upon human life is found in Historia del corazón (1954; “History of the Heart”) and En un vasto dominio (1962; “In a Vast Domain”), works that deal with time, death, and human solidarity.

Aleixandre’s later poetry is of a metaphysical nature; he explores death, knowledge, and experience in Poemas de la consumación (1968; “Poems of Consummation”) and Diálogos del conocimiento (1974; “Dialogues of Insight”). In addition to writing poetry of great originality and depth, Aleixandre also published the prose work Los encuentros (1958; “The Meetings”), a book of fond sketches of his fellow writers.
 

 

 


Federico García Lorca

"Poems"



 

Spanish writer

born June 5, 1898, Fuente Vaqueros, Granada province, Spain
died August 18 or 19, 1936, between Víznar and Alfacar, Granada province

Main
Spanish poet and playwright who, in a career that spanned just 19 years, resurrected and revitalized the most basic strains of Spanish poetry and theatre. He is known primarily for his Andalusian works, including the poetry collections Romancero gitano (1928; Gypsy Ballads) and Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías (1935; “Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías,” Eng. trans. Lament for a Bullfighter), and the tragedies Bodas de sangre (1933; Blood Wedding), Yerma (1934; Eng. trans. Yerma), and La casa de Bernarda Alba (1936; The House of Bernarda Alba). In the early 1930s Lorca helped inaugurate a second Golden Age of the Spanish theatre. He was executed by a Nationalist firing squad in the first months of the Spanish Civil War.

Early years
The eldest of four children born to a wealthy landowner and his schoolteacher wife, Lorca grew up in rural Andalusia, surrounded by images and social conditions that influenced his work lifelong. At age 10 he moved with his family to Granada, where he attended a private, secular institute in addition to a Catholic public school. Lorca enrolled in the University of Granada but was a hapless student best known for his extraordinary talents as a pianist. He took nine years to complete a bachelor’s degree. Despite plans to become a musician and composer, he turned to writing in his late teens. His first experiments in prose, poetry, and drama reveal an intense spiritual and sexual malaise along with an adolescent devotion to such authors as Shakespeare, Goethe, the Spanish poet Antonio Machado, and the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, father of Hispanic Modernismo, a late and decadent flowering of Romanticism.
In 1919 Lorca moved to the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, a prestigious and socially progressive men’s residence hall. It remained his home in the Spanish capital for the next decade. His fellow residents included the filmmaker Luis Buñuel and the artist Salvador Dalí, who later became a close companion. In Madrid, Lorca also befriended the renowned older poet Juan Ramón Jiménez and a circle of poets his own age, among them Rafael Alberti, Jorge Guillén, and Pedro Salinas.

Early poetry and plays
A consummate stylist, Lorca sought throughout his career to juxtapose and meld genres. His poems, plays, and prose often evoke other, chiefly popular, forms of music, art, and literature. His first book, Impresiones y paisajes (1918; Impressions and Landscapes), a prose work in the modernista tradition, chronicled Lorca’s sentimental response to a series of journeys through Spain as a university student. Libro de poemas (“Book of Poems”), an uneven collection of predominantly modernista poems culled from his juvenilia, followed in 1921. Both efforts disappointed Lorca and reinforced his inherent resistance to publication, a fact that led to frequent delays in the publication and production of his work. Lorca preferred to perform his poems and plays, and his histrionic recitations drew innumerable admirers.
The Spanish stage director Gregorio Martínez Sierra premiered Lorca’s first full-length play, El maleficio de la mariposa (The Butterfly’s Evil Spell in Five Plays: Comedies and Tragi-Comedies, 1970), a symbolist work about a lovesick cockroach, in Madrid in 1920. Critics and audiences ridiculed the drama, and it closed after four performances. Lorca’s next full-length play, the historical verse drama Mariana Pineda (written 1923; Eng. trans. Mariana Pineda), opened in 1927 in a production with sets by Dalí and received mixed notices.
In the early 1920s, Lorca began experimenting with short, elliptical verse forms inspired by Spanish folk song, Japanese haiku, and contemporary avant-garde poetics. He wrote a prodigious series of brief poems arranged in thematic “suites,” later collected and published in 1983 under the title Suites. (Virtually all of Lorca’s poetry—that contained in the volume under discussion and in the other Spanish volumes mentioned in this biography—has been translated in Collected Poems, 1991). In 1922 Lorca collaborated with the eminent Andalusian composer Manuel de Falla on a festival of cante jondo (“deep song”) in Granada. The endeavour heightened Lorca’s interest in popular Andalusian song, and in a blaze of inspiration he wrote a series of poems based on songs of the Andalusian Gypsies (Roma). Even more compressed than Suites, Poema del cante jondo (written 1921–25, published 1931; Poem of the Deep Song), offers a radical synthesis of the traditional and the avant-garde. The series signaled Lorca’s emergence as a mature poet. His collaboration with Falla further prompted Lorca to investigate the Spanish puppet theatre tradition, and in 1923 he wrote Los títeres de Cachiporra (“The Billy-Club Puppets”), the first of several versions of a puppet play inspired by the classic Andalusian Grand Guignol.
From 1925 to 1928, Lorca was passionately involved with Salvador Dalí. The intensity of their relationship led Lorca to acknowledge, if not entirely accept, his own homosexuality. At Dalí’s urging, the poet began to experiment more boldly with avant-garde currents in the art world, notably surrealism, although he refused to align himself with any movement. In poems such as “Oda a Salvador Dalí” (1925–26; “Ode to Salvador Dalí”), Canciones (written 1924, published 1926; Songs), and a series of abstruse prose poems, Lorca sought to create a more objective poetry, devoid of private sentiment and the “planes of reality.” He joined his contemporaries in exalting Don Luis de Góngora, a 16th-century Spanish poet known for his dispassionate, densely metaphorical verse. Lorca and his fellow poets commemorated the tricentennial of Góngora’s death in 1927 and became known thereafter as the “Generation of 1927.” Lorca also sought to articulate in public lectures his own evolving aesthetic.
Meanwhile, Lorca continued to mine the popular Spanish tradition in his plays La zapatera prodigiosa (written 1924, premiered 1930; The Shoemaker’s Prodigious Wife), a classic farce, and El amor de don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardín (written 1925, premiered 1933; The Love of Don Perlimplín with Belisa in Their Garden in Five Plays: Comedies and Tragi-Comedies, 1970), a “grotesque tragedy” partially drawn from an 18th-century Spanish comic strip. Both plays reveal themes common to Lorca’s work: the capriciousness of time, the destructive powers of love and death, the phantoms of identity, art, childhood, and sex.
In 1928, with Dalí’s encouragement, Lorca publicly exhibited his drawings. A gifted draughtsman blessed with a startling visual imagination, Lorca produced hundreds of sketches in his lifetime.

Romancero gitano
The publication in 1928 of Romancero gitano (written 1921–27; Gypsy Ballads), a poetry sequence inspired by the traditional Spanish romance, or ballad, catapulted Lorca into the national spotlight. A lyrical evocation of the sensual world of the Andalusian Gypsy, the collection enthralled Spanish readers, many of whom mistook Lorca for a Gypsy. The book’s first edition sold out within a year. Throughout the work’s 18 ballads, Lorca combines lyrical and narrative modes in fresh ways to form what he described as a tragic “poem of Andalusia.” Formally, the poems embrace the conventions of medieval Spanish balladry: a nonstanzaic construction, in medias res openings, and abrupt endings. But in their wit, objectivity, and metaphorical novelty, they are brazenly contemporary. One of the collection’s most famous poems, “Ballad of the Spanish Civil Guard,” reads, in part:
Los caballos negros son.
Las herraduras son negras.
Sobre las capas relucen
manchas de tinta y de cera.
Tienen, por eso no lloran,
de plomo las calaveras.
Con el alma de charol
vienen por la carretera.
Black are the horses,
the horseshoes are black.
Glistening on their capes
are stains of ink and of wax.
Their skulls—and this is why
they do not cry—are cast in lead.
They ride the roads
with souls of patent leather.

Lorca’s sudden fame destroyed his privacy. This, coupled with the demise of his friendship with Dalí, the collapse of another love affair, and a profound spiritual crisis, plunged Lorca into severe depression. He sought both release and newfound inspiration by visiting New York and Cuba in 1929–30.

Later poetry and plays
Lorca’s stay in the United States and Cuba yielded Poeta en Nueva York (published 1940; Poet in New York), a series of poems whose dense, at times hallucinatory images, free-verse lines, and thematic preoccupation with urban decay and social injustice mark an audacious departure from Lorca’s previous work. The collection is redolent of Charles Baudelaire, Edgar Allan Poe, T.S. Eliot, and Stephen Crane and pays homage to Walt Whitman:
… hermosura viril
que en montes de carbón, anuncios y ferrocarriles,
soñabas ser un río y dormir como un río
con aquel camarada que pondría en tu pecho
un pequeño dolor de ignorante leopardo.
… virile beauty,
who among mountains of coal, billboards, and railroads,
dreamed of becoming a river and sleeping like a river
with that comrade who would place in your breast
the small ache of an ignorant leopard.


In Cuba, Lorca wrote El público (“The Audience”), a complex, multifaceted play, expressionist in technique, that brashly explores the nature of homosexual passion. Lorca deemed the work, which remained unproduced until 1978, “a poem to be hissed.” On his return to Spain, he completed a second play aimed at rupturing the bounds of conventional dramaturgy, Así que pasen cinco años (1931; Once Five Years Pass), and he assumed the directorship of a traveling student theatre group, La Barraca (the name of makeshift wooden stalls housing puppet shows and popular fairs in Spain), sponsored by the country’s progressive new Republican government.
With the 1933 premiere of his first Andalusian tragedy, Blood Wedding, an expressionist work that recalls ancient Greek, Renaissance, and Baroque sources, Lorca achieved his first major theatrical success and helped inaugurate the most brilliant era of Spanish theatre since the Golden Age. In 1933–34 he went to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to oversee several productions of his plays and to give a lecture series. While there he befriended the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, with whom he collaborated on a tribute to Rubén Darío. Despite his new focus on theatre, Lorca continued to write poetry. With others in the Generation of 1927, he embraced a “rehumanization” of poetry, as opposed to the “dehumanization” José Ortega y Gasset had described in his 1925 essay “The Dehumanization of Art.” Eloquent evidence of Lorca’s return to the personal are Divan del Tamarit (written 1931–1934, published 1940; “The Divan at Tamarit”), a set of love poems inspired by Arabic verse forms; Seis poemas galegos (written 1932–1934, published 1935; “Six Galician Poems”); and Sonetos del amor oscuro (written 1935, published 1984; “Sonnets of Dark Love”), an 11-sonnet sequence recalling a failed love affair. The three collections underscore Lorca’s abiding insistence on the interdependence of love and death:
No hay nadie que, al dar un beso,
no sienta la sonrisa de la gente sin rostro,
ni hay nadie que, al tocar un recién nacido,
olvide las inmóviles calaveras de caballo.
There is no one who can kiss
without feeling the smile of those without faces;
there is no one who can touch
an infant and forget the immobile skulls of horses.


Divan del Tamarit also expresses Lorca’s lifelong interest in Arab-Andalusian (frequently referred to as “Moorish”) culture, which he viewed as central to his identity as an Andalusian poet. He regarded the Catholic reconquest of Granada in 1492 as a tragic loss. Divan del Tamarit responds to a widespread revival of interest in Arab-Andalusian culture, especially literature, in the 1930s.
In 1934 Lorca responded to the goring and death of a bullfighter friend with the majestic Lament for a Bullfighter, a work famous for its incantatory opening refrain, “A las cinco de la tarde” (“At five in the afternoon”). The four-part poem, his longest, confirms Lorca as the greatest of Spain’s elegiac poets.
A las cinco de la tarde.
Eran las cinco en punto de la tarde.
Un niño trajo la blanca sábana
a las cinco de la tarde.
Una espuerta de cal ya prevenida
a las cinco de la tarde.
Lo demás era muerte y sólo muerte
a las cinco de la tarde.
At five in the afternoon.
It was exactly five in the afternoon.
A boy brought the white sheet
at five in the afternoon.
A frail of lime ready preserved
at five in the afternoon.
The rest was death, and death alone
at five in the afternoon.

During the last two years of his life, Lorca premiered Yerma (1934), the second of his Andalusian tragedies, and completed a first draft of The House of Bernarda Alba, his third tragedy. Childhood events and personalities inform both Bernarda Alba and Doña Rosita la soltera (written 1934, premiered 1935; Doña Rosita the Spinster), the most Chekhovian of Lorca’s plays, as well as Don̄a Rosita’s intended sequel, the unfinished Los sueños de mi prima Aurelia (1936; “The Dreams of My Cousin Aurelia”). In 1935 Lorca undertook his most overtly political play, El sueño de la vida (“The Dream of Life”), a technically innovative work based on recent events in Spain.
Lorca was at work on Aurelia and Bernarda Alba in the summer of 1936 when the Spanish Civil War broke out. On August 16, he was arrested in Granada by Nationalist forces, who abhorred his homosexuality and his liberal views, and imprisoned without a trial. On the night of August 18 or 19 (the precise date has never been verified), he was driven to a remote hillside outside town and shot. In 1986 the Spanish government marked the 50th anniversary of Lorca’s death by erecting a monument on the site of his murder. The gesture bears witness to Lorca’s stature as the most important Spanish poet and playwright of the 20th century, a man whose work continues to influence writers and artists throughout the world and to speak to readers everywhere of all that is most central to the human condition.

Leslie Anne Stainton
 

 

 


Jorge Guillén




 

Jorge Guillén, (b. January 18, 1893, Valladolid, Spain—d. February 6, 1984, Málaga), Spanish lyric poet who experimented with different metres and used verbs rarely but whose work proved more accessible than that of other experimental poets.

The son of a newspaper publisher, Guillén studied in Switzerland and at the University of Granada before graduating from the University of Madrid in 1913. He taught Spanish at the University of Paris from 1917 to 1923 and began publishing his poetry. He earned a doctorate at the University of Madrid in 1924 and taught at the University of Murcia, the University of Sevilla (Seville), and the University of Oxford. In 1927 he participated in the tercentenary of Luis de Góngora, became a member of the Generation of 1927, and in 1928 published his collection Cántico (“Canticle”; Cantico: A Selection of Spanish Poems), which he expanded in subsequent editions in 1936, 1945, and 1950. He was influenced by Paul Valéry and Juan Ramón Jiménez, who sought “pure poetry,” emphasizing the musical properties of language over narrative and didactic motives.

Guillén went to the United States during the Spanish Civil War, taught Spanish at Wellesley College (1940–57), and later lectured at numerous other universities in the United States, Europe, Canada, and Latin America. From 1957 to 1963 he published Clamor, a three-volume collection of poems in which a sad awareness of the evanescence and limitations of life replaces the uncomplicated positivism of Cantico. Guillén on Guillén: The Poetry and the Poet (1979) is a selection of bilingual editions of poems from various stages of Guillén’s career, accompanied by comments by the poet.
 



Women poets

Several significant women poets belong chronologically to the Generation of 1927, including Rosa Chacel, a major essayist, poet, and novelist. Her polished, intellectual verse appeared in A la orilla de un pozo (1936; At the Edge of a Well), a collection of neo-Gongoristic sonnets, and in Versos prohibidos (1978; “Prohibited Verse”), a mixture of unrhymed pieces that resemble in their metre blank verse and alexandrines and in their form epistles, sonnets, and odes. Frequent themes are philosophical inspiration, faith, religiosity, separation, menace (echoing the Civil War), friendships, and her wanderings. Concha Méndez published four major poetry collections before the Civil War drove her into exile. Drawing upon traditional popular forms and the oral tradition, Méndez’s prewar poetry—such as that in Vida a vida (1932; “Life to Life”)—exudes optimism and vitality, recalling the neopopular airs of Lorca and Alberti. Her exile poetry expresses pessimism, loss, violence, horror, anguish, uncertainty, and pain (e.g., Lluvias enlazadas [1939; “Interlaced Rains”]). Her last book was Vida; o, río (1979; “Life; or, The River”). Marina Romero Serrano spent three decades in exile in the United States teaching Spanish and writing poetry, critical works, and children’s books. Nostalgia de mañana (1943; “Nostalgia for Tomorrow”) reflects her generation’s predilection for traditional metrics; her other works represent pure poetry and avoid the confessional and autobiographical mode. Her most personal collection, Honda raíz (1989; “Deep Roots”), treats lost love remembered, moving from joy to loss and infinite longing.

Ernestina de Champourcin published four volumes of exuberant, personal, intellectual poetry before going into exile (1936–72) with her husband, José Domenchina, a minor poet of the Generation of 1927. Presencia a oscuras (1952; “Presence in Darkness”) reacted to the marginality she felt while in exile and commenced a spiritual quest intensified by Domenchina’s death in 1959. El nombre que me diste (1960; “The Name You Gave Me”), Cartas cerradas (1968; “Sealed Letters”), and Poemas del ser y estar (1972; “Poems of Being and State”), collected with poetry written 1972–91, appeared as Poesía a través del tiempo (1991; “Poetry Across Time”). Characterizing her mature writing are religious preoccupations and mystic language. Champourcin ranks with the truly significant poets of her generation. Lesser figures include Pilar de Valderrama and Josefina de la Torre.

Carmen Conde Abellán, a socialist and Republican supporter, suffered postwar “internal exile” in Spain while her husband was a political prisoner. She was contemporaneous with and involved in Surrealism, Ultraism, and prewar experimentation with prose poems, but she is rarely included with the Generation of 1927; her preoccupation with issues of social justice—especially education of the poor—is often taken as a pretext for this exclusion, even though survivors of that generation remaining in Spain also produced “social” poetry. A novelist, memorialist, biographer, anthologist, critic, archivist, and author of juvenile fiction, Conde published nearly 100 titles, including nine novels and several plays. She became the first woman elected to the Royal Spanish Academy (1978) and was the most honoured woman of her generation. Conde assiduously cultivated poetry’s universal themes: love, suffering, nature, dreams, memory, solitude, death, estrangement, religious questing, grief. Her most important works include Ansia de la gracia (1945; “Longing for Grace”) and Mujer sin Edén (1947; Woman Without Eden). The latter implicitly equated the fall of the Spanish Republican government with the Fall of Man, also using Cain and Abel motifs to symbolize the country’s Civil War. Slightly younger, María Concepción Zardoya González, who wrote under the name Concha Zardoya, published 25 poetry collections between 1946 and 1987. She was born in Chile of Spanish parents and lived in Spain in the 1930s; she later spent three decades in the United States before returning in 1977 to Spain, where she remained until her death. Rich in personal experience and spiritual intimacy, her poetry ranks among the best women’s lyrics in 20th-century Spain; it records a personal history of war and loss, exile and nostalgia, pain, solitude, and existential doubt.



Reform of the drama

Lorca towered above his contemporaries with intense poetic dramas that depict elemental passions and characters symbolizing humanity’s tragic impotence against fate. His dramatic poetry was modern yet traditional, personal yet universal. The tragic trilogy Bodas de sangre (1933; Blood Wedding), Yerma (1934; Eng. trans. Yerma), and La casa de Bernarda Alba (1936; The House of Bernarda Alba) depicted extremes of passion involving the traditional Spanish theme of honour and its violent effects on women.

Alberti’s contribution to dramatic reform imaginatively adapted classical forms of Spanish drama. In El hombre deshabitado (1931; “The Uninhabited Man”), a modern allegorical play in the manner of Calderón’s autos sacramentales, he created poetic, fatalistic myths out of realistic themes and folk motifs. The renovation of the drama attempted by Azorín, Valle-Inclán, Grau, and others of the Generation of 1898 and continued by the Generation of 1927 (especially Lorca and Alberti) had little effect on the commercial theatre, their efforts ending abruptly with the outbreak of the Civil War.





The Spanish Civil War and beyond

The novel

The Spanish Civil War (1936–39) drove into political exile some promising novelists whose narrative art matured abroad. Max Aub analyzed the civil conflict in the artistically and thematically impressive cycle of novels El laberinto mágico (1943–68; “The Magic Labyrinth”). Ramón José Sender, whose pre-Civil War novels had been realistic and overtly sociopolitical, developed an interest in the mysterious and irrational. While Crónica del alba (1942–66; “Chronicle of the Dawn”), a series of novels, dwelt realistically on the Civil War, the magical, myth-dominated worlds of Epitalamio del prieto Trinidad (1942; Dark Wedding) and Las criaturas saturnianas (1968; “Saturnine Beings”) reflected more universal concerns. Prolific, tendentious, opinionated, and arbitrary, Sender produced some 70 novels of unequal quality, the most esteemed being Mosén Millán (1953; later published as Réquiem por un campesino español; Eng. trans. Requiem for a Spanish Peasant). After more than three decades in exile, Sender returned to Spain to a hero’s welcome from younger compatriots. The diplomat, legal scholar, and critic Francisco Ayala showed a youthful vanguardism early in his career; in later short stories (the collections Los usurpadores [1949; Usurpers] and La cabeza del cordero [1949; “The Lamb’s Head”]) and novels (Muertes de perro [1958; Death as a Way of Life, 1964] and its sequel El fondo del vaso [1962; “In the Bottom of the Glass”]), he cultivated themes that allowed him to obliquely re-create aspects of the Civil War as well as to address more-universal social concerns. These works offer devastating appraisals of the Spanish political scene from multiple perspectives and with complex narrative techniques. Considered by some to be the best prose writer of his era in the Spanish language, Ayala has published many volumes of essays on philosophy, pedagogy, sociology, and political theory.
 

The Civil War decimated Spanish intellectuals, artists, and writers, and the country’s culture went into decline, uninterrupted by a brief spate of triunfalismo (“triumphalism”) that lasted through the 1940s, when the victorious Falange, the Spanish fascist party, engaged in propagandistic self-glorification. Triunfalismo’s literary expression produced works that were monothematic and repetitive and that insulted the vanquished, showing them as animals.

Psychologically perceptive despite its violence, La familia de Pascual Duarte (1942; The Family of Pascual Duarte) of Camilo José Cela popularized a harsh, sordid, unsentimental realism (tempered by expressionistic distortion) known as tremendismo. Continuing his literary experimentation, Cela attained greater technical heights in La colmena (1951; The Hive), portraying divided Madrid society during the harsh winter of 1941–42. By his death, in 2002, Cela—who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1989—had published by his own count more than 100 books, including a dozen novels, numerous story collections, travel books, critical essays, poetry, and literary sketches. Joining Cela in reviving Spanish fiction during the 1940s was Carmen Laforet, whose Nada (1945, “Nothing”; Eng. trans. Andrea), with its bewildered adolescent’s perspective of war’s aftermath, became an instant best seller.
 

The sociopolitical trauma of civil conflict with its cultural and economic uncertainty revived outmoded forms of realism. Conservative craftsmen such as Juan Antonio de Zunzunegui and Ignacio Agustí produced conventional realistic novels. José María Gironella scored great popular success with his controversial epic trilogy on the Civil War: Los cipreses creen en Dios (1953; The Cypresses Believe in God), Un millón de muertos (1961; The Million Dead), and Ha estallado la paz (1966; Peace After War).

A second postwar current, “social literature,” or “critical realism,” arrived with the so-called Midcentury Generation, who were adolescents during the war; it expressed more vigorous, if necessarily covert, opposition to the dictatorship. In such works as La hoja roja (1959; “The Red Leaf”), which examines poverty and loneliness among the elderly, and Las ratas (1962; “Rats”; Eng. trans. Smoke on the Ground), which depicts the miserable existence of uneducated cave dwellers, Miguel Delibes conveyed critical concern for a society whose natural values are under constant threat. Greater technical expertise and thematic originality are evinced in his Cinco horas con Mario (1966; “Five Hours with Mario”), a powerful novel wherein domestic conflict represents contending ideologies in the Civil War, and Parábola del náufrago (1969; “Parable of the Shipwrecked Man”), which examines the individual’s plight in a dehumanized technocracy. A publisher, lawyer, teacher, and journalist, Delibes was the author of more than 50 volumes of novels, memoirs, essays, and travel and hunting books and received the prestigious Cervantes Prize in 1993. El hereje (1998; The Heretic), perhaps his masterpiece, depicts the abuse of power by the Spanish Inquisition. Elena Quiroga, a conscientious stylist, experimented with varying forms and themes, employing a dead protagonist in Algo pasa en la calle (1954; “Something’s Happening in the Street”) to examine domestic conflict aggravated by Franco’s outlawing of divorce. Quiroga’s novels typically portrayed women and children. Her crowning achievement is the novelistic cycle of Tadea: Tristura (1960; “Sadness”), Escribo tu nombre (1965; “I Write Your Name”), and Se acabó todo, muchacha triste (“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”), begun in the late 1960s but left unfinished at Quiroga’s death in 1995. The cycle portrays the difficulties of growing up female under Franco through the character Tadea, the novels’ protagonist. In 1983 Quiroga became the second woman elected to the Royal Spanish Academy. Social realism also characterizes the largely testimonial, semiautobiographical novels of Dolores Medio, who frequently depicted working girls, schoolteachers, and aspiring writers as positive feminine role models opposing the dictatorship’s discouragement of education for women: Nosotros los Rivero (1952; “We Riveros”), El pez sigue flotando (1959; “The Fish Stays Afloat”), Diario de una maestra (1961; “A Schoolteacher’s Diary”).

Often deprived of access to 19th-century realist and naturalist models, some post-Civil War writers reinvented these modes. Others more closely followed (usually via translations) the Italian Neorealists or the theories of Hungarian critic György Lukács in his The Historical Novel (1955). The Spanish Neorealistic variants with their testimonial thrust subjected aesthetic considerations to their content, exhibiting the pedestrian style, simplistic techniques, and repetitive themes traditionally attributed to engagé (socially committed) literature.

During the 1950s, several competent, committed younger novelists strengthened intellectual dissent. Ana María Matute, among the most honoured novelists of her generation, typically employed lyric and expressionistic style with fictions set in mountainous areas of Old Castile, as in Los hijos muertos (1958; The Lost Children), which sought to reconcile war-born hatreds by showing irreparable losses on both sides. Her trilogy Los mercaderes (“The Merchants”)—Primera memoria (1959; School of the Sun, also published as The Awakening), Los soldados lloran de noche (1964; Soldiers Cry by Night), and La trampa (1969; The Trap)—divides humanity into heroes (considered idealists and martyrs) and merchants (motivated only by money). Matute’s greatest popular success, Olvidado rey Gudú (1996; “Forgotten King Gudú”), is an antiwar statement disguised as a neochivalric adventure. Juan Goytisolo, long an expatriate in France and Morocco, moved from an impassive, cinematographic style in his fiction of the 1950s and early 1960s to New Novel experimentalism in his Mendiola trilogy—Señas de identidad (1966; Marks of Identity), Reivindicación del conde don Julián (1970; Count Julian), and Juan sin tierra (1975; Juan the Landless), all filled with literary borrowings, shifting narrative perspectives, nonlinear chronology, neo-Baroque complexities of plot, and an emphasis upon language rather than action. His brother Luis Goytisolo, a novelist and short-story writer, dissected the Catalan bourgeoisie and chronicled Barcelona’s history from the war through the Franco years. His most significant accomplishment, his tetralogy Antagonía, comprises Recuento (1973; “Recounting”), Los verdes de mayo hasta el mar (1976; “May’s Greenery as Far as the Sea”), La cólera de Aquiles (1979; “The Rage of Achilles”), and Teoría del conocimiento (1981; “Theory of Knowledge”), which reveal him as a consummate practitioner of metafiction, pushing the limits of the self-conscious novel while destroying Francoist myths and creating new, liberating ones. Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio’s El Jarama (1956; “The Jarama”; Eng. trans. The One Day of the Week), masterfully utilizing pseudoscientific impassivity and cinematographic techniques, depicts the monotonous existence of urban youth via their aimless conversations and exposes postwar apathy. Other young writers who first emerged in the 1950s were Jesús Fernández Santos, Juan García Hortelano, Jesús López Pacheco, and Daniel Sueiro.

By the 1960s, gray, pedestrian critical realism had run its course. Luis Martín-Santos broke the mold with his epoch-making Tiempo de silencio (1962; Time of Silence), which revisited the familiar topic of life in post-Civil War Spain via conscious artistry, psychoanalytic perspectives, and narrative techniques—such as stream of consciousness and interior monologue—that echoed James Joyce. Had Martín-Santos not died at age 39, Spanish fiction in the 1970s and ’80s might have reached greater heights. Ignacio Aldecoa was the most gifted short-story writer of his generation and among the most talented exponents of objectivism with his novels Gran sol (1957; “Great Sole”) and Parte de una historia (1967; “Part of a Story”). Significant innovation appears in Juan Benet Goitia, a novelist, critic, dramatist, and short-story writer whose Volverás a Región (1967; “You Will Return to Región”) combined density of form, myth and allegory presented in tangled neo-Baroque syntax and lexicon, and scathing sarcasm. These features were typical of the numerous subsequent novels of his Región series. Described in minute topographical detail, Benet’s Región is an area that resembles Spain’s northern mountains, perhaps León. It is isolated, almost inaccessible, and terribly provincial; critics have seen it as a microcosm of Spain. Preferring British and American paradigms that devoted more attention to style, subjectivity, and psychological narrative than did the dominant trends in Spanish literature of the period, Benet condemned costumbrismo and social realism as unimaginative. Carmen Martín Gaite, a gifted observer of contemporary mores and a methodical observer of gender roles and conflicts, portrayed the constraints upon women in patriarchal societies. Her novels, from Entre visillos (1958; Behind the Curtains) to El cuarto de atrás (1978; The Back Room) and La reina de las nieves (1994; “Snow Queen”; Eng. trans. The Farewell Angel), trace the consequences of social conditions in Franco society on individuals. She also documented these conditions in essays such as Usos amorosos de la postguerra española (1987; Courtship Customs in Postwar Spain), which describes the ideological indoctrination to which the Falange subjected girls and young women. Although he published his first novel in 1943, Gonzalo Torrente Ballester came to prominence only in the 1970s. He moved from Joycean models to realism to fantasy before achieving astounding success with his metaliterary, postmodern romps La saga/fuga de J.B. (1972; “J.B.’s Flight and Fugue”) and Fragmentos de apocalipsis (1977; “Fragments of Apocalypse”). He received the Cervantes Prize in 1985.

Established writers of the Franco era continued producing until the new millennium—Cela, Delibes, Matute, Martín Gaite, Torrente, the Goytisolos—nearly all evolving and reflecting the impact of postmodernism, with some writing in the New Novel mode. During the 1980s and 1990s, new fictional paradigms emerged as exiles returned; new subgenres included detective fiction, a feminine neo-Gothic novel, science fiction, adventure novels, and the thriller. Despite this proliferation of modes, many novelists continued producing what might be considered “traditional” narrative. José Jiménez Lozano investigates Inquisitorial repression, recondite religious issues, and esoteric historical themes drawn from a variety of cultures in such novels as Historia de un otoño (1971; “History of Autumn”) and El sambenito (1972; “The Saffron Tunic”). He received the Cervantes Prize in 2002, as had Delibes (1993) and Cela (1995) before him. Francisco Umbral, a prolific journalist, novelist, and essayist often compared to 17th-century satirist Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Villegas for his style and to 19th-century journalist Mariano José de Larra for his biting critiques of contemporary society, won the Cervantes Prize in 2000.

The Generation of 1968 was recognized in the 1980s as a distinct novelistic group. It includes Esther Tusquets, Álvaro Pombo, and Javier Tomeo, together with nearly a dozen others who belong to this group chronologically if not by reason of aesthetic or thematic similarities. Tusquets is best known for a trilogy of thematically related but independent novels: El mismo mar de todos los veranos (1978; The Same Sea As Every Summer), El amor es un juego solitario (1979; Love Is a Solitary Game), and Varada tras el último naufragio (1980; “Beached After the Last Shipwreck”; Eng. trans. Stranded), all of which explore the solitude of middle-aged women and their deceptions in love. Pombo, originally known as a poet, turned later to the novel; El metro de platino iradiado (1990; “The Metre of Irradiated Platinum”) is considered by many his masterpiece. He was elected to the Spanish Academy in 2004. Tomeo is an Aragonese essayist, dramatist, and novelist whose works, with their strange, solitary characters, emphasize that “normal” is but a theoretical concept. His novels include Amado monstruo (1985; Dear Monster) and Napoleón VII (1999). He is also known for his short stories, anthologized in Los nuevos inquisidores (2004; “The New Inquisitors”).
 


Camilo José Cela



 

Camilo José Cela, in full Camilo José Cela Trulock (b. May 11, 1916, Iria Flavia, Spain—d. January 17, 2002, Madrid), Spanish writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1989. He is perhaps best known for his novel La familia de Pascual Duarte (1942; The Family of Pascual Duarte) and is considered to have given new life to Spanish literature. His literary production—primarily novels, short narratives, and travel diaries—is characterized by experimentation and innovation in form and content. Cela is also credited by some critics with having established the narrative style known as tremendismo, a tendency to emphasize violence and grotesque imagery.

Cela attended the University of Madrid before and after the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), during which he served with Franco’s army. His first novel, Pascual Duarte, established his European reputation. Traditional in form, it was both a popular and a critical success. His second novel, La colmena (1951; The Hive), with its fragmented chronology and large cast of characters, is an innovative and perceptive story of postwar Madrid. It solidified Cela’s critical and popular reputation. Another of his better-known avant-garde novels, San Camilo, 1936 (1969), is one continuous stream of consciousness. His later novels include Cristo versus Arizona (1988; “Christ Versus Arizona”) and the Galician trilogy—Mazurca para dos muertos (1983; Mazurka for Two Dead People), La cruz de San Andrés (1994; “St. Andrew’s Cross”), and Madera de boj (1999; Boxwood).

Cela’s acute powers of observation and skill in colourful description also are apparent in his travel books, based on his trips through rural Spain and his visits to Latin American countries. The most noted of these are Viaje a la Alcarría (1948; Journey to the Alcarría), Del Miño al Bidasoa (1952; “From the Miño to the Bidasoa”), and Judíos, moros y cristianos (1956; “Jews, Moors, and Christians”). He retraced the itinerary of his first travel book for Nuevo viaje a la Alcarría (1986). Among his numerous short narratives are Esas nubes que pasan (1945; “The Passing Clouds”) and the four works included in the collection El molino de viento, y otras novelas cortas (1956; “The Windmill and Other Short Fiction”). Cela also wrote essays, poetry, and memoirs and in his later years made frequent television appearances.

In 1955 Cela settled in Majorca, where he founded a well-respected literary review, Papeles de Son Armadans (1956–79), and published books in fine editions. He began in 1968 to publish his multivolume Diccionario secreto, a compilation of “unprintable” but well-known words and phrases. He became a member of the Spanish Academy in 1957.
 

 

 


Miguel Delibes

Miguel Delibes, (b. Oct. 17, 1920, Valladolid, Spain—d. March 12, 2010, Valladolid), Spanish novelist, essayist, and journalist who wrote widely of travel, the outdoors, sport, and his native Valladolid. His realist fiction is best known for its critical analysis of 20th-century Spanish society.

Delibes was the third of eight sons born to a schoolteacher and a government administrator. As a boy, he developed a love of sport and the outdoors. At 17 he enlisted in the Spanish navy, hoping to avoid infantry combat in the Spanish Civil War. The war, however, would affect him powerfully and figure in his later writings. Following his military service, Delibes returned home, where he studied commerce and law at the University of Valladolid. He was also hired as a caricaturist for the Valladolid newspaper El Norte de Castilla (“The North of Castile”). His future wife, Ángeles de Castro, encouraged Delibes to pursue his love of literature, and he finished his first novel, La sombra del ciprés es alargada (“The Shadow of the Cypress Is Extended”), in 1948. Delibes became director of El Norte de Castilla in 1958, but his advocacy for Castilian causes in the face of government censorship brought about his resignation in 1963. The plight of Castile also informed his novel Las ratas (1962; “The Rats”; Eng. trans. Smoke on the Ground).

From the 1950s onward Delibes published widely. Major titles include El camino (1950; The Path), La hoja roja (1959; “The Red Leaf”), Cinco horas con Mario (1966; Five Hours with Mario), Las guerras de nuestros antepasados (1975; The Wars of Our Ancestors), and El hereje (1998; The Heretic). Delibes suffered years of depression following his wife’s death in 1974. Nearly two decades later she would form the dominant figure of his novel Señora de rojo sobre fondo gris (1991; “Lady in Red on a Gray Background”). Many of Delibes’s works were adapted for screen and stage, and he collected numerous awards, including the Cervantes Prize in 1993.

 

 


Ana María Matute


Ana María Matute, (b. July 26, 1926, Barcelona, Spain), Spanish novelist known for her sympathetic treatment of the lives of children and adolescents, their feelings of betrayal and isolation, and their rites of passage.

Matute’s education suffered because of childhood illnesses, the family’s frequent moves between Barcelona and Madrid, and the disruptions of the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), which left her family largely housebound in Barcelona. She broke the monotony of the war years by editing a magazine for her siblings. While in her teens, she published short stories and became a professional musician.

Matute frequently used biblical allusion in her works and often used the story of Cain and Abel to symbolize the familial division caused by the Spanish Civil War; her first novel was titled Los Abel (1948; “The Abel Family”). The novels Fiesta al noroeste (1952; “Celebration in the Northwest”), Pequeño teatro (1954; “Little Theatre”), and Los hijos muertos (1958; The Lost Children) followed. Matute then wrote a trilogy consisting of Primera memoria (1959; U.K. title, The Awakening; U.S. title, School of the Sun), about children thrust into an adult world by the Spanish Civil War; a war novel, Los soldados lloran de noche (1964; “The Soldiers Cry by Night”); and La trampa (1969; “The Trap”), in which the children of Primera memoria are presented as adults. Matute set La torre vigía (1971; “The Watchtower”) in 10th-century Europe to examine the themes of chivalry, idealism, poverty, and prejudice. After publishing this novel, she was silent for 25 years. Her novel Olvidado Rey Gudú, a massive allegorical folk epic that spans four generations in the story of rulers, gnomes, witches, and other creatures in the mythical medieval kingdom of Olar, was published in 1996.

In addition to the novels for which she is best known, Matute wrote several collections of short stories, including Los niños tontos (1956; “The Foolish Children”) and Algunos muchachos (1968; The Heliotrope Wall). She also wrote several works for children.
 



Theatre

Post-Civil War Spain suffered no lack of skillful playwrights to provide politically acceptable entertainment; Edgar Neville, José López Rubio, Víctor Ruiz Iriarte, Miguel Mihura, and Alfonso Paso added variety to the ingenious, parodic farces of Enrique Jardiel Poncela and the soul-searching dramas of Alejandro Casona and Joaquín Calvo Sotelo. The period’s most significant dramatist was Antonio Buero Vallejo, a former political prisoner; Historia de una escalera (1949; The Story of a Stairway), a symbolic social drama, marks the rebirth of Spanish theatre after the war. Subtle and imaginative, Buero used myth, history, and contemporary life as dramatic metaphors to explore and critique society in such works as En la ardiente oscuridad (1950; In the Burning Darkness), Un soñador para un pueblo (1958; “A Dreamer for a People”), and El concierto de San Ovidio (1962; The Concert at Saint Ovide, 1967). Later works exhibit increased philosophical, political, and metaphysical concerns: Aventura en lo gris (1963; “Adventure in Gray”), El tragaluz (1967; “The Skylight”), El sueño de la razón (1970; The Sleep of Reason), and La fundación (1974; The Foundation). Written in the 1960s, La doble historia del doctor Valmy (“The Double Case History of Doctor Valmy”) was performed in Spain for the first time in 1976; the play’s political content made it too controversial to stage there during Franco’s rule. Alfonso Sastre rejected Buero’s formula, preferring more-direct Marxist approaches to social problems, but censors prohibited many of his dramas. A dramatic theorist and existentialist, Sastre in his works presents individuals ensnared in Kafkaesque bureaucratic structures, struggling but failing while the struggle itself endures and advances (as exemplified in Cuatro dramas de la revolución [1963; “Four Revolutionary Dramas”]). Sastre’s first major production, Escuadra hacia la muerte (1953; Death Squad), a disturbing Cold War drama, presents soldiers who have been accused of “unpardonable” offenses and condemned to stand guard in a no-man’s-land where they await the advance of an unknown enemy and face almost certain death. Other plays demonstrate the socially committed individual’s duty to sacrifice personal feeling for the sake of revolution (El pan de todos [1957; “The Bread of All”], Guillermo Tell tiene los ojos tristes [1960; Sad Are the Eyes of William Tell]).

Sastre’s plays are examples of the social realism practiced by the Grupo Realista (Realist Group) during the 1950s and ’60s. Epitomizing this group’s realist style is Lauro Olmo’s La camisa (1962; The Shirt), which depicts unemployed workers too poverty-stricken to seek employment because doing so requires a clean shirt. Like the social novel, social theatre featured generic or collective protagonists, economic injustices, and social-class conflicts, their depictions calculated to suggest Franco’s responsibility for the exploitation and suffering of the underprivileged. Carlos Muñiz Higuera’s plays convey social protests via expressionist techniques: El grillo (1957; “The Cricket”) portrays the plight of an office worker who is perpetually overlooked for promotion, and El tintero (1961; “The Inkwell”) depicts a humble office worker driven to suicide by a dehumanized bureaucracy. Muñiz Higuera depicts individuals who must adapt to dominant reactionary values or be destroyed; his work recalls Valle-Inclán’s esperpento manner and German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre. Other exponents of social-protest theater include José Martín Recuerda, whose subject matter is hypocrisy, cruelty, and repression in Andalusian towns and villages, and José María Rodríguez Méndez, a novelist, story writer, essayist, and critic whose dramas expose the plight of common people, especially the youth, portrayed as victims (soldiers recruited to serve as cannon fodder, students forced to compete in sordid, degrading conditions for posts in a dehumanizing system). Long-censored members of the Realist Group were compared to contemporaneous British playwrights and novelists called the Angry Young Men.

The Silenced Group, also called the Underground Theatre (Teatro Subterráneo), includes playwrights repeatedly censored under Franco and avoided thereafter by the theatrical establishment for their radically subversive political allegories questioning the legitimacy of power, capitalism, and other “contemporary fundamentals.” Their extravagant farces and mordant satires demythologized Spain and its “glorious” past. This group includes Antonio Martínez Ballesteros, Manuel Martínez Mediero, José Ruibal, Eduardo Quiles, Francisco Nieva, Luis Matilla, and Luis Riaza.

Antonio Gala, a multitalented, original, and commercially successful playwright, debunked historical myths while commenting allegorically on contemporary Spain via expressionistic humour and comedy. Jaime Salom, like Gala, defies ideological classification. His psychological drama of the Spanish Civil War, La casa de las Chivas (1968; “House of the Chivas”), holds Madrid box-office records. His later works pose political, social, or religious questions; La piel del limón (1976; “Bitter Lemon”), a plea for divorce reform, was among the longest-running plays of the 1970s. Salom is often compared to Buero Vallejo and American playwright Arthur Miller. The most important woman dramatist of the last decades of the 20th century, Ana Diosdado, gained national recognition with Olvida los tambores (1970; “Forget the Drums”). Other woman dramatists are Paloma Pedrero, Pilar Enciso, Lidia Falcón, Maribel Lázaro, Carmen Resino, and María Manuela Reina.

Some relaxation of censorship in the 1960s prompted interest in the Theatre of the Absurd, its main exponent in Spain being longtime expatriate Fernando Arrabal, a playwright, novelist, and filmmaker who has drawn some of the raw material for his works from his traumatic childhood. Critics have identified a violent resentment of his conservative, pro-Franco mother and innumerable Freudian complexes in Arrabal’s plays, and his childlike characters—both innocent and criminal, tender and sadistic, all existing within a Kafkaesque atmosphere—afford these plays enormous individuality. Using black humour and grotesque and Surrealist elements, Arrabal creates nightmarish works.

Following Franco’s death, several new, younger dramatists gained recognition in the 1980s. Acclaimed by critics and audiences alike were Fernando Fernán Gómez, Fermín Cabal, and Luis Alonso de Santos. Replete with intertextual references and cinematographic staging techniques, these playwrights’ works treat contemporary problems but approach them more playfully than their socially committed predecessors. Other playwrights who emerged in the closing years of the 20th century include Miguel Romeo Esteo, Francisco Rojas Zorrilla, Angel García Pintado, Marcial Suárez, Jerónimo López Mozo, Domingo Miras, and Alberto Miralles.



Poetry

The Civil War and its traumatic aftermath prompted the abandonment of pure poetry for simpler approaches. Formal discipline, devotion to clarity through direct imagery, and a reduced vocabulary were stressed, and the social and human content increased. Leaders of postwar poesía social (social poetry) are sometimes referred to as a “Basque triumvirate”: Gabriel Celaya, a prewar Surrealist who became a leading spokesman for the opposition to Franco; Blas de Otero, an existentialist writing in the vein of Antonio Machado’s Campos de Castilla; and Ángela Figuera, a teacher, writer of children’s stories, feminist, and social activist, best known for poetry celebrating women and motherhood and denouncing the abuse of women and children. “Social” poets shared utilitarian views of their art: poetry became a tool for changing society, the poet being merely another worker struggling toward a better future. These altruistic writers renounced artistic experimentation and aesthetic gratification in favour of propagandistic goals, sociological themes, and authorial self-effacement. Some describe poetry’s trajectory during this period from “pure” to “social” as a move from yo to nosotros (“I” to “we”), from personal to collective concerns. Aleixandre and Alonso, survivors of the Generation of 1927, wrote poetry in the social vein after the Civil War, as did Jesús López Pachecho and many younger poets.

Yet, notwithstanding the predominance of social poetry during the 1950s and ’60s, many important poets—such as Luis Felipe Vivanco and Luis Rosales—did not share its concerns, and social poetry as a movement suffered desertions even before the much-publicized launching of the novísimos in 1970. Some, such as Vicente Gaos and Gloria Fuertes, preferred existential emphases. Others made poetry an epistemological inquiry or method, including Francisco Brines, Jaime Gil de Biedma, and José Ángel Valente.

The “newest” poets (novísimos)—among them Pere Gimferrer, Antonio Colinas, Leopoldo Panero, and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán—rejected social engagement, preferring experimental modes from Surrealism to camp. Their poetry, often neo-Baroque, self-consciously cosmopolitan, and intertextual, was a late 20th-century variant of culteranismo; it emphasized museums, foreign films, international travel—anything but contemporary Spain with its problems. Paralleling the New Novel of the 1970s, they cultivated language for its own sake and showcased their individuality and culture, abandoning social poetry’s authorial invisibility.

Among poets who gained prominence after Franco are Guillermo Carnero, whose work is characterized by a plethora of cultural references and centred upon the theme of death; Jaime Siles, whose abstract, reflexive poetry belongs to Spain’s so-called poesía de pensamiento (“poetry of thought”); and Luis Antonio de Villena, an outspoken representative of Spain’s gay revolution. Prominent women poets during the closing decades of the 20th century include María Victoria Atencia, known for poetry inspired by domestic situations, for her cultivation of the themes of art, music, and painting, and for her later existentialist contemplations; Pureza Canelo, known especially for her ecological poetry and feminist volumes; Juana Castro; Clara Janés; and Ana Rossetti, noteworthy for her erotic verse.

William C. Atkinson
Angel M. García-Gómez
Janet I. Pérez

 

 


Catalan literature

The Catalan language is a branch of peninsular rather than of southern Gallo-Romance. It shows, nonetheless, many traces of kinship with Provençal, and the literature in its origins used the Occitan language (langue d’oc, the dialects of Old French spoken south of the Loire River) and the poetic forms cultivated by troubadours north of the Pyrenees.


Medieval period

Poetry
The early Catalan troubadours Guillem de Bergadà, Hug de Mataplana, Guillem de Cervera, and others were genuine Provençal poets. About 100 years later, in the late 14th century, Provençal influence apparently lessened, and poets turned to northern France for inspiration. They took over the long French narratives on romance themes such as the Arthurian cycle and used the noves rimades metre, a sequence of octosyllabic rhymed couplets. Several poets working in this tradition carried the new interest in the langue d’oïl (the dialects of Old French spoken north of the Loire) to the extent of incorporating passages of French poetry in their poems.

The great period of Catalan poetry was the 15th century, after John I of Aragon had established in 1393 a poetic academy in Barcelona on the model of the academy in Toulouse with jocs florals (“floral games,” or poetry congresses), including literary competitions. This royal encouragement continued under Martin I and Ferdinand I and helped to emancipate the literary style from foreign influences. As the century advanced, Valencia emerged as a new focus of literary activity: a school of poetry developing there was noted for its characteristic use of eight-line decasyllabic verses with crossed, or “chained,” rhymes and final four-line refrain, illustrating a turning away from French models and a new inspiration from Italy. The cants d’amor and cants de mort (“songs of love” and “songs of death”) by Ausiàs March contained the finest verses ever written in Catalan, exerted influence in 16th-century Castile, and continue to influence modern Catalan poets. Jaume Roig’s Lo spill o llibre de les dones (c. 1460; “The Mirror or Book of Women”) was very different—a caustic satire on woman, written in more than 16,000 four-syllable lines, portraying contemporary Valencian life vividly. Johan Roiç de Corella, a Valencian lyricist, was perhaps the best representative of the Renaissance.

After the union of Aragon with Castile, the Castilian language predominated throughout Spain, spelling a long eclipse of Catalan literature. Nevertheless, Juan Boscán Almogáver inaugurated a new Castilian school of poetry, and Castilians regard him as a landmark in the history of their Renaissance; by the time Boscán’s works were published (1543), Catalan poetry had been dead for 50 years.


Prose
Though the oldest document (the text of an oath by a bishop of Urgel) dates from c. 1100, literary prose did not begin until the end of the 13th century. It was written in the everyday speech found in charters from the time of James I’s accession to the Aragonese throne in 1213; four great chronicles that survive represent the peak of medieval Catalan prose. The anonymous Llibre dels feyts del rey en Jacme (“Book of the Deeds of King James”), compiled after James I’s death in 1276, and Ramon Muntaner’s account of the Grand Catalan Company’s expedition to the Morea in southern Greece and of James II’s conquest of Sardinia were distinguished by skill of narration and quality of language. Bernat Desclot’s chronicle deals with the reign of Peter I the Great; though the account of Peter IV the Ceremonious is ascribed to Bernat Desclot, it was planned and revised by the King himself.

Ramon Llull was unequaled in his encyclopaedic production, in Catalan, Arabic, and Latin, covering every branch of medieval knowledge and thought. His exhaustive theological treatise Llibre de contemplació en Déu (c. 1272; “Book of the Contemplation of God”) began Catalonia’s golden age of literature, providing incidentally a mine of information on contemporary society. The Llibre d’Evast e Blanquerna (c. 1284; Blanquerna; a Thirteenth Century Romance) founded Catalan fiction. It included the Llibre d’amic e amat (Book of the Lover and the Beloved), a masterpiece of mysticism, while his Fèlix (c. 1288) and Llibre de l’orde de cauaylería (between 1275 and 1281; The Book of the Order of Chivalry) were instructive works in a narrative framework.

Bernat Metge began the “classical age” by translating Boccaccio’s story of Griselda from Petrarch’s Latin version and, clothing his scholastic learning with poetic imagination, achieved the stylistic masterpiece of Catalan prose. The chivalric romance Tirant lo Blanc (c. 1460) by Joanot Martorell was notable of its kind for the theme, drawn from Muntaner, of the real adventures of the Catalans in the Middle East. The anonymous late 14th-century Curial e Güelfa draws on Desclot and is the only other Catalan romance in this vein.

The beginnings of drama were represented by a 15th-century Assumption play, Misteri d’Elch, which is still performed annually at Elche on the Feast of the Assumption.

Decline: 16th–18th centuryWith the loss of political independence, literary and linguistic independence was also lost, and Catalan fell to the level of a patois, kept alive only in the countryside and in the pulpit. The 16th century furnishes a single poet worthy of the name: Pere Serafí, some of whose Cants d’amor (1565), written in imitation of Ausiàs March but less obscure, are graceful enough to merit remembrance. In prose, only scholars, chiefly antiquaries and historians, still wrote in Catalan. Forty years of research and abundant documentation give interest to the Crònica universal del principat de Cathalunya, a history of the Catalan kingdom, of Jeroni Pujadas, of which only the first part (1609) is in Catalan. Thereafter, the eclipse was almost complete. Catalan remained only as the language of folk song and ballad; in these—first collected in the Romancerillo catalán (1853; “Little Collection of Catalan Ballads”) by Manuel Milà i Fontanals, the historian who played a considerable part in the Catalan revival—it lived on until the reawakening.

The Renaixensa and afterIn 1814 appeared the Gramática y apologia de la llengua cathalana (“Grammar and Apology of the Catalan Language”) of Josep Pau Ballot i Torres, a forerunner of the literary and linguistic renascence (Renaixensa) that marked the Romantic period in Catalonia. The pioneers, however, saw the inadequacies of the ancient language for the expression of spiritual and intellectual ideas. The Institut d’Estudis Catalans, founded in Barcelona in 1907, has played a notable part in the deliberate enrichment and purifying of Catalan as a vehicle for contemporary thought.

Bonaventura Carles Aribau’s patriotic Oda a la pátria (1832; “Ode to the Fatherland”) and the poems of Joaquim Rubió i Ors and Victor Balaguer prepared the way for the mysticism of Jacintó Verdaguer Santaló, a great epic poet (L’Atlántida [1877], Canigó [1886]). Miguel Costa i Llobera cultivated a classical perfection of form. In Joan Maragall i Gorina, Catalonia found its first great modern poet who, in spiritual quality, exerted a powerful influence on later poets.

The foundations of modern Catalan prose were laid by the critical writings of Rubió i Ors, Francisco Pi i Margall, one of the four presidents of the Spanish Republic of 1873, and Josep Torras i Bages (La tradició catalana [1892; “The Catalan Tradition”]). One of the best and most influential writers in prose was the essayist Eugenio d’Ors (pseudonym “Xenius”), whose philosophical novel La ben plantada (1911; “Firmly Rooted”) was one of the most notable works in modern Catalan literature.

Catalan dramatists have produced plays of considerable originality. Àngel Guimerà achieved a European reputation with Terra baixa (1896; “Lowlands”), which inspired a German and a French opera and was widely translated. The many social dramas of Ignasi Iglésias, inspired by the early works of Gerhart Hauptmann, included one near-masterpiece, Els Vells (1903). Adrià Gual, author of several works of fantasy, did his best work as director of the Teatre Intim, founded in Barcelona in 1898, which familiarized the public with the great drama of all countries and ages.

Further development of modern Catalan literature was delayed by the dictatorship (1923–30) of Miguel Primo de Rivera, who banned the use of any language other than Castilian, and by the Civil War of 1936–39. Many Catalan men of letters fled abroad, and those who remained found the political climate hardly conducive to productive literary activity.

Conditions in Catalonia improved only slightly during the postwar years as the government of Gen. Francisco Franco adopted a generally repressive policy toward Catalan culture. Although some Catalan writers chose to ignore the prevailing realities and cultivated what could be construed as a literature of artistic escape, the most influential poets of the period, Salvador Espriu and Pere Quart (pseudonym of Joan Oliver), began writing poetry that dealt with social issues in a decidedly Realistic mode. Other recent Catalan authors of note, such as the prose writers Mercè Rodoreda and Josep Maria Espinàs, also have largely grounded their works in contemporary social life.


Galician literature
Medieval poetryGalician is closely related to Portuguese, and there is no separating the two languages in the three great repositories of medieval verse, the 14th-century Cancioneiro (“Songbook”) da Ajuda, Cancioneiro da Vaticana, and Colocci-Brancuti. Indigenous lyric origins were overlaid by Provençal influence, and a dominance of emotion over thought identified Galician with subjective lyricism, so that for over a century Castilian poets made it their medium for lyrics. Of 116 names in the Cancioneiro da Vaticana, 75 have been tentatively identified as Galician; none achieved particular individuality. Macías El Enamorado (flourished mid-14th century) was the last Galician troubadour; Galicians thereafter wrote in Castilian, and, though there were echoes of their tradition, the Renaissance and Castilian political hegemony finally ended Galician literature until the 19th century.

The modern revivalThe Romantic movement, like the Peninsular War, revived local feeling and interest in things Galician but not in the language. The xogos froraes (“floral games,” or poetry congresses; an equivalent of Catalan and Provençal jocs florals) of 1861, with the first dictionary (1863) and first grammar (1864) of Galician, marked a change. Francisco Añón y Paz was the first notable poet in the resurrected idiom, his most stirring notes being love of country and of freedom. Rosalía de Castro, the greatest name in Galician literature, identified herself with the spirit and people of the Galician countryside in Cantares gallegos (1863; “Galician Songs”); her Follas novas (1880; “New Leaves”), introspective to the verge of despair, reflected deep personal sorrows. Eduardo Pondal y Abente, a bard of a dimly sensed heroic past, was concerned with nature and Celtic mythology. Valentín Lamas Carvajal has been remembered as the voice of the peasant.

Prose showed no comparable achievement. Aurelio Ribalta, Manuel Lugrís Freire, and Heraclio Pérez Placer wrote short stories but were overshadowed by novelists of stature—Emilia, condesa de Pardo Bazán, and Rosalía de Castro—who chose to write for a larger public in Castilian.

The 20th century has produced, especially since 1920, a continuing abundance of Galician poets, not yet sufficiently differentiated, who underline the identification of Galician literature with a markedly poetic regional temperament and language.

   
 
         

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