Picaresque Literature of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries Criticism: Context And Development - Essay

Walter L. Reed (essay date 1981)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Reed, Walter L. “The Advent of the Spanish Picaresque.” In An Exemplary History of the Novel: the Quixotic Versus the Picaresque, pp. 43-70. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

[In this essay, Reed discusses the development of the picaresque as an aspect of the development of the novel.]

He has chosen things low and contemptible, mere nothings, to overthrow the existing order.

1 Corinthians 1:28

Lazarillo de Tormes, published in three separate editions in 1554, appeared just before the onset of the Counter Reformation in Spain, and it shows some distinctive features as a...

(The entire section is 15037 words.)

Ulrich Wicks (essay date 1989)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Wicks, Ulrich. “The Picaresque Genre.” In Picaresque Narratives, Picaresque Fictions: A Theory and Research Guide, pp. 3-16. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989.

[In the following essay, Wicks outlines the history of the picaresque narrative, and surveys current debates regarding the specific characteristics of the picaresque.]

It has become a critical commonplace in generic theory to make an obligatory acknowledgment of vicious circularity before being forced to proceed within it. The frustration of this part of the hermeneutic task is succinctly put by Paul Hernadi (paraphrasing Günther Müller) in Beyond Genre (1972): “How can I define tragedy (or...

(The entire section is 7255 words.)

Harry Sieber (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Sieber, Harry. “Literary Continuity, Social Order, and the Invention of the Picaresque.” In Cultural Authority in Golden Age Spain, edited by Marina S. Brownlee and Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, pp. 143-64. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

[In the essay which follows, Sieber approaches the development of the picaresque tradition from a socio-political perspective, suggesting that this literary genre reflected issues relating to the court of Phillip III.]

In the exploration of various interrelations between literature and history in the second half of the sixteenth century in Spain, my main interests are those points of contact between literature as...

(The entire section is 8924 words.)

Giancarlo Maiorino (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Maiorino, Giancarlo. “Picaresque Econopoetics: At the Watershed of Living Standards.” In The Picaresque: Tradition and Displacement, edited by Giancarlo Maiorino, pp. 1-39. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

[In this essay, Maiorino applies the insights of New Historicist scholarship to the picaresque, focusing on Lazarillo de Tormes.]


At the divide between the waning of feudalism and the birth of capitalism, orations on human dignity, praises of folly, seafaring discoveries, and mercantile adventurism set off outbursts of human ingenuity. Merchants in Florence and elsewhere, Jules Michelet wrote at an early stage...

(The entire section is 15505 words.)