Baroque literature is a 17th century prose genre that has several distinctive characteristics when compared to literary styles of earlier centuries. The baroque era is known for the use of dramatic elements in all art forms, and works of baroque literature are generally no exception. Writers of this time period expanded and perfected the uses of allegories with multiple layers of meaning. Smaller-scale metaphors are also frequent trademarks of this genre, and many works of baroque literature focus on humanity's struggle to find deep meaning in existence.
Many stories designated as baroque literature are known for richly detailed descriptions of characters and settings that mirror realistic life rather than fantasy worlds. Baroque era novels and stories therefore fall into the category of realism. Metaphors also became more prominent in baroque era writing in order to inspire both imaginative and speculative thought in the minds of the readers. Several well-known works of literature addressed various religious ideas as well because some baroque writers worked under church patronage as did other types of artists.
The baroque era was the first time period in which different artists were recognized as accomplished virtuosos, and several writers were included in this category. Scholars who study baroque literature often note that it directly addresses the readers' beliefs and assumptions more than other genres from previous eras. Many stories from the baroque era focus on the individual, rather than on a collective group, a feature that reflects changing attitudes during this time period. Baroque literature published in languages other than Latin was also commonplace, reflecting the importance of cultural identity, as well as increasing rates of literacy among people who did not belong to the highest social and economic classes.
Spanish baroque literature is often noted for its themes that reflect on the political and economic landscape of 17th century Spain. Despite successes in colonization and trade during previous centuries, the country had entered a period of stagnation by the beginning of the baroque era. Many Spanish writers created allegories with underlying messages of disappointment in the ideals expressed in Renaissance art and literature. Since the new and innovative ideas from the Renaissance failed to have lasting impressions, Spanish baroque writers often reacted with cynicism that is evident in some of their satirical novels. Increasing rates of disapproval concerning the Spanish monarchy are also themes in several works of literature that became famous before the baroque era ended.