Literary Mannerism: what it is, how it arose, characteristics and representative authors


What is Mannerism?

Mannerism was known as the trend that developed between 1520 and 1620 and that achieved a great influence in several artistic dimensions, among them and one of the most important, literature. One of its main characteristics is related to the fact that it marks the transition period between the Renaissance and the Baroque, so that in its development it will have important aspects of this course.

What is Mannerism

The term mannerism comes from maniere, which refers to “in the manner of”, thus it was used mainly in the field of painting to refer to the way in which sculptors and painters made a work with the aim of imitating it. However, in literature, the characteristics were different, since it was related to the elaboration of new sensorial forms and metaphors, the confusion of the real and the unreal, the preference for the strange, among other aspects.

How did mannerism arise?

Now, as for the origin of mannerism, we must place ourselves in Spain. Many of the analyses that have been made about the emergence of this trend suggest that in the literary field it had its main development between 1570 and 1600, especially due to the writing of rhymes with baroque tints by Fernando de Herrera, which will mark this transition from the Renaissance to the following movement.

On the other hand, it is key to highlight that mannerism was born as a response to the classicism of the Renaissance, so that to confront the balance and harmony that this movement defended, mannerism was opposed with the great contrasts and the exaggeration of forms, aspects that would take special importance in the Baroque. In this sense, the search for expressiveness that was attributed to Mannerism led them to break the rules.

In addition to this, in the mannerist texts, reality and confusion with illusion will be one of the recurring elements, in addition to the violent contrasts between wealth and poverty, faith and uncertainty, among others that leave aside the objective of the Renaissance to take the look at the personal point of view around the artist and the viewer’s experience.

Development of Mannerism

One of the aspects of this literary trend that should be considered is precisely the changes it advocates in the field of creation and development of narrative. Particularly, Mannerism will have a great relevance in this literary genre in which the narrative begins to incorporate new twists, an example of this is El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, one of the most important works of this trend.

Most important characteristics of Mannerism

It is time to see the key features of this literary trend and how they became the basis of its development, leaving a large number of works and being a source of inspiration for many authors. Among the most important features, we find the following:

Importance of the strange

One of the most important features of mannerism in literature is related to the authors’ preference for those aspects, elements and resources that allowed them to incorporate a strange and extravagant tinge to their works, since they allowed them to mark an important change in the texts. This will also be seen in the way of confusing the real with the unreal.

Atmosphere of the humanist renaissance

Another important feature that should be highlighted in this trend is the sample that represents the mannerism for the arrival of the humanist renaissance atmosphere and that later, will have approaches to the literature that will develop in the Baroque.

Figure of the heroes

For the heroes of this type of works, the tragic will be presented in a much deeper measure. In this sense, moral victory emerges according to the virtue of defeat. Moreover, the heroes will face new forms of fate that this time will not be taken as they were within classical fate.

Dark metaphors

Another of the frequent resources used by mannerism, are the dark metaphors, which many experts have also called overloaded metaphors. Often this resource will be implemented with fantastic, enigmatic and mixed tones that, in many occasions, will expose the weaknesses of the heroic figures. This is an essential aspect that allows the heroes to be perceived as real, alive and modern beings.

Spiritual crisis

This will be an important aspect given that a crisis of a spiritual nature is experienced after the conflicts that developed within the church and which later provoked the Counter-Reformation. In this sense, Mannerist texts will deal not only with this spiritual crisis, but also with the transience of life.

Representative authors of Mannerism

Representative authors of Mannerism

Among the main authors of Mannerism are Shakespeare, Cervantes, Torquato Tasso, Camoens, Giovanni della Casa, Glambattista Marino, among others.

Some important works are Polyphemus and Galatea, by the Spanish Luis de Gongora y Argote, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, sonnets by Luis de Gongora and Felix Lope de Vega, Sonnet by Pietro Aretino, Orlando furioso by Ludovico, Os Lusiadas by Luis de Camoens, Defense and illustration of the French language by Joachim du Bellay, Novelas ejemplares by Miguel de Cervantes, sonnets by William Shakespeare, among others.

Remember that if you want to know more about other movements, trends and processes in literature, you can find in our section dedicated to this field, much more information with which you can continue learning.