The literary genres of the Renaissance

The literary genres of the Renaissance

The literary genres of the Renaissance – cultural movement of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Europe – were the novel and poetry, mainly. Within these, an appreciable number of subgenres stood out. Some of them were mystical, ascetic, pastoral, Byzantine, Moorish, picaresque, and chivalric poetry. The literary genres of the Renaissance

Now, the themes dealt with in the productions of these literary genres of the Renaissance exalted life in the country, the enjoyment of the present moment and the appreciation of time.

His cosmogonic vision favored reason over dogmatism, prioritizing scientific curiosity and the exaltation of the earthly world instead of the heavenly.

On the other hand, the aesthetic concept also underwent changes in this period, giving prominence to harmonic and balanced forms. It was a humanist era and in that sense it influenced literature to produce works of great beauty and exaltation of the human figure.

List of literary genres of the Renaissance



The subgenre of mystical poetry corresponds to one of the literary genres of the Renaissance. Its theme was about the pleasures that got the privileged who managed to communicate with God. One of its greatest representatives was San Juan de la Cruz of the Discalced Carmelite order.

Among the most representative works of this writer and religious, stand out Spiritual Canticle (first published in Paris in 1622) Dark Night of the Soul and Living Flame of Love .

However, the content of these texts was very difficult for the readers. After its publication, its author had to write prose treatises to explain the symbolic meaning of each of them.

Thus, in his work Ascent to Mount Carmel , he commented on the first two stanzas of Noche Oscur a. In addition, in Dark Night of the Soul he commented on those same stanzas and the beginning of the third, and in Llama de amor viva , he commented on the homonymous poem.


Ascetic poetry was the literary representation of the philosophical and religious doctrine known as asceticism. This current of thought sought to purify the spirit through the denial of material pleasures or abstinence. The literary genres of the Renaissance

Similarly, he disdained the physiological needs of individuals as being of a lower order.

Through his writings, ascetic poetry tried to bring people to perfection. He encouraged them to strictly comply with Christian obligations and instructed them in how to do so.



The pastoral novel is framed as a subgenre within the group of Renaissance literary genres, specifically within the Renaissance novel.

It was characterized by a theme oriented towards love. The love represented was chaste, naive and idealizing in content, sometimes becoming of the mythological type.

This subgenre owes its name to the theme developed in the eclogues, which were dialogues between shepherds who recounted their love affairs and misadventures.

The atmosphere of these stories was bucolic and country. The presented view of nature was idealized, while society was simple and free from the corruption of city life.

To this subgenre belong  Arcadia (1504) by Jacopo Sannazaro, The Seven Books of Diana (1559) by Jorge de Montemayor and Diana in Love (1564) by Gaspar Gil Polo.

Also included are  La Galatea (1585) by Miguel de Cervantes, La Arcadia (1598) by Lope de Vega and La Constant Amarilis (1607) by Cristóbal Suárez de Figueroa.


Although the chivalric subgenre began in the Middle Ages , it is considered one of the most important literary genres of the Renaissance.

It was based on the narration of the heroic deeds (real or mythical) of knights errant. These represented the idealism of love and heroic behavior that characterized the society of that time.

Within the production of this subgenre, we can highlight Baladro del sabio Merlín with his prophecies (1498) by Juan de Burgos, The four books of the virtuous knight Amadís de Gaula (1508) by Jorge Coci, and Tristán de Leonís (1501) by Juan de Burgos.

Similarly, representative pieces of this period are Palmerín de Oliva (1511) by Francisco Vázquez, Book of the hard-working knight Arderique (1517) by anonymous authorship and Don Quixote (1605), a masterpiece by Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra.


The sentimental novel was another of the important subgenres within the literary genres of the Renaissance. Although inspired by the themes of chivalry, it opts for love feelings leaving aside chivalric feats. In this case, the love that is related is of the courteous, epistolary, sincere, noble and chivalric type.

The compendium of works of this subgenre includes Servant free of love (1440) by Juan Rodríguez del Padrón, Satire of felice and unhappy life (1453) by Pedro de Portugal and Treaty of love by Arnalte and Lucenda (1491) by Diego de San Pedro .

Also noteworthy were Cárcel de amor (1492) by Juan de Flores and Historia de Grisel y Mirabella (1519) by Juan de Flores. The literary genres of the Renaissance


The Byzantine novel mimics a Greek narrative genre. In its theme you can meet extraordinary adventures of young protagonists in love and forcibly separated who travel through strange countries and then meet. The heroes of the plots are legendary, the environment exotic and the writing is cultured and exquisite.

Among others, we can mention in this group of works belonging to the literary genres of the Renaissance Historia de los amores de Clareo y Florisea (1552) by Alonso Núñez de Reinoso and Selva de aventura (1565), by Jerónimo de Contreras.

Similarly, the pilgrim in his homeland (1604) by Lope de Vega, The works of Persiles and Sigismunda (1617) by Miguel de Cervantes and History of the fortunes of Semprilis and Genorodano (1629) by Juan Enríquez de Zúñiga stand out.


The Moorish novel was a subgenre that was very popular in late 16th century Spain. In it the relations between Moors and Christians are told in an idealized way. Peace and understanding of the lifestyle between the two are exalted.

Among the representative works of this subgenre are, among others, El Abencerraje (1565) by Alonso de Villegas, Civil Wars of Granada (first part, 1595) by Ginés Pérez de Hita y Ozmín and Daraja by Mateo Alemán.


The picaresque novel, another of the literary genres of the Renaissance, had its heyday in Spain between the 16th and 17th centuries, although it later spread to the rest of Europe.

It was characterized by narrating the adventures of very humble characters. They faced their daily life and survived thanks to their great cunning.

Some of the productions in this subgenre are La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes y de sus fortunas y adversidades (1554) of anonymous origin, Guzmán de Alfarache (between 1599 and 1604) by Mateo Alemán , and La vida del Buscón (1604-1620) by Francisco de Quevedo when we have the information . The literary genres of the Renaissance

Other works worth mentioning within this group are the Book of entertainment of the rogue Justina (1605) by Francisco López de Úbeda, Life of Don Gregorio Guadaña (1644) by Antonio Enríquez Gómez and Periquillo el de las gallineras (1668) by Francisco Santos .

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