Baroque Literature

The term "Baroque" refers to both the Baroque Period and the style of art, sculpture, literature, music and dance popular at the time. It is generally agreed that the Baroque Period started around the 1600s in Rome, and then spread throughout Europe, lasting through 1750.

In architecture, sculpture and art, the Baroque style is characterized by dramatic, flamboyant designs, full of geometrical shapes. Baroque artworks are heavily decorated with patterns, reliefs and stucco-work.

The Baroque style was heavily used in the crusading work of the Counter-Reformation that the Catholics employed against the Protestant reformers. Elaborate Baroque masterpieces were created in Roman churches and palaces, made to awe and inspire the Catholic worshippers.

Due to its affiliation with a 150-year time period, the word "Baroque" has been extended to describe the literature and music of the era. However, the term is more obscure in relation to these areas. Baroque literature generally refers to the Baroque Period and not to a specific literary style. There are some scholars who contend that both the art and literature of the Baroque style developed through a number of stages. This is why a wide variety of styles of art and literature are termed Baroque.

Giambattista Marino, an Italian poet who lived during the early Baroque Period (1569-1625), did implement Baroque form into his writing. His most famous work is L'Adone, which was written in ottava rima, an original Italian rhyming stanza form. L'Adone was dedicated to the French King Louis XII and was published in 1623.

Marino is considered the founder of Marinism, which is characterized by exaggerated ornamental literary techniques and wordplays. Marinist literature featured non-standard syntax, with nouns separated from their adjectives and subjects appearing after their verb; double or triple words to state one idea; word repetition to create an echo effect; and alliteration, assonance and consonance.

Marino was highly respected for his works as long as Baroque was in style. However, in later centuries, the embellished style of his work was disparaged. Critics contended that his works consisted of style but no content. In the 20th century, his poetic works were reevaluated and once more appreciated for the content latent underneath the verbiage.

In Spain, the Baroque Period corresponded with the Siglo de Oro, the Spanish Golden Age. One of the most prominent Spanish writers of the Baroque era was Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Santibanez Villegas (1580-1645). His writing was styled by conceptismo, simple vocabulary, metaphors, wordplay and rapid rhythm.

Quevedo's style directly contrasted that of Luis de Gongora, another Spanish poet of the era. Gongora employed Culteranismo, which featured ornamental, ostentatious vocabulary and whose underlying content and message were expressed through a flood of metaphors and complex syntactical order.

Francesc Fontanella, Francesc Vincent Garcia i Torres and Joseph Romaguera were three of the most distinguished Baroque writers in Catalonia. Fontanella wrote love poetry and two dramatic pieces, Tragicomedia d'Amor, Firmesa i Porfia and Lo desengany. Both of his longer works are allegorical. Garcia was noted for his elegant sonnets. He also wrote violent satires and obscene and grotesque compositions. Romaguera is primarily known for his Atheneo de Grandesa, the only emblem book ever published in the Catalan language.

In England, the Baroque Period corresponded to the metaphysical poets, a group of poets who were concerned with the metaphysical and whose works employed imaginative metaphors, termed metaphysical conceits. Critics have claimed that the metaphysical poets were more concerned with novel metaphors than with innovative content.

Much literature was written in Germany during the Baroque Period. Many writers depicted events of the Thirty Years War that embroiled Germany from 1618 to 1648. Particularly notable was Grimmelshausen, who wrote the quasi-autobiographical Simplicius Simplicissimus. The work includes many details from his own childhood, including his kidnapping at the age of 10 by Hessian soldiers.

Andreas Gryphius and Daniel Caspar von Lohenstein were two other prominent writers of the German Baroque era. They wrote tragedies and poetries in both German and Latin.

Baroque Literature: Selected full-text books and articles

The Baroque: Literature and Culture in Seventeenth-Century Europe
Peter N. Skrine.
Holmes & Meier, 1978
The Baroque in English Neoclassical Literature
J. Douglas Canfield.
University of Delaware Press, 2003
An Age of Exuberance, Drama and Disenchantment
Skrine, Peter.
UNESCO Courier, Vol. 21, No. 1, September 1987
The Theater of Truth: The Ideology of (Neo)Baroque Aesthetics
William Egginton.
Stanford University Press, 2010
The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature
Gilbert Highet.
Oxford University Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "A Note on Baroque," Chap. 16 "Baroque Tragedy," Chap. 18 "Baroque Prose"
The Literature of the Spanish People: From Roman Times to the Present Day
Gerald Brenan.
Cambridge University Press, 1951
Librarian’s tip: Spanish literature of the Baroque period is discussed in detail in chapters VII-XII
Dictionary of Italian Literature
Peter Bondanella; Julia Conaway Bondanella; Jody Robin Shiffman.
Greenwood Press, 1996 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Baroque" begins on p. 31
Baroque Bodies: Psychoanalysis and the Culture of French Absolutism
Mitchell Greenberg.
Cornell University Press, 2001
A History of Danish Literature
Sven H. Rossel.
University of Nebraska Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "From the Reformation to Baroque"
Poetry and Song in the German Baroque: A Study of the Continuo Lied
R. Hinton Thomas.
Clarendon Press, 1963
A Survey of Polish Literature and Culture
Manfred Kridl; Olga Scherer-Virski.
Columbia University Press, 1956
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IV "The Seventeenth Century: Baroque Literature"
A History of Icelandic Literature
Daisy Neijmann Breen.
University of Nebraska Press, 2006
Librarian’s tip: "Seventeenth-Century Baroque: Lyric and Pastoral Poetry" begins on p. 201
Fashion, Gender and Cultural Anxiety in Italian Baroque Literature
Paulicelli, Eugenia.
Romance Notes, Vol. 50, No. 1, Fall 2010
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Ambiguous Allegories: What the Mythological Comedia Reveals about Baroque Tragedy
Kluge, Sofie.
Comparative Drama, Vol. 46, No. 2, Summer 2012
Milton and the Baroque
Murray Roston.
Macmillan Press, 1986
Richard Crashaw: A Study in Baroque Sensibility
Austin Warren.
Louisiana State University Press, 1939
Renaissance and Baroque Lyrics: An Anthology of Translations from the Italian, French, and Spanish
Harold Martin Priest.
Northwestern University Press, 1962
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