Baroque literature: what it is, origin, characteristics, literary development and authors


What is Baroque literature?

Also known as Baroque literature, it was mainly considered a literary manifestation that took place during the 17th century in the European continent, mainly in Spain. This literary epoch stood out, among other things, for a substantial literary development with the invention of new forms that begin to be announced by the authors of the time.

The period prior to Baroque literature is the Renaissance, with Renaissance literature, and will be distinguished from this by the triumph of ornamentation and a constant search for aesthetic pleasure, besides bringing to the artistic productions the ideas related to pessimism and disillusionment. Thus, it will have a totally different panorama for the literary themes where the struggles of the human being, lies, deceit, among other human defects reign.

History and origin of Baroque literature

Although in its beginnings the term “baroque” was used to refer to the development of the plastic arts, it soon began to be used in other areas, mainly in literature, a medium in which other forms also began to appear. However, many experts place the birth of Baroque literature in the 16th century, since it was born as a movement of an ideological type that maintained a solid relationship with the Renaissance.

As a time of change, the literature aims to renew many of the literary forms that were being handled, as well as it will also give birth to many other literary styles in Spain and other regions of the European continent. One of the most influential events in this process will be the Counter-Reformation, since it begins to feel a concern that destabilizes the serenity of Renaissance literature and that will build a baroque literature characterized by conflict and imbalance. This will later be reflected in a series of styles that will take place in several countries of the continent.

Towards the end of the 16th century, Spain began to experience a series of political and social conditions that led to a desolate panorama for the population, which would be affected by issues such as social inequality, misery, hunger, plague, among other substantial problems to which artists would not be indifferent. This is how one of the most important axes of Baroque literature began to take shape, as it will look at the misery of human beings, the rogues, inequality, death and other issues that take a decisive role in the literature of the time.

Later it moved to America, where it acquires another series of modifications and senses, since it begins to show a religious closeness, prose writing and a search of poetry to approach and impress the feeling and understanding.

Literary development of the Baroque

One of the central axes of the literary development of this period rests on the excessive use of a series of elements that were inherited but also inspired the creation of new literary forms. Thus, at this time, baroque literature began to use adjectivation frequently, metaphor in its poetic expressions, periphrasis, antithesis, hyperbaton, constant allusions to classical mythology, among others that are part of what we know today as rhetorical figures.

As for the form of manifestation of this literature, it is possible to find different ways. One of them is Euphuism, an elaborate style that was used by poets of English origin. Likewise, Marinism, the first and second Silesian school, Conceptism and finally Culteranism also appear.

Another relevant aspect of Baroque literature has to do with its coincidence with the Golden Age, which will bring to literary expression other topics of interest such as honor, love, religion and satire. It is considered a fundamental period for prose, which will flourish hand in hand with the works of Miguel de Cervantes, but will also be cultivated by other authors such as Lope de Vega, Baltasar Gracián and Francisco Quevedo.

Baroque Poetry

The artistic production of poetry was one of the most important processes for the development of universal literature at this time, since its proximity and impact with the poet will be decisive to examine the concerns alive in its authors. However, it will be a poetry with many artifices and literary resources that will later trigger the emergence of currents such as conceptismo and culteranismo, styles that you can examine in our Literature section.

Drama in the Baroque

As for the dramatic genre of the time, the biblical stories dictated by the Church, as well as comedy plays, continued to be performed. In this sense, the comic plays allow the tragic to be linked to the comedy, which gives it a more revealing tinge to the feeling of the conditions that Spain was facing at this time.

What is Baroque literature

Main characteristics of Baroque literature

These are the most important characteristics of the literature of this period:

Themes: as we mentioned, the deplorable conditions in which Spain enters by this time, will be the inspiring axis for the poet who loses color and begins to examine the consequences. Thus, the themes of the time often focus on deceit, deception, death, illness and in general, will be characterized by handling desolate and sad content.

Opposition to the Renaissance: another aspect that highlights the baroque literature is the conception of its meaning, since it is set in opposition to the Renaissance literature, from which it desperately seeks to distinguish itself through the use of various literary resources that build a higher level of complexity for the interpretation of the works.

Elements used: in addition to the varied literary resources he will use, we cannot ignore the constant presence of irony and sarcasm in his works. These two elements are crucial for the author, as he intends to highlight feelings of melancholy, pain and disappointment.

Spirituality: aspects related to spirituality will be frequent in the literary productions of the Baroque, since they attribute an important support to the Church, conceiving it as an entity of greater security in the face of the crisis they were living to achieve peace and tranquility through faith.

New added forms: another of the most important characteristics of the literary period is the innovative current that it represented for the development of the productions, since they began to take the look to manifestations of the literature of other countries. However, another of the most important changes was the progressive passage of literary renovation through the excessive use of rhetorical resources in the compositions, a process that began massively among writers.

Main works of the baroque period 

As for the most relevant works and authors of the period, we find artists such as Luis de Góngora, Francisco de Quevedo, Francisco Rodríguez Lobo, John Donne, Angelus Silesius, Henry Vaughan, Andreas Gryphius, Antonio Vieira, Gregorio de Matos, among others. As for authors who began to work on baroque literature in the American continent, we can find Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz of Mexican origin, as well as Erick Flores Pedro, Francisco de Terrazas and Bernardo de Balbuena.