Spanish Literature

Spanish Literature
  • Spanish authors
  • Literature Before Castilian Spanish
  • Early Castilian Spanish Literature
  • Renaissance Literature
  • Enlightenment Literature
  • Romanticist Literature
  • Realist Literature
  • The Generation of 1898
  • Early 20th Century Literature
  • Post Civil War Literature

Early Castilian Spanish Literature

True Castilian Spanish Literature emerged in the Middle Ages, around 11 AD. This literature, in the form of lyrical and epic poetry, dealt mainly with Christian themes. Even so, Hebrew and Arabic influence remained strong. These short lyrical poems were termed jarchas, and made up the last verses of the ending verse of a moaxaja (popular Arabic poetry, dating back to the 5th Century). The Spanish minstrels, called juglares, performed epic poetry in castle and palace halls and sang in town squares. The earliest and most famous epic poem, which dates back to the 12th Century, is titled Cantar de Mio Cid.

Spanish poetry continued to evolve in the form of many other epic poems and lyrics, and one of the first known Spanish poets includes Gonzalo de Berceo. A particular characteristic of this relatively new Spanish literary genre that set it apart from German, French and Arabic literature was the fact that it dealt with recent, historical events rather than legends and mythical themes, as other European literary styles tended to focus on.

In the 13th Century, a literature form known as mester de clerecia took shape, with the translation of legends and stories on saints, still written in Latin. This was carried out by monks and priests in Spanish monasteries, following strict metrical rules and structures.

Prose literature began to emerge for the first time in European literature under the patronage of King Alfonso X, who was very keen on literature and a writer himself. Historians, jurists and translators began gathering knowledge and translating Hebrew and Arabic works into Castilian. Many of the books written during this time used dialects from the different regions that have long since disappeared.

Prose in Spain reached a peak with King Alfonso's nephew, prince Don Juan Manuel, who produced the book entitled "Libro de los exemplos del conde Lucanor et de Patronio", one of the first compilations of short stories in Spanish. Other important writers include satirical poets López de Ayala with his poem "Rimado de palacio" and Juan Ruiz with his "Libro de buen amor".