Gustavo Adolfo Becquer: The transcendence of poetry. [Spanish text]

Date of Completion

January 1991


Literature, Romance




This thesis focuses on the poetry of Gustavo Adolfo Becquer (1836-1870). Becquer is generally perceived as the most representative poet of late Spanish Romanticism. It is a well accepted fact that Romanticism, particularly German, English and French Romanticism initiated modern poetry. While Octavio Paz supports this view in Los hijos del limo, he also argues that in Spanish literature modern poetry begins with Modernism. Paz maintains that Spain's Romanticism did not attain the sophistication it reached in other European countries. Becquer's aesthetics has been acknowledged to have influenced the literary generations that followed him. However, critical studies have not yet fully recognized the profoundly romantic and modern aspects of his poetry. The religious, philosophical and metaphysical dimensions of his poetry are, by in large, ignored. This oversight is due in part to the explicit heuristic method applied by Becquer throughout his poetic work.^ Becquer's idea of poetry resists definition. Poetry, for Becquer, is the divine essence of life, omnipresent yet transcendent. This essence cannot be directly communicated, only suggested. Fragmentation, symbolism, analogy, irony and paradox are means used by Becquer to transmit indirectly the transcendent meaning of poetry. The reader can only reach the essence of poetry by appealing to his own exegetic resources, his own experience, his own sensitivity. Poetry is a call for action. Indeed, Becquer introduces the very modern concept of the reader's creativity in the articulation of literary meaning, a notion previously absent in Spanish literature. His poetry is not a created object, a material artifact, but a self-creating subject.^ The poet cannot create essence for romantics believe that essence precedes existence. The poet can only encounter the divine essence and guide the reader toward it by evoking the feeling that emerges from that contact. Becquer reveals the essence of poetry but, to do so, his creative potential or poetic ego must be sacrificed. The poet is a prophet promising paradise or, as M. H. Abrams puts it, the possibility of a "renovated earth". Influenced by modern critics, such as Octavio Paz, George Gusdorf, Geoffrey Hartman and others, my thesis points out the political implications of this role played by the romantic poet, considering it as a European reaction to rationalism and to the failure of the French Revolution. Paz excluded Spain from this reaction from which modern poetry emerged. My study proposes to show that, with Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, Spain finds a place of honor in the Romantic Movement. ^