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

Spanish Renaissance Literature

A dramatic increase in literary production began in the 15th Century in Spain, with notable writers producing important pieces of both poetry and prose. The birth of the printing press was invaluable in divulging literature, as books no longer had to be copied by hand in monasteries, a procedure that was painstakingly slow and tedious.

At this stage, a considerable amount of Italian influence began shaping poetic forms in Spanish literature, helping break the pattern of folk art that was being produced until that time and introducing the new Humanist cultural movement to the Peninsula. Theocratic influence of the Middle Ages gave way to a new focus on human beings and life as an end in itself. Courtly love became one of the most important themes as literature started filling palace halls. During the Middle Ages, literature had been confined mainly to monasteries and consequentially, dealt with mainly religious subject matter.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Spanish monarchs Ferdinand V and Isabella I declared that Castilian was to be the principal language in Spain, (which is why today Castilian and Spanish are synonyms). The 16th and 17th Centuries represent Spanish literature’s Golden Age, with prominent literary figures such as Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Quevedo, Garcilaso de la Vega and Góngora among many others, stepping to the forefront.

Some of the most prominent poets of the time include the Marquès de Santillana, whose true name was Íñigio López de Mendoza, Juan de Mena and Jorge Manrique, whose Coplas a la muerte de su padre (Stanzas on the Death of His Father) is especially worth mentioning. Notable playwrights also emerged during this Golden Age of Literature, with names such as Tirso de Molina, Guillén de Castro y Bellvís, Juan Ruiz de Alarcón and Calderón de la Barca producing excellent material.

As regards prose work, an important contribution was made by Fernando de Rojas with his novel "La Celestina" (1499), whose formal title was actually "Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea" (Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea). The most outstanding literary work however, perhaps of Spanish literature as a whole, is the story of "Don Quixote" written by Miguel de Cervantes. The novel, "El Lazarillo de Tormes", one of Spain’s literary treasures, is an anonymous work.

By this time the Spanish language had achieved a considerably high level of maturity after having gone through many changes and was regarded as a subject matter worth studying in itself. Spanish was now deemed a cultured language and had replaced Latin in this regard.