PRESENTATION OF HISPANIC LITERATURE
 



Latin iberic peninsular book,
translated in the middle ages.

 
   Hispania is the name that the Romans gave to the Iberian Peninsula.
 
This was converted into a Roman province at the end of the 3rd century BC.
 
   From Hispania, the word español was derived, which has been in existence since the beginning of Spanish literature in the Castilian language.
 
   But not all Spanish literature is written in the Castilian language. When Hispania first existed, books were written in Latin, as the peninsula was dependent on Rome. Thus, this is a Spanish book.
 
   This last book was copied, probably by Spanish Visigoths, barbaric Germans who settled in Hispania during the 5th century, and who were to continue writing literature in the Latin language.
 

Book from hispanic hebrews.

Hispanoarabic literature:
Book on the utilities of animals.

 
   Until 1492, it was quite usual to see Jewish communities in Hispania, which maintained their customs as well as their language at the time of writing books. They called the peninsula Sefarad, from where Spanish Hebrew literature originates. This is another Spanish book.
 
   Since the year 711, the Iberian Peninsula was occupied by Moslems, of Arabic tongue. The territory which they occupied – nearly the whole of Hispania- was then called Al-Ándalus, a name which came from a nation of barbarics and vandals – which hardly left a mark on the peninsula. From Al-Ándalus stems the current name of Andalucía. And so, this too is a Spanish book. It's part of Spanish Arabic literature.
 
   Between the 10th and 12th centuries, various dialects of Latin origin coexisted on the peninsula, which fought to assert themselves over the others.
 
Some attained the rank of language, such as Castilian, Catalan, Galician-Portuguese and Basque, although in this last language - which doesn´t derive from Latin or Indo-European, and which is of unknown origin – we know of no books until recent times.

General estoria´s manuscript
of Alfonso X the Sage

The last page of
Cantar de Mío Cid

A page of Libro
del cauallero Zifar

 

   Many of the books written in the 13th century, were written in dialects which have now disappeared, like those from Rioja, Aragon and Leon, etc.
 
   The book, always manuscripted, thus existed until the end of the 15th century.
 
   At the beginning of the 16th century, The Catholic kings asserted that Castilian was to be the principal language in Spain.
 
   For that reason, today Castilian is synonymous with Spanish.

Cover page of the
La Celestina edition

The very first of the Ingenioso
Hidalgo don Quijote
de La Mancha

Cover page with
Gustavo A. Bécquer autograph
Libro de los gorriones

Portuguese literature:
Os Lusiadas

 
   The Kingdom of Portugal has existed since the 12th century and the Portuguese language is a variation of medieval Galician-Portuguese. For political reasons, it is considered a language in its own right. The division between Spain and Portugal broke the identification of Hispania with España. Therefore, when we talk of Hispanic literature, we also include Portuguese. Between 1580 and 1640, Portugal formed part of Spain.
   During the 19th century, romanticism awoke the nationalist feelings of certain Spanish regions, since then Catalan,Galician and Basque literature has developed alongside the predominant Castilian literature.

Euskal Magazine
(1880-1918)

Galician chants
(1863)

Cover drawn by author:
Apeles Mestres
    Apart from during the Franco years (1939-1975) Spanish literature was written in these four languages, although the most representative has always been Castilian.
 

La Atlantida
of Jacint Verdaguer
   Today there is a certain ambiguity: Some critics identify Spanish literature with Castilian literature, and use the nomenclature Hispanic literature for the remaining peninsular languages.
 
   Others consider Spanish literature that which is written in Spain, in any language.
 
   Under the heading Hispanic literature, we also include Hispano-American, Portuguese and Brazilian literature, and that written in Hispania in any language or epoch.
 
   To conclude, it is important to stress that Hispanic literature is simply a branch of Roman literature, that is to say, of Latin derivative languages. Frequently Hispanic literature owes more to European literature than to its own tradition. It is a mistake to lose sight of this European focus.
 
 
 

D.Miguel Pérez Rosado.
Ph. D. in Hispanic Philology.