Spanish

Sarah Lawrence College’s courses in Spanish cover grammar, literature, film, music, and translation—all with the aim of making students more capable and confident in thinking, writing, and expressing themselves in Spanish. Each of the yearlong courses integrates activities such as panel discussions, lectures, and readings with classroom discussion and conference work to provide students with stimulating springboards for research and study.

Spanish 2021-2022 Courses

Advanced Intermediate Spanish: Political Creativity

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits | Hybrid Remote/In-Person

This course looks at ways in which individuals and communities across the Spanish-speaking world have gotten creative about politics and political about creativity. Students will develop analytic skills and explore social-justice issues through the literature, film, music, and visual art of Miguel Ángel Asturias, Gloria Anzaldúa, Nancy Morejón, Sara Gómez, Rebecca Lane, Yásnaya E. Aguilar Gil, Lia Garcia La Sirena, and many more. We will also learn about the politically creative actions of communities and organizations working outside the structures of the nation state; an important aspect of this course will be engaging with activist efforts in real time. Students will produce both critical and creative written work. This discussion-based course will be conducted in Spanish and is intended for students who wish to further hone their communication and comprehension skills through advanced grammar review.

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Advanced Beginning Spanish: Forms of Culture in the Information Age

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This course is designed for students who have taken Spanish before but need to review the essentials of grammar and develop effective communicative skills at a post-elementary level. The course will start with a thorough review of the basics of Spanish morphology and syntax. Vocabulary building will take place through an intensive program of readings that will include the study and analysis of poems, song lyrics, newspaper articles, short stories, and adapted novellas. The linguistic exploration of those materials will be complemented by the active exploitation of musical compositions, excerpts of scripts, and the viewing of films and selected episodes of TV series. All forms and manifestations of culture originated all over the Spanish–speaking world—fashion, art, film, music, photography, theatre, science, politics, comics, video games, gastronomy, etc.—will be the objects of our attention. These and other forms of cultural expression will be incorporated into the course of study, as long as Spanish is the vehicle of expression. The syllabus will be complemented by contributions from students, who will be encouraged to locate materials suitable to be jointly exploited by the class as a whole. Weekly conversation sessions with the language assistant are a fundamental part of this course. Students will complete guided conference projects in small groups and also have access to individual meetings to address specific grammar topics.

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Beginning Spanish: A Glimpse Into the Hispanic World through its Language and Culture

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This course aims to introduce students to the language and culture of the Spanish-speaking world and to promote the development of students’ communicative competence in Spanish. Additionally, the objective is to improve students’ intercultural understanding of—and social conscience about—problems that affect this cultural complex. From the beginning, students will be in touch with authentic Spanish-language films, TV shows, comics, and poems, as well as short literary and nonliterary texts. Throughout the semester, we will actively implement a wide range of techniques aimed at creating an atmosphere of dynamic oral exchanges. Grammatical structures will be taught by resorting to everyday situations and by the incorporation of a wide set of functional-contextual activities. Group conferences will help hone conversational skills, focusing on individual needs. Watching films, documentaries, and episodes of popular TV shows, as well as listening to podcasts and reading blogs and digital publications, will take place outside the seminar meetings and serve as material for class discussions and debates. Weekly conversation sessions with the language assistant are an integral part of the course, since the emphasis of the course is on the communicative approach.

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Intermediate Spanish I: Latin American and Spanish Visual Culture

Intermediate, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This course is intended for students who have had at least one year of college-level Spanish or the equivalent and who wish to review and expand the fundamentals of the Spanish language. With this, Latin American and Spanish comics, films, and TV shows—such as La casa de las Flores from Mexico, Paco Roca’s Los surcos del Azar, or Luis Ortega’s El Ángel—will provide the cultural and historical background for discussion in class. Films and TV shows work especially well for teaching language, because they can be used to quickly introduce or reinforce vocabulary or a grammatical point and also show their use, in context, by native speakers. Besides, space restrictions force comic-strip writers to get to the point, making comics a perfect source of useful vocabulary. The goal that most comic writers have of appealing to as many readers as possible also means that comics are a perfect source of basic, everyday terms and expressions. Students will gain key vocabulary for discussing cultural objects, write descriptive profiles, and even make their own comic book or record a podcast in Spanish. In addition, students will watch films, TV shows, and read comics outside the seminar meetings in order to reinforce the work that we do in class. Individual conference meetings will offer students an opportunity to complete independent research projects and to address individual language-acquisition needs. Weekly conversation sessions with a language assistant are also an integral part of the course.

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Literatures From the Spanish-Speaking World: Poetry and the Short Story

Advanced, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits | Hybrid Remote/In-Person

This seminar will operate as an introduction to the literatures of the Spanish-speaking world, centered on the study of two of its mainstays: the formation of the poetic canon and the tradition of the short story. We will examine the development of both forms of literary expression concurrently, paying attention to the most-important moments in the literary history of Latin America and Spain. In our exploration, we will not proceed in strict chronological order but, rather, focus on pivotal phases that illustrate the amalgamation of cultures and idioms that converge in the crystallization of the rich body of literatures produced in the score of nations that share Spanish as their vehicle of cultural expression. The point of departure will be the rise of modernismo at the end of the 19th century, when the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío became the pilot of the language, moving its center of gravity to Latin America after establishing a direct connection with vital centers of European literature, like France. The second pivotal moment of our journey will take us to the 20th century with figures like César Vallejo, who broke all stereotypes of poetic creation, establishing an idiom whose influence continues to be felt today. Along with his poetic output, we will study that of poets as influential as Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, Rosario Castellanos, Alejandra Pizarnik, Federico García Lorca, Juan Ramón Jiménez, and José Lezama Lima, among other towering names. We will continue our exploration of the poetic traditions of Latin America and Spain by studying the fascinating relationship between the present time and crucial moments from the past, including early manifestations such as the ancient jarchas, Iberian compositions in vernacular romance preserved in Arabic characters, or the unsurpassable anonymous authors of the beautiful medieval ballads that constitute the Romancero, as well as authors of Jewish origin such as don Sem Tob. Another important moment of our trajectory will consist of an examination of the roots and ramifications of realismo mágico, a form of expression that once defined the literary expression of Latin America and later reformulated by subsequent generations of writers. The last phase of the journey will consist of an investigation of the most recent forms of poetic expression as they occur in new forms of communication, from social networks to all kinds of outlets derived from technological sources and platforms. In each of these phases, the study of the poetic canon will have its counterpart in an exploration of the sister genre of the short story.

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Literatures From the Spanish-Speaking World: The Novella

Advanced, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits | Hybrid Remote/In-Person

This seminar will focus on the analysis of some of the fundamental narrative works from the Spanish-speaking world, with a special emphasis on the novella and other forms of short fiction. In our approach, we will explore the multiple cultural and historical connections that have always linked the literary traditions of Latin America and Spain. Chronologically, the works under study will belong to several time periods. Our journey will start with the extraordinary explosion of narrative modes brought about by the authors of the so-called “boom” in the middle of the 20th century, when the contours of magical realism began to take shape and consolidate. Once we finish studying a number of masterpieces written in that mode, we will proceed to the next phase when new forms of expression emerged, studying the multiple connections of Spanish-language authors with world literature and culminating with the revolution brought about by women writers, whose transformation of the canon has crystallized in fascinating new forms of expression. We will finish the semester with an in-depth examination of the current state of affairs in the Spanish-language novel and its complex relationship with other literary traditions in a context of intense transnational, transatlantic, and transcontinental exchange. Works under study will include novellas and other forms of short fiction by María Luisa Bombal, Alejandra Pizarnik, Gabriel García Márquez, Juan Rulfo, Julio Cortázar, Roberto Bolaño, César Aira, Alejandro Zambra, Guadalupe Nettel, Cristina Rivera Garza, Roberto Artl, Horacio Quiroga, and Felisberto Hernández, among others.

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Environmental Politics, Informality, and Democracy in Brazilian History

Open, Seminar—Fall

When wildfires spread across the Brazilian Amazon in the summer of 2019, international concern spread rapidly. Containing more than one-third of the world’s primary rain forest, Brazil has featured prominently in hopes for a carbon-neutral future. Yet, Brazil is also home to a complicated past. Since the colonial era, inequality and authoritarianism have competed with democratic reforms and populist social movements. From the occupation of urban favelas by poor families to the development practices of wealthy corporations, legal reforms have often given way to the politics of informality—gray areas beyond the law. How have these politics enabled democracy, and how have they subverted it? And what have they meant for environmental conservation efforts? This course seeks to peel back the layers of informal politics in Brazilian history, with specific attention to the intersection of informal practices, democracy, and environmental politics in the present. We will begin by examining indigenous environmental practices before 1492 and continue with the Iberian glorifications of the walled city as a site of order and the social implications of sugar production and slave society. We will continue by examining the rise of populism in the 1930s; slum clearance in the 1940s and ’50s; contemporary indigenous social movements; and the explosion of drug traffic, gentrification, and deforestation in a neoliberal age. Along the way, we will trace the destruction of Brazil’s once vast Atlantic Forest near Rio de Janeiro, the rise of the Green Party in Brazilian politics, and future prospects for the Amazon. The course makes use of a variety of sources, including scholarship, films, and novels, with a critical analysis of urban popular music..

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Revolutions in Cuba: Local Origins, Global Fault Lines

Open, Seminar—Fall

Beginning in 1959, rebels in Cuba toppled a dictatorship, defied the United States, and shocked the world. Six decades later, the Cuban Revolution’s contested legacy is enough to tilt the balance in US presidential elections—a symbol of tyranny for some and of hope for others. This course looks beyond simplistic narratives of a singular “Cuban Revolution.” Rather, it considers longstanding tensions between radicalism and conservatism in Cuban history, tracing their interplay with global movements such as antislavery, decolonization, and Marxism. Beginning with the antislavery movement in the broader Caribbean, course topics will include the contours of US imperialism, the rise of mambo and the Mafia, the politics of Cuban/West African religious practice, the limits of guerrilla warfare, radical economic reforms in practice, postrevolutionary contradictions in gender equality, LGBTQ rights and prostitution reform, and Cuba’s military role in Africa. We will conclude with the recent rise of Cuban hip hop as a new social movement. Throughout the course, we will assess when the Cuban Revolution began—and did it ever end? Did revolutionary leaders empower movements for gender, racial, and labor rights—or limit them? Did they conform to international currents of totalitarian rule—or foster new forms of democratic solidarity within the so-called “Third World”? Analyzing scholarship, testimonials, music, artistic movements, poetry, novels, and film, we will use the tools of history to construct competing narratives of revolution in Cuba and trace fault lines and possibilities of Global South solidarity.

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Liberations: Contemporary Latin America

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

After the military regimes that swept Latin America came to an end in the last quarter of the 20th century, a new era of liberation emerged. The transition to democracy and the broad-based coalitions then formed renewed the hopes and expectations of justice, equality, and freedom that had been shattered by torture, censorship, and state power. But the era that emerged from those transitions—and which is coming to an end—is full of contradictions. Alongside the liberation of prisoners and the press and the return to party politics came the demise of social revolution and the retreat of the left. Alongside the liberalization of markets and the so-called neoliberal reforms came innovative social policies and a multiplicity of social movements, the most salient of which were led by indigenous groups and peasant-based organizations. Similarly, the ascendancy and hegemony of liberal ideas and policies gave rise to a new left, which brought the world’s attention back to Latin America with its combination of growth and equality. This course will examine the dynamics of revolution and counterrevolution in which contemporary Latin America emerged; study the origins of neoliberalism in Latin America and its economic and political repercussion; delve in the contradictions of the democratic transitions and its legacies; and explore the new rural, labor, feminist, and indigenous movements that challenged both neoliberalism and democracy.

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First-Year Studies: Difficult Womxn of the Americas

Open, FYS—Year

Difficult womxn go against the grain: They make noise. They make trouble. They challenge categories, preconceptions, and assigned roles and shine light where some would rather not look. Through novels, films, and essays by thinkers and artists like Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Octavia Butler, Cristina Rivera Garza, Judith Butler, Lucrecia Martel, Frida Kahlo, Sara Gómez, Margaret Atwood, and Lia Garcia La Sirena, this course will explore questions of gender, labor rights, race, borders, bodies, and environmental issues, among others. Students will learn how to analyze cultural objects and theory, to build arguments around plot elements or imagery, and to ground their analysis effectively in social and cultural contexts. The course will combine one-on-one conference work with group activities and exercises designed to introduce students to the resources available to them at the College, take advantage of New York City’s cultural offerings, and improve their writing skills through workshops.

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Mathematics and Jorge Luis Borges

Open, Seminar—Fall

The works of Jorge Luis Borges, the highly influential 20th-century Argentine writer, feature imaginatively intelligent and deeply provocative use of mathematical ideas and imagery. Borges’s writings—primarily short stories, essays, and poetry—describe fictitious worlds that warp standard notions of time, space, and existence and reveal the unavoidable friction between competing notions at the heart of modern mathematics: the infinite versus the finite versus the infinitesimal (set theory); the discrete versus the continuous (calculus); the reasonable versus the paradoxical (logic); the Euclidean versus the otherworldly (geometry); the symmetric versus the distorted (fractals, chaos); the convergent versus the divergent (limits, series); the improbable versus the impossible (combinatorics, probability). In short, this seminar will explore various fundamental and foundational topics in mathematics from a Borgesian perspective. Student conference projects for this seminar may focus upon the mathematical themes in the works of other writers or explore any mathematically-themed subject.

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Decolonizing Philosophy

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this course, we will think about the various strategies for reforming the philosophical “canon” with decolonial aims in view. Some of the questions that will guide our discussions throughout the semester are: How does academic decolonization differ from political decolonization? What are the connections between philosophy as an academic discipline and the historical reality of colonialism? Does decolonial theory require a break with the Western tradition of thought? And, if not, what are the advantages and disadvantages of remaining in dialogue with the Western “canon”? What are the various decolonizing strategies, and what goals do they enact? In the first half of the course, we will read a variety of key texts within decolonial theory that propose very different answers to these questions. Some of the thinkers we will look at include Walter Mignolo, Marisa Belausteguigoitia, Audre Lorde, Kwasi Wiredu, Lewis Gordon, and Nadia Yala Kisukidi. The second half of the course then moves on to put into practice one strategy for decolonizing philosophy in order to allow us to engage these questions more concretely. This strategy involves reading “canonical” texts of European phenomenology—including texts by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger—through the lens provided by decolonial thinkers such as Paulin Hountondji, Frantz Fanon, and Mariana Ortega. Beyond equipping students with the tools to think critically about canon formation and the meaning of academic decolonization, this course will familiarize students with seminal texts in Latinx and Africana traditions of decolonial theory, as well as with critical and decolonial phenomenology.

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