Obscure Configurations of Desire: Notes on the Baroque Mythological Sonnet

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Seventeenth-century Spain produced an impressive amount of mythological poetry with virtually every lyrical genre and all poetic registers represented. In this poetic treasure house we find mythological canciones, sonnets and letrillas alongside minor poetic forms, and serious as well as burlesque versions of famous classical myths such as those of Apollo and Daphne, Narcissus, Ganymede, and Venus and Adonis. The present article takes off from the heuristic thesis that the baroque mythological corpus yields interesting insights into seventeenth-century patterns of thought regarding a series of issues that were at odds with contemporary ideology, but could be related to and explored through classical myth. One such issue was sexual desire, whose representation in literature the theologians at Trent had recently prohibited. The period's interrelation of myth and desire is eloquently documented in contemporary art, which explored the amorous adventures of the pagan gods to create a kind of erudite erotica. Similarly, mythological poetry, epic and drama exploited the stories about the loves of the gods related by ancient poets such as, notably, Ovid. However, one genre in particular cultivated the relation between myth and desire: the sonnet.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOrbis Litterarum
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)290-312
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


  • baroque
  • classical myth
  • desire
  • poetry
  • sonnet


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