Isabel de Sena

on leave fall semester

MA, University of California–Berkeley. PhD, University of California–Santa Barbara. Published works on late medieval and early Renaissance Peninsular literature, as well as Latin American literature (Sarmiento, Altamirano, Manuel de Jesús Galván). Among her translations: Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts (into Portuguese) and Caetano Veloso’s Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil (Knopff, 2002). Taught at King’s College (London), Princeton, and Goucher College; the first resident director of the Sarah Lawrence in Cuba program (2001-04). Currently at work on a bilingual edition of short tales from the Spanish-speaking world. SLC, 1997–

Undergraduate Courses 2019-2020

Spanish

Intermediate Spanish II: Juventud, divino tesoro...

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Taught entirely in Spanish. Taking the Spanish Placement Test either in the fall of 2019 or early in the spring is recommended before interviewing for this class.

This course will explore Latin American and Spanish literature and film that focuses on youth. Readings will include 20th- and 21st-century authors from as broad a range of countries as possible—as well as films—that consider how gender, race, class, and nationality impact how we perceive the young, how they/we are perceived, and how pressing political or ideological issues are conveyed or displaced through images of youth. We will also review some grammar, mostly aimed at improving writing and expressive skills.

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Cuban Literature and Film Since 1959—Vivir y pensar en Cuba

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Taught in Spanish.

Cuba has long exerted a disproportionate fascination for US nationals, perhaps for the world in general. The only socialist country in the Western Hemisphere, Cuba’s relative isolation for decades after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 and the 57-year (and counting) economic embargo imposed by the United States have exacerbated political animosity between Cubans living on the island and the diaspora and have created polarized (and polaroidized) and stereotypical images (black-and-white or in technicolor) that either idealize Cuba as a tropical earthly paradise or denigrate it as a tyrannical dictatorship, a racially integrated island or a landscape of/in ruins, a socialist utopia or nightmarish dystopia leading to massive exodus, and the Caribbean gulag (complete with a US high-security prison in Guantánamo). This course does not aim exclusively to explore and critique these and other ideas about Cuba, though the context is both inevitable and indispensable to fully understand our subject(s). We want to focus on tracing the evolution of Cuba's literature and film since 1959 and learn about how Cubans live and think in/about Cuba. (The title of the course is the title of a Cuban anthology of essays on Cubans born in and raised with the Revolution.) The leaders of the Cuban Revolution were young and consummately aware that literature, film, photography, the visual arts, and popular culture (comics, popular or traditional music) were extraordinarily useful and effective ways to propagate the Revolution at home—especially when one considers that 57% of the population was illiterate—and abroad. We will read a couple of foundational essays (Che Guevara, Fernández Retamar) and excerpts from speeches (Fidel) in order to understand how literature and the arts are ideologically subsumed into the (new) discourse of the nation, how it evolves and changes over several decades, how the new reality impacts and leads to reconfigured genres (testimony, “social realism,” etc.), and the impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet regime and the disastrous effect on Cuba (el período especial). We will explore trends since the 1990s—including contemporary and postmodern voices from the island and those of the diaspora (writing back)—as well as how gender and race have been imagined (or not).

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Previous Courses

Intermediate Spanish II

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

Open to qualified students as determined by a personal interview with the instructor and the results of the Spanish Placement Test (online).

This course is intended for students who have completed roughly two years of college Spanish or the equivalent in high school. Emphasis will be on reading and watching films while broadening your knowledge of primarily Spanish literature and cinema and, at the same time, honing short- to mid-length essay-writing skills in Spanish. (Given the emphasis on reading and writing, this course is also suitable for first years who would like to work in both English and Spanish as part of their first-year experience.) Along the way, we will look into what it means to be “Spanish,” nationalism and other identities (Basque, Catalán), the violence to which the country was subjected during the Civil War, and the pact of silence that followed 36 years of fascist dictatorship (the Franco regime and then the “transición”). How does the country of Opus Dei enact the first European constitutional amendment to legalize gay marriage? And how do immigrants from Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America challenge notions of “the other.” These are some of the questions we will ponder, and you will no doubt come up with others of your own as we move through texts and films. Except for a few theoretical/critical texts in English, all readings will be in Spanish. Second semester, we will focus primarily on Cuba and continue to develop writing skills in Spanish.

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First-Year Studies: States of Emergence, Stages of Emergency

Open , FYS—Year

The Golden Age of Spain, a period lasting roughly 200 years that coincides in its middle part with the Elizabethan era, is a period of extraordinary creativity that reflects, in myriad ways, the wondrous changes taking place—scientific, economic, social, philosophical, literary, and artistic—as the world becomes truly globalized for the first time and the early modern era is born. In Spain, these two centuries span the emergence and lexicalization of a number of new genres: the picaresque; the Moorish and pastoral romances; the exemplary tale; the sonnet form; a wondrous theatrical tradition, la nueva comedia—synchronous with Elizabethan theatre—that produced playwrights like Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Calderón; and of course, Cervantes (playwright, short-story writer, novelist). We will explore the smaller entities “on the ground” that merge and bloom into this explosion of creativity. In the first semester, we will focus primarily on the emergence of a theatrical tradition as medieval fuses into modern; in the second, on the prose and poetry that leads us to a reading of Cervantes’ Don Quixote...naturally.

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Advanced Spanish: Literary and Filmic Genres

Advanced , Seminar—Fall

Strongly recommended: Please take the Spanish Placement Test online prior to signing up for an interview with the instructor.

This course is intended for students who have completed at least two years of college-level Spanish or the equivalent. Emphasis will be on developing short essay-writing skills and different kinds of essays while broadening your knowledge of Spanish and Latin American culture, literature, and film. The readings and films will focus primarily on 20th- and 21st-century Spain and Latin America. Some readings that provide a framework for analysis will be provided, both in English and Spanish, but the course is otherwise taught entirely in Spanish.

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Literature in Spanish: Cuban Literature and Film, 1959 to the Present

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Taught entirely in Spanish. Unless you have taken Advanced Spanish in the fall or are retuning from a semester abroad in a Spanish-speaking country, please take the Spanish Placement Test prior to signing up for an interview with the Instructor.

We will begin this course with an overview of political events and Cuba in relation to Latin America and the United States in the 1950s, read some key texts by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, and then focus on the evolution of literature and film in Cuba over the decades and how they reflect the changing political, social, literary, and artistic landscape.

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