HERRERA, Fernando de

HERRERA, Fernando de
Fernando de Herrera, a Spanish poet and precursor of Luis de Gongora's* pure poetry, or culteranismo, also established himself as the father of Spanish literary criticism with his Anotaciones of Garcilaso de la Vega s* works. Born in Seville of a family considered socially marginal, Herrera seldom left his city of birth. He was basically self-educated, for example, attending a tertulia (an artistic salon) for lack of a local university. It was there that he encountered writers, artists, humanists, and editors. Around 1599 he supposedly met and fell in love (platonically) with the countess of Gelves, who subsequently became the principal object of his poetry. In any case, he wrote little poetry after her death in 1581, and the limited prose he wrote during that period was mostly lost. The priest s minor orders he took provided him with the time to dedicate his life to study and writing.
Herrera s contributions to Western culture hinge partially on his poetry and its anticipation of culteranismo, but more on the theoretical norms he established with his Anotaciones to his 1580 edition of the Obras de Garcilaso de la Vega. His poetry has often been defined as mannerist and erudite. It strives for per­fection of form and sound, employs many adjectives and much rhetoric, uses a cultured vocabulary, and appears unconcerned with expression of sincere feel­ing. His best-known poetry is his Neoplatonic love lyrics, in which Leonor embodies beauty and perfection and leads her love spiritually upward. Herrera also composed patriotic poems such as "La canción por la victoria de Lepanto" and "La cancion por la perdida del rey Don Sebastian." He utilized a great variety of meters, particularly those Italianate forms adapted previously by Juan Boscan and Garcilaso. The only edition of his poetry that Herrera himself pub­lished was his Algunas obras (1582). In 1619 a more inclusive posthumous edition appeared.
His 1580 Anotaciones of Garcilaso s poetry explains the theory behind Her­rera s own poetry. This commentary also helps legitimize the use of the vulgar language for aristocratic literature and raise Spanish poetry to the level of Italian poetry. These commentaries codified Garcilaso's poetry and defended his use of a variety of models by emphasizing Garcilaso s triumph over his predeces­sors. At the same time, Herrera used his commentaries subversively in order to revise Garcilaso s place in the literary canon. For example, he attacked the myths of the courtier-poet, highlighting the need for men exclusively dedicated to letters. In general, he presented Garcilaso as the most recent and quite worthy but not last figure in the tradition, thereby leaving open room for successors, perhaps including himself.
A. Bianchini, "Herrera: Questions and Contradictions in the Critical Tradition," Caliope 1 (1995): 58-71.
I. Navarette, "Decentering Garellaso: Herrera's Attack on the Canon," PMLA 106 (1991):
Lydia Bernstein

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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