Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures


Lía Schwartz

Committee Members

Robert L. Kendrick

José Miguel Martínez Torrejón

Antoni Pizà

Nuria Morgado

Subject Categories

Musicology | Spanish Literature


Early Modern Poetry, Early Music, Hispanic Poetry, Lyric, Affect, Aurality


This dissertation is an attempt to elucidate some aspects of one of the central issues in the history of lyric poetry, which is the complicated interlace of connections between poetry and music. It focusses on the case of early modern Spain, and it studies a large corpus of poetry in Spanish from 1500 to 1700. The corpus includes Renaissance and Baroque poems of many genres and from many sources, both printed and manuscript, by canonical and by lesser known poets, all of which engage with music and musical practice.

I address the questions of how music is involved in poetry’s self-image, how poetry approaches music as subject-matter, and how the centrality of rhetorics, the relevance of affect theory, the circulation of printed music, the presence of visual culture, the influence of Petrarchism, and the aesthetics of the Baroque—among other phenomena—impact the relationship between the two arts.

The ‘Orphans of Orpheus’ from my title are the poets who express a yearning for the music that was once believed to be inseparable from poetry, and who, as I argue, search for different mechanisms to bring it back. In the sixteenth century, when it is possible to conceive poetry and music as two distinct practices, poems are suddenly filled with imagery of sounding instruments, with scenes where the whole universe is depicted as musical, with singers who suspend their listeners in awe. And simultaneously poets become increasingly aware of the aural dimension of their texts, and certain types of sound-patterning become more complex and more highly valued.

Although Orpheus is the paradigm of the musician-poet who is able to move and persuade with his singing, his story is not a story of triumph. I argue that, at a time when poetry often self-identifies as ‘song,’ representing music as not being able to cure the torments of lovesickness or to respond articulately to the sharpest pangs of grief is a way to enact the anxiety of poetry not being able to move the listener, and of words not being able to grapple with the complexity of deep emotion. However, at the same time as the fragility of musical and poetic discourse is performed, a paradox emerges whereby a poem represents its own failure with a very successful use of elaborate conceit and elaborate sound.