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Love, Death, and Desire in the Golden Age

Module Code: HP317
Module Name: Love, Death, and Desire in the Golden Age
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

Why do rejected lovers so often want to die? How did Spain respond to the Petrarchan model of love we know from Shakespeare, and what do these male-dominated views of love look like from a female perspective? And when a love match is ill-fated or socially impossible, what are the consequences of pursuing it?

These essential questions offer a way into some of the most vibrant and dynamic literature of Golden-Age Spain, where love and desire were central themes, but were often seen as illicit or impossible. We begin by exploring how Hispanic writers reacted to Italian trends, as the Petrarchan model of a despairing lover rejected by his beloved provoked a brilliantly inventive response in Spain, from enthusiastic imitation to subversion and parody. We will explore the female perspective on this model offered by the short stories of María de Zayas, and see how mystical writers redeploy the language of human desire to describe their relationship with the divine. In drama, the problem of forbidden love formed the basis for plays of vastly different kinds, from Lope de Vega’s fast-paced comedy El perro del hortelano to his brilliant tragic masterpiece El castigo sin venganza. It also underpinned some of the most popular stories from mythology, and we will close by examining the balance of tragedy, artistry, and humour in three outstanding versions of mythological tales, including Góngora’s brutal burlesque of Hero and Leander, and his magnificent Fábula de Polifemo y Galatea.

Assessment Method

1,000-1,250 word commentary (20%) and 3,000-3,500 word essay (80%)