Some early examples of vernacular Romance-based literature include short snippets of Mozarabic Romance (such as refrains) sprinkled in Arabic and Hebrew texts. Other examples of early Iberian Romance include the Glosas Emilianenses written in Latin, Basque and Romance.

Early Medieval literature in Christian Iberia was written in Latin, which remained as the standard literary language up until the mid-13th century, whereas Ibero-Romance vernaculars and Basque were spoken. A decisive development ensued in the 13th century in Toledo, where Arabic scholarship was translated to the local vernacular, Castilian. In the scope of lyric poetry Castilian co-existed alongside Galician-Portuguese across the Crown of Castile up until the 16th century. The Romance variety preferred in Eastern Iberia for lyrical poetry, Occitan, became increasingly Catalanised in the 14th and 15th centuries. Major literary works from the Middle Ages include the Cantar de Mio Cid, Tirant lo Blanch, The Book of Good Love and Coplas por la muerte de su padre. Genres such as Mester de Juglaría and Mester de Clerecía were cultivated.

Promoted by the monarchs in the late Middle Ages and even codified in the late 15th century, Castilian (thought to be widespread known as ‘Spanish’ from the 16th century on) progressively became the language of the power elites in the Iberian Peninsula, further underpinning its prestige as the language of a global empire in the early modern period, which ushered in a Golden era of Castilian literature in the 16th and 17th centuries, also in the science domain, eclipsing Galician and Catalan.

Famous Early Modern works include La Celestina and Lazarillo de Tormes. The famous Don Quijote de La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes was written in this time. Other writers from the period are: Francisco de Quevedo, Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca or Tirso de Molina.

During the Enlightenment we find names such as Leandro Fernández de Moratín, Benito Jerónimo Feijóo, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos or Leandro Fernández de Moratín.

Baby steps of Spanish Romantic literature (initially a rebellion against French classicism) have been traced back to the last quarter of the 18th century, even if the movement had its heyday between 1835 and 1850, waning thereafter.

In a broader definition encompassing the period from 1868 or 1874 to 1936, the so-called Silver Age of Spanish Culture ensued.

The waning of Romantic literature was followed by the development of Spanish Realism, which offered depictions of contemporary life and society ‘as they were’, rather than romanticised or stylised presentations. The major realist writer was Benito Pérez Galdós. The second half of the 19th century also saw the resurgence of the literary use of local languages other than Spanish under cultural movements inspired by Romanticism such as the Catalan Renaixença or the Galician Rexurdimento. Rarely used before in a written medium, the true fostering of the literary use of the Basque language had to wait until the 1960s, even if some interest towards the language had developed in the late 19th century.

20th-century authors were classified in loose literary generations such as the Generation of ’98, the Generation of ’27, Generation of ’36 and the Generation of ’50.

Premio Planeta de Novela and Miguel de Cervantes Prize are the two main awards nowadays in Spanish literature.

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