Spanish literature: The Nineteenth Century and Romanticism

The Nineteenth Century and Romanticism

During the first years of the 19th cent. the rigors of the Napoleonic occupation virtually snuffed out intellectual creativity in Spain. Then in 1833, with the death of Fernando VII, romanticism swept the country like a grass fire; its ascendancy was dramatic but superficial. Much of the work of the leading romantic authors—Ángel de Saavedra, duque de Rivas, José de Espronceda, and José Zorrilla y Moral—echoed French and English models, but Mariano José de Larra displayed originality in his admirable satirical sketches.

Two gifted post-romantic poets were Rosalía de Castro (writing in Galician) and Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. Larra's sketches were outstanding examples of costumbrismo—the literary depiction of local color, customs, and types—a genre that in Spain led to and was intimately associated with naturalism and realism.

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