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Antonio Carreira

Culteranismo/Conceptismo: a Golden Age literary confrontation URL:

In order to learn about distant periods of time like the Golden Age, there are only two possible ways: the first one, difficult and limited to specialists, is checking the texts and para-texts, impressions and manuscripts, to bring out conclusions, which are always subject to error due to any deficient information. The second one, which os more common, consists in trusting what the the manuals say, the readers digests that do the work for us. Anyhow, in the same way that Spanish language dictionaries always go back to the origin, the Diccionario de Autoridades, also the manuals copy from each other and go all the way back to Menéndez Pelayo, who in this case faced an easy antinomy  proposed during the 18th century by the Marquis de Valdeflores: culterans on one side, and conceptists on the other. Later on, there were those who assigned commanders to each side, and this way it was possible to play wars, something we have been doing for more than a century already. It is now about time to explain that things did not occur as it has been traditionally told. If a writer from those times was to raise from the grave and listen to the fact that conceptists fought against those who were not conceptists, would not understand anything and laugh. In the Spanish literature of the first decades of the 17th century there were trends, one of them as a result from the influence of Gongora, which reached all parts and literary genres. But all were aware that this trend was particularily prominent for being conceptist. It is worth noting that in those times, the word concept has a different meaning from the one it later acquired in Philosophy: a rhetoric meaning, and in no way restricted neither to Spain nor to literature. In the outside of this influence by Gongora, there were those who preferred a much closer and understandable style in which the presence of the classics would be less conspicuous, this is, less aimed at a minority. We should remember that in these times there were two types of men of letters: On one side, we have the cults, with a strong Latin basis, and on the other, the Romanticists, among which paradoxically the illiterate were not missing.  In the same way, among the public there were also those that remained loyal to a simple language and attached to the vernacular traditions, and those who preferred the complexity arriving from Italy and cultivated by humanists. Among the later, Gongora and his followers introduced sometimes dazzling novelties, but other proposals were not that well received or considered improper due to going against the most rancid treaties derived from Aristoteles, Cicero, Hermogenes, and their Italian commentators. This was the origin of the most significant confrontation of the 17th century, in which Quevedo curiously did not participate extensively, in comparison to Jáuregui or Lope de Vega.

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