Literary conceptualism: what it is, how it arises, characteristics


What is conceptism?

It was known as conceptism to a current in the literary field that took place during the Baroque. Conceptionism, as its name indicates, is based on the interest in the concept. Thus, its promoters, known as conceptists, focused mainly on the meaning of words, in addition to deepening the way in which they were related.

This trend was born in Spain during the 17th century and is considered a movement that opposes culteranism, a trend we have already talked about in another section. Its main representative is considered to be Francisco de Quevedo, however, there are several authors who will join the literary current motivated by the predominance of concepts and ideas, a notion that gives it its name.

How was conceptism born in literature?

To go to the origin of conceptism, it is necessary to start from the era from which it emerges, the Baroque. This was one of the broadest movements of art and philosophy, which had its point of origin in Europe, but managed to move to other continents, such as America. Although during its beginnings the Baroque was associated with an idea in which the overloaded and exaggerated was one of its main objectives, a style contrary to the Renaissance that stood out for its taste for order and the importance of harmony.

What is conceptism

In the literary field, the idea of movement is expressed in the use of Góngora’s schemes, based on figures such as hyperbaton and an insistent application of neologisms. On the other hand, another crucial element that appears within the literary works is the rogue, a character that represents the misery of the human condition and that will be used by the authors for criticism and study of the readers. However, as Quevedo does, the image of the rogue will also have a moralizing intent.

During this time, factors such as the appearance of criticism through satire, a style to surprise readers, the use of puns, metaphors, among other resources, give rise to the conceptist current, interested in the study of the background in the texts. The stimulation of intelligence and imagination, will be very important elements for the current that sought to arouse the interest and admiration of the reader, proposing various channels to achieve it. In this way, conceptism focuses on those ingenious associations of concepts from a subtle expression using the least amount of elements possible.

Development of conceptism in literature

For literary creation in this current, the author aims at expressing reality using precise terms and avoiding overloading the text. Another important feature in the process of development has to do with the fact that there is also a search for beauty. However, this does not become an end in itself, but the means that will allow him to achieve a correct communication of ideas.

Conception is one of the spaces of literature in which stylistic resources emerge in creation, which is why it is often possible to identify a great variety of figures, puns, paradoxes and more that constitute the harmony of the text. In this sense, the text or the final work will include a natural message that eliminates ornamentation within the style, as did the culteranismo.

Characteristics of Conceptualism

Having reviewed the above, it is time to move on to key characteristics that allow for a better understanding of this Baroque current in which innovation and new forms played key roles in the development of literature. Let’s begin:

Ingenious relationships

An important aspect of this literary current that should be reviewed has to do with the fact that, in their way moved by the interest in the meaning of words, the conceptists also allow and propose the possibility of making ingenious relationships from various resources between concepts. In this way, the difficulty of language will be a clear exposition from them.

Abstract thinking

Conceptualists operate mainly with the meaning of words, which does not ignore the important work with abstract thinking. Thus, to achieve this, the reader uses different resources, including associations of ideas, double meaning, among others.

Little importance to the subject

The most important thing for the conceptists, in all their literary journey, is the meaning of the concepts, which is why one of the elements that passes to the background is the theme. In particular, the conceptists do not pay much attention to the word but to the treatment of the themes and the resources used for it, such as the rhetorical figures that adorn their elaboration.

Importance of novelty

Another relevant factor that we cannot leave aside when studying conceptism has to do with the intense search for the new in its authors. The conceptists seek the extraordinary, also to surprise their readers, but this through the stimulation of the intelligence, which is why the use of varied literary resources is so important.

Criticism in the works

Although the authors, in this case the conceptists, were focused on the meaning of the concepts, they did not neglect other aspects with which, according to literary critics, they were strongly committed, such as satire and social criticism. This will be one of the most important distinguishing features of their works, which can be seen in the poetic work of Francisco de Quevedo, although this tendency is also found in other of his works such as narrative and ascetic works.

Variety of formats

Although the intention of the conceptists is developed mainly in texts elaborated in prose, the truth is that this literary current will also use other formats for its development. That is why it is possible to find verses in fundamental works, such as those of Quevedo, where poetry will be another of its most important fields of creation.

Indirect descriptions

An important feature to have about this literary current is that the conceptists often avoided the use of direct descriptions. For their part, they were in search of communicating as many ideas in a clear and as little extensive way as possible. Thus, they will use resources that will allow them to achieve this, such as polysemous words, puns, paradoxes, among others. In addition, they will be frequent resources in their poetic creations.

Points of study

One of the main aspects that we must take into account when reviewing this literary school, is that, since the conceptists insisted on the meaning of words, in addition to their relationships, they will use various resources and literary figures in order to determine and identify the relationships that existed between them. Thus, they resorted to resources such as metaphor, antithesis, parallelism and allegory, among others.

Main authors of conceptismo

Main authors of conceptismo

Among its main authors, we can highlight some, such as: Francisco de Quevedo, Luis de Góngora, Baltasar Gracian, Lope de Vega, Alonso de Ledesma, Adolfo Bonilla, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Tirso de Molina, among others. As for the most outstanding works, there are: La vida del Buscón by Quevedo, El criticón by Baltasar Gracián, El Quijote by Miguel de Cervantes, La vida es sueño by Calderón de la Barca, among others.

The main aspect that distinguishes conceptismo from culteranismo is that conceptismo creates concepts from varied resources of literature, giving importance to form. Culteranismo, on the other hand, looks directly at the content, making sure to implement a cultured and sometimes loaded language to formulate the style.

To learn more about other currents of literature, works, authors and more, do not forget that in our Literature section we have a lot of information for you to learn more about this artistic world and its evolution to the present.