Authors: Luis de Góngora y Argote

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Spanish poet

Author Works

Poetry:

Fábula de Polifemo y Galatea, 1627 (Fable of Polyphemus and Galatea, 1961)

Obras en verso del Homero español, 1627 (includes Fábula de Polifemo y Galatea and Soledades)

Soledades, 1627 (The Solitudes of Don Luis de Góngora, 1931; also known as The Solitudes, 1964, Gilbert Cunningham, translator)

Obras poéticas de D. Luis de Góngora, 1921 (3 volumes; based on the Chacón manuscript of 1628)

Drama:

Las firmezas de Isabela, pr. 1610

El doctor Carlino, pr. 1613

Biography

Luis de Góngora y Argote (GAWNG-kuh-rah ee ahr-KOH-tay) was born in 1561 in Córdoba. His father was a graduate of the University of Salamanca and possessed a sizable library. Luis de Góngora also attended the University of Salamanca, where he studied canon law from 1576 until 1580; eventually he may have taken a degree from the University of Córdoba.{$I[AN]9810001901}{$I[A]Góngora y Argote, Luis de}{$S[A]Argote, Luis de Góngora y;Góngora y Argote, Luis de}{$I[geo]SPAIN;Góngora y Argote, Luis de}{$I[tim]1561;Góngora y Argote, Luis de}

Góngora became prebendary of the cathedral at Córdoba when his uncle retired from that position. His duties as a clergyman included travels across Spain, and some of these journeys inspired his poetry and brought him into contact with other writers. In 1593 Góngora met the dramatist Lope de Vega Carpio in Salamanca and disliked him, although Lope admired Góngora.

During the two years that Góngora spent at the royal court in Valladolid, beginning in 1602, he met Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Villegas, a younger poet who satirized Góngora. The cause of the literary rivalry between the two men was their debate over the relative merits of Góngora’s culteranismo and Quevedo’s conceptismo. Culteranismo is a deliberately complicated use of language, while conceptismo is an exaggerated complication of ideas.

In 1611 Góngora gave up his prebendaryship at the cathedral of Córdoba and moved into a country house just outside his native city. At this house, the Huerta de Don Marcos, Góngora wrote the Fable of Polyphemus and Galatea and The Solitudes. These two long poems circulated in Madrid in May, 1613, and the battle between culteranismo (or gongorismo) and conceptismo escalated. In 1617 Góngora moved to Madrid, was ordained a priest, and became royal chaplain. With the death of Philip III, however, Góngora’s contacts at court lost influence. Gambling debts compounded his bad fortune, and his health declined. He returned to Córdoba, where he died in May of 1627.

Góngora wrote more than one hundred examples of each of the following poetic genres: romances, letrillas, and sonnets. He also wrote thirty-three works of arte mayor and three long poems. “The Fable of Pyramus and Thisbe” is distinctive not only because it is the longest of Góngora’s romances, (508 lines) but also because it is a satire of the Baroque tradition in which Góngora wrote. Góngora achieves humor in the poem by introducing grotesque elements into the sad, beautiful love story. Another romance, “Angélica and Medoro,” is based on a passage of Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando and serves Góngora as a vehicle for developing the theme of chivalry.

Góngora’s sonnets deal with traditional love and carpe diem themes. As Góngora traveled around Spain and made contact with courtly society, he dedicated sonnets to important public figures and cities. One sonnet is dedicated to El Greco’s sepulcher and another to the monumental building at El Escorial. Some of Góngora’s most interesting sonnets are literary satires against his rivals, Lope de Vega and Quevedo.

The Fable of Polyphemus and Galatea is one of the two long poems for which Góngora is most remembered. The myth is as old as literature itself, with precedents in Homer’s Odyssey and Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Góngora found the myth’s grotesque contradictions perfect material for his technique of culteranismo. The myth had been revitalized in the Renaissance, and the Baroque period in which Góngora was writing was especially appreciative of the radical contradiction between the external ugliness of the cyclops Polyphemus and his tender love for Galatea.

The Solitudes is the other long poem that Góngora wrote in the country house outside Córdoba between 1611 and 1613, so the title reflects the poet’s condition as he wrote this work. His original plan was to divide the poem into four parts corresponding to the fields, shores, woods, and plains. Góngora finished only the first part and a portion of the second.

The Solitudes is a pastoral poem, a glorification of an Arcadian world that is similar to Don Quixote’s famous speech in praise of the Golden Age. In the first part of The Solitudes, a rejected lover is shipwrecked and taken in by some goatherds. The first part also features a peasant wedding and athletic competitions. In the second part the youth finds himself among fishermen. The rudimentary plot and pastoral setting are adorned with Góngora’s most ambitious stylistic innovations.

At the time of his death in 1627, Góngora was attempting to publish his poetry, a project he never completed. López de Vicuña published Góngora’s poetry in 1627, after the poet’s death, and Pellicer published another edition in 1630. There were other editions of Góngora’s works published in the seventeenth century. A definitive edition of Góngora’s collected works was not published until 1921, when Raymond Foulché-Delbosc edited a collection based on the Chacón manuscript. Antonio Chacón was Góngora’s friend and had collected, in consultation with Góngora, all the poet’s works in a manuscript that was intended to be presented as a gift to the Conde-Duque de Olivares.

BibliographyAlonso, Dámaso. Estudios y ensayos Gongorinos. Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1982. A collection of essays and critical studies of Góngora’s works published in Spanish.Alonso, Dámaso. Góngora y el Polifemo. Madrid: Gredos, 1980. A three-volume biographical and critical study of Góngora focusing on his Fable of Polyphemus and Galatea. Published in Spanish.Foster, David William, and Virginia Ramos Foster. Luis de Góngora. New York: Twayne, 1973. A standard biography. Contains a good annotated bibliography, including entries for several studies in English.Gates, Eunice Joiner. “Góngora’s Polifemo and Soledades in Relation to Baroque Art.” Texas Studies in Language and Literature 2 (1960): 61-77. Situates Góngora’s work within the idiom of the visual arts of his time. Examines the ways in which The Solitudes is a baroque work.Guillén, Jorge. “Poetic Language: Góngora.” In Language and Poetry: Some Poets of Spain. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1961. Printed copy of an essay on Góngora delivered at Harvard by one of the great poets of the Generation of’27.Jones, R. O. Introduction to Poems, by Luis de Góngora y Argote. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1966. This edition has an introduction by a noted expert on Spanish literature.McCaw, R. John. Transforming Text: A Study of Luis de Góngora’s “Soledades.” Potomac, Md.: Scripta Humanistica, 2000. An extensive critical interpretation of Soledades. Includes bibliographical references.Salinas, Pedro. “The Exaltation of Reality: Luis de Góngora.” In Reality and the Poet in Spanish Poetry. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1940. Another of the Generation of ’27, greatly appreciative of and influenced by Góngora, provides insights. This short essay is a good starting place in the appreciation of Góngora’s artistry.Vilanova, Antonio. Las fuentes y los temas del Polifemo de Góngora. Barcelona: PPU, 1992. A two-volume, in-depth critical study of Góngora’s Fábula de Polifemo y Galatea. Published in Spanish.Woods, Michael. Gracián Meets Góngora: The Theory and Practice of Wit. Warminster, England: Aris & Phillips, 1995. A critical study of the use of humor in the works of Góngora and Baltasar Gracián y Morales. Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
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