Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Foreign Languages and Literatures

First Advisor

Joseph V. Ricapito

Second Advisor

C. Christopher Soufas


The exploration of the epistemological assumptions necessary for the interpretation of Luis de Gongora's "Soledades" is an area of critical attention that has gone virtually neglected since his 1927 "rehabilitation." This study offers an approach to understanding the long, difficult poem and the bitter critical reaction against it in the context of the seventeenth-century shift of predominant epistemologies discussed by Michel Foucault in The Order of Things. An approach that focuses on how the world is known is most appropriate to a study of the "Soledades" for several reasons, one being that those writers who attacked the poem did so on the basis of its resistance to understanding. Another justification is that the poem's narrative is the story of a protagonist who interprets the strange world in which he is shipwrecked. A third reason is that in Gongora's "Carta" in defense of the work he places unusual emphasis on the process of interpretation. An epistemological focus is also appropriate since questioning the very basis of one's knowledge of the world is, I believe, precisely what the "Soledades" required of their seventeenth-century readers. The dissertation is an attempt to substantiate that belief. The first chapter discusses the Golden Age change in epistemological assumptions, laying the basis for my analysis. Chapter Two and Three examine the writings of participants--both attackers and defenders--in the vicious critical polemic that erupted when the poem appeared, exploring the role of the writers' epistemological assumption as a foundation for their disagreement. The final chapters are a dual reading, both of the "Soledades" (which is its protagonist's "reading" of the world), and of a hypothetical reader's attempts to interpret the poem by imposing on it an ordering structure. The reading reveals how the poem tightly controls the reader's hermeneutic activity, and also forces the reader to be aware of his/her responsibility for the construing of meaning, a posture alien to predominant assumptions about meaning and knowing the world in the seventeenth century.