Renaissance and Reformation Luis de Góngora
Humberto Huergo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 June 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 August 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0383


Luis de Góngora y Argote (Córdoba, b. 1561–d. 1627) is one of Spain’s most celebrated poets and the main exponent of Baroque poetry in the Spanish-speaking world, comparable to John Donne in England and Giambattista Marino in Italy. Author of over four hundred poems, he exceeded in all poetic forms, including sonnets, letrillas (rondelets), décimas, romances, canciones, villancicos, and most notably the octava real and the silva, which he cultivated in his longest and most ambitious compositions, the epico-lyrical Fábula de Polifemo y Galatea (1612), based on Ovid’s famous tale, and the Soledades (1613), a two-thousand-line poetic maze essentially about nothing, in the sense that Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is a novel about nothing. Boasting bold syntactic twists and esoteric metaphors that almost obliterate their referent, the linguistic subversion of the Soledades sparked a heated debate among Gongora’s contemporaries, who argued passionately about whether to consider the text a Spanish Aeneid or utter gibberish. Besides poetry, Góngora also wrote two (some would say three) plays that departed from Lope de Vega’s popular and populist model—Las firmezas de Isabela (1610) and the unfinished El doctor Carlino (1613). Revered and vilified with equal passion throughout the 17th century, he tended to fall out of grace during the 18th and first half of the 19th centuries, to be rediscovered at the turn of the century by the French Symbolists and the Spanish modernistas, who often compared his disdain for empirical reality to that of Mallarmé. His definite consecration, however, only came in 1927, when a group of scholars and poets led by Dámaso Alonso and Federico García Lorca officially crowned him the poet’s poet. Since then, his reputation as Spain’s enfant terrible and his influence among both Spanish and Latin American writers has grown exponentially, with ardent admirers like José Lezama Lima in Cuba and Pere Gimferrer in Spain.

Introductory Studies

English-speaking readers might want to start with Chaffee-Sorace 2010, followed by Terry 1993. Roses 2012 provides the best introduction in Spanish, but it presupposes some familiarity with Góngora. Carreira 1990 provides an excellent introduction in Spanish. Readers who know French or Italian are invited to consult Jammes 2009 and Poggi 2019, respectively.

  • Carreira, Antonio. “Introducción.” In Antología poética. 3d ed. By Luis de Góngora. Edited by Antonio Carreira, 25–66. Castalia Didáctica 13. Madrid: Castalia, 1990.

    A student edition including a chronological chart, a basic introduction touching on topics like the Petrarchan tradition, theory of wit, culteranismo, and others, and a short, annotated bibliography. Not to be confused with other, more specialized anthologies by the author not in the collection Castalia Didáctica.

  • Chaffee-Sorace, Diane. Góngora’s Shorter Poetic Masterpieces in Translation. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2010.

    A modern translation of Góngora’s shorter poems, accompanied by a brief introduction that outlines his biography, style, critical reception, and poetic themes. See Chaffee-Sorace 2010, cited in English Translations.

  • Gahete Jurado, Manuel. Luis de Góngora.

    The site includes biographical information, a list of Góngora’s works with links to the texts, some bibliography, and more.

  • Jammes, Robert, ed. “Introduction: Vie et œuvre de don Luis de Góngora.” In Comprendre Góngora: Anthologie bilingue. By Luis de Góngora, 7–32. Toulouse, France: Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 2009.

    Authoritative introduction to Góngora’s life and works (pp. 7–32), with selective bibliography in French (pp. 33–35) and bilingual edition of one hundred and fourteen poems (pp. 38–290). The introduction is in French only.

  • Poggi, Giulia. Góngora. Rome: Salerno Editrice, 2019.

    In Italian. An excellent introduction to Góngora, covering all aspects of his life and literary production. Chapters in order of appearance include: A short biography; early romances, letrillas and décimas; sonnets; the tercets “Mal haya el que en señores idolatra”; Góngora’s theater; Polifemo; Soledades; the literary controversy surrounding Góngora; the sonnet “Restituye a tu mudo horror divino”; the Panegyric for the Duque of Lerma; late romances; late sonnets; Lorca’s conference “La imagen poética de don Luis de Góngora”; Góngora’s influence on Latin American writers; and Ungaretti and the Italian translations. Includes an essential bibliography.

  • Roses, Joaquín, ed. Góngora, la estrella inextinguible: Magnitud estética y universo contemporáneo. Madrid: Sociedad Estatal de Acción Cultural, 2012.

    A collection of introductory essays by some of the leading scholars in the field covering all aspects of Góngora’s life and literary production as well as his influence on 20th-century Spanish and Latinoamerican literatures.

  • Terry, Arthur. “Luis de Góngora: The Poetry of Transformation.” In Seventeenth-Century Spanish Poetry. By Arthur Terry, 65–93. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511553851

    An excellent overview of Góngora’s poetic evolution, peppered with perceptive remarks about individual works.

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