In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Spanish Literature

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • General Overviews
  • Guides to Spanish Literature
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Primary Texts
  • Research Tools
  • Journals
  • Historical and Cultural Background

Renaissance and Reformation Spanish Literature
Hilaire Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0009


The Renaissance came later to Spain than to any other European country, which led to a certain sense of “belatedness” in Spain’s literal and literary historiography. Most histories of Golden Age literature (as the peak period of Spanish Renaissance literature is often called) begin with Fernando de Rojas’s humanistic tragicomedy the Celestina (c. 1499) and extend through at least the early Baroque (a convenient terminus being Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño, c. 1635). This time period proved extraordinarily fertile, however, coinciding with the era of Spanish world dominance. Spain was the birthplace of several important literary movements and genres, including the first modern novel. The glories of so-called “Golden” Age literature, however, may obscure the harsh conditions experienced by women, colonized people, and the victims of the Inquisition.

Introductory Works

Items in this category range from relevant chapters of longer general histories of Spanish literature from all periods, such as Gies 2004, to shorter volumes devoted exclusively to Golden Age, such as Vossler 1961 and Guillén 1988. Jones 1971 and Civil 1997 take a more narrow approach, staying focused on a single genre or genres—prose and poetry for Jones 1971, narrative prose for Civil 1997. Current theoretical concerns are reflected in Zavala 1993, which organizes around a particular gender, and Evans 1990, which organizes around the notion of conflicting discourses, borrowed from the field of discourse analysis.

  • Civil, Pierre. La prose narrative du siècle d’or espagnol. Paris: Dunod, 1997.

    Small volume covering a lot of ground, beginning with a book history section on books, readers, and the culture of literary production. The second half is a generic survey of romances of chivalry, sentimental romance, prose dialogue, pastoral novel, adventure novel, picaresque, novela cortesana, satire, and allegory.

  • Evans, Peter W., ed. Conflicts of Discourse: Spanish Literature in the Golden Age. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1990.

    Carefully selected anthology of essays by major figures. Begins with an introduction to the “ideology of Hispanism” in the United States and Great Britain. Theoretically savvy but traditional in the sense that the volume as a whole argues for the persistence of literature (as opposed to cultural studies) courses at the university level.

  • Gies, David T., ed. The Cambridge History of Spanish Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    Good section on early modern Spain; also contains preliminary reflections on the politics of canon formation.

  • Guillén, Claudio. El primer Siglo de Oro: Estudios sobre géneros y modelos. Barcelona, Spain: Crítica, 1988.

    Wide-ranging small volume includes chapters on Garcilaso, Lazarillo, the Abencerraje, Fray Luis de León, Mateo Alemán, Cervantes, and Quevedo.

  • Jones, R. O. A Literary History of Spain: The Golden Age Prose and Poetry: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971.

    A combination chronological and generic approach. Readable, short introduction to the literature of the period.

  • Vossler, Karl. Introducción a la literatura española del Siglo de Oro: Seis lecciones. 3d ed. Translated by Felipe González Vicen. Mexico City: Austral, 1961.

    All of Spanish Golden Age literature in six short lessons. This tiny book, literally pocket-sized, is a good place to start. Written by one of Germany’s greatest Hispanists.

  • Zavala, Iris M., ed. Breve historia feminista de la literatura española (en lengua castellana). Vol. 2, La mujer en la literatura española. Barcelona, Spain: Anthropos, 1993.

    Essays by major figures on the canon patriarchal society in crisis in the Celestina, women’s education in the Golden Age, and the lack of women in Don Quijote.

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