Luis de Gongora
Language Resources

Luis de Góngora

Luis de Góngora was a Baroque Spanish poet who worked in the 16th and 17th centuries. His work is widely known to be related to Culteranismo, which is the infusion of metaphors into the writing to add substance to the text and intrigue the reader. This work is in strong contrast with Conceptismo, a style used by his rival Francisco de Quevedo.

Biography of Luis de Góngora

Luis de Góngora was born in Córdoba in 1561 as part of a rather wealthy family; his father was a judge from high descent and his mother from a slightly lower one. He took on the surname of his mother so he was able to portray his "pure Christian blood", which was of particular issue at the time, which meant that he could access some form of higher education. At the young age of 15 he was ready to study Law at the University of Salamanca. His first bit of recognition came from the excellent writer Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quijote; Cervantes had appreciated Góngora's work as early as 1585, writing about him in his work La Galatea.

In 1605 Góngora was ordained as a priest, after which he spent a short period as the chaplain to the King Phillip III. It is an understatement to say that he had a problem with his life time rival Quevedo; the two were always throwing accusations at each other and Quevedo even went as far as buying the house in which Góngora lived just to have him evicted from it. Needless to say there was no love lost between them and the only thing that marked the end of this rivalry was the death of Góngora in 1627 back in his hometown of Córdoba.

Góngora didn't always have the sense of maturity during his early times as a priest that he found in later life. Instead, he was drawn in by the charms of gambling and soon realized that it was influencing his work to quite a significant degree. Another important milestone for Góngora was his introducing of the formation of the 'Generation of 27', a group of avant garde poets and writers who produced an infusion of excellence that is still highly regarded today.

Style and Works

As we mentioned earlier, Luis de Góngora was one of the main Spanish authors to cultivate the style known as Culteranismo, very much the opposite of Conceptismo; so much so that the style was also called Gongorismo after the author. Culteranismo is a term that comes from the mixing of the words culto (as in cultivated) and Luteranismo (Lutheranism), and was often used by the opposition of this movement to declare it as a heresy against the true form of poetry. The main purpose of this literary style was to try and use an inappropriately large amount of words to express something of little or no value.

Góngora was a huge fan of words and wordplay. He was particularly interested in making neologisms (new words) from Latin and Greek language elements. His rival Quevedo often mocked these words, even publishing a list of them in a sonnet of his. However, his contribution to the Spanish language should not be forgotten as he helped to keep a number of words alive that were dying out or rarely used in his time by including them in more than one of his works, thus making them popular again. Among some of the words that we still use in Spanish today thanks to Góngora include adolescente, brillante, joven and fragmento (English: adolescent, brilliant, youth, fragment). He also enjoyed using hyperbaton in his poetry, which meant breaking the syntactic rhythm of a phrase in order to give more prominence to one element.

Góngora is without doubt one of the most famous Spanish writers and he has often been considered as an undisputable genius who was highly literate in all forms of culture and who helped to enrich the Spanish language with his works. His work even made it across the globe - a difficult feat in those days - and was praised in places like Peru by the author Juan de Espinosa Medrano in the 17th century.

Some of Góngora's work

  • De un Caminante Enfermo que se Enamoro Donde fue Hospedado
  • De la Brevedad Engañosa de la Vida
  • A Jupiter
  • A Don Francisco de Quevedo
  • Señora Doña Puente Segoviana