How are the terms "early modern", "renaissance" and "baroque" usually interpreted?

Expert Answers
belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In literature, these terms have slightly different meanings than in history, art, or architecture. We will focus on the literary meanings here.

Baroque is the artistic display of confidence and dynamic emotion; it can be described as the removal of humble inhibition to dwell on inner feelings and bring hidden strengths to light. Baroque literature leaned heavily on allegory and symbolism to show new ideas, such as the conflict of humanity and the power of the individual. Father António Vieira in Portugal, Giambattista Marino in Italy, and Francesc Fontanella in Spain are some of the important Baroque authors.

The Renaissance took place between the 14th and 17th centuries, and in literature is exemplified by the spread of reading with the printing press. Before this, reading was an elite skill, but with books widely available and cheap, literature became commonplace. While religious and philosophical works were the most common, there was also a wider spread of popular and humorist literature, as well as drama. Martin Luther in Germany and William Shakespeare in England were the most important Renaissance authors.

Early Modern refers to the period around the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, and covers Baroque as a style. Basically, Early Modern shows the Novel as the dominant literary art form, where before it was the exception, and is characterised by humor, drama, wild adventure, and the spread of factual knowledge instead of assumption. Miguel de Cervantes in Spain, Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe in England, and Jacopo Peri in Italy are the most important Early Modern Authors.