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 2023-2024 Courses

Advanced Beginner Spanish: Cultures in Context

Open, Seminar—Year | 5 credits

This class is for students who have had some experience with Spanish but are still laying the foundations of communication and comprehension. We will do a thorough review of basic grammatical, lexical, and syntactical concepts at a more accelerated pace than the regular Beginning Spanish class. Working with music, visual art, film, and newspaper articles from both Latin America and Spain, students will develop the ability to navigate real-life situations and will expand their vocabulary through group exercises with a communicative focus. Weekly conversation sessions are also a fundamental part of this course.


Beginning Spanish

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

The aim of this course is to enable students without previous knowledge of the language to develop the skills necessary to achieve effective levels of communication in Spanish at a basic level. From the start, students will be in touch with authentic language materials in the form of films, TV series, video clips, documentaries, newspaper articles, and songs, as well as short stories and poems. In the regular class meetings, we will actively implement a wide range of techniques aimed at creating an atmosphere of dynamic oral exchange. The study of grammar will take place by combining the theoretical study of morphological and syntactic structures with the exploitation of everyday situations through the incorporation of a wide set of functional-contextual activities and resources. An important component of this class is group work. Students will participate in several collaborative projects with fellow members of the class throughout the semester. Weekly conversation sessions with the language assistant are an integral part of the course.


Intermediate Spanish: Contemporary Issues in Latin America

Intermediate, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

Prerequisite: placement test taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester

This course is designed for students who have at least one year of Spanish at the college level or more in high school. Through extensive grammar review and engagement with authentic materials, students will broaden their vocabulary, hone their verbal and written communication, as well as improve their reading and analytical skills. We will discuss topics relevant to Latin American societies—such as health, education, migration, environmental concerns, gender and sexuality, race, historical memory, and technology—through poetry, short stories, documentaries, films, music, and legislation. We will carefully discuss the cultural productions of Samanta Schweblin, Andrés Wood, Valeria Luiselli, Elizabeth Acevedo, Sebastián Borensztein, and Cristina Cabral, among many others. In addition to class time, you will complete an individual conference project each semester and attend a conversation session every week with a language tutor.


Advanced Intermediate Spanish: The Caribbean Beyond the Tropics

Intermediate, Seminar—Year | 5 credits

Prerequisite: placement test to be taken during fall interview week

What is the reality of the Caribbean beyond stereotypes of a tropical paradise for vacationers from abroad? What can the region teach us about art, politics, and revolution? In this class, we will consider different definitions of, and approaches, to the Caribbean and its positioning in relation to Latin America, Europe, and the United States regarding questions of race and ethnicity, colonialism and slavery, revolution, gender and sexuality, migration, and diaspora. We will analyze literature, theory, art, film, and music by the likes of Alejo Carpentier, Fernando Ortiz, Wilfredo Lam, and Sarah Gómez. This discussion-based course is intended for students who wish to further hone their communication and comprehension skills through advanced grammar review.


Advanced Spanish: Latin American Female Artistic Productions

Advanced, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

Prerequisite: placement test to be taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester

In this seminar, we will analyze how Latin American women reflected on traditional gender roles, heteronormative standards, intricate racial systems, class dynamics, technology, and environment concerns in their literary and cinematographic works. Through advanced grammar review and writing workshops, students will hone their communication, analytic, and essay-writing skills in Spanish. Readings include texts by Aida Cartagena Portalatín, Cristina Cabral, Gabriela Mistral, and María Fernanda Ampuero; films include La ciénaga, El último verano de la Boyita, and Fever Dream, among many others. Students will complete an individual project.


Advanced Spanish- Black Presence and Representations in Contemporary Latin American and Latinx Cinema

Advanced, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

Prerequisite: placement test taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester

What lessons can we draw from contemporary Latin American and Latinx films about Black subjects’ perceived and actual presence in these societies? How can the seventh art shape our perceptions and understanding of hegemonic ideologies about Blackness circulating in Latin American societies? In this seminar, we will critically reflect on these questions by analyzing films produced in the last two decades centering on the theme of Afro-Latin American and Afro-Latinx’s nuanced experiences. Alongside learning the vocabulary and developing tools for basic film analysis, we will discuss polemics around authorship in cinema. Through advanced grammar review and writing workshops, students will hone their communication, analytic, and essay-writing skills in Spanish. Films include Afroargentinos, Chocó, Pelo malo, Entre fuego y agua, and La soledad, among many others. Students will complete an individual project.


First-Year Studies: Literatures of the Spanish-Speaking World in Context


In this course, we will examine fictional works from all over the Spanish-speaking world, as well as a small number of representative Luso-Brazilian texts originally written in Portuguese. We will begin our exploration by reading pioneering works by Fernando Pessoa (Portugal) and Emilia Pardo-Bazán (Spain). We will then proceed to study the legacy of foundational authors of the Latin American canon, including Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina), Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia), Juan Rulfo (Mexico), and María Luisa Bombal (Chile). As we read, we will analyze the sociopolitical and aesthetic implications of a number of concepts associated with the literatures of the Spanish-speaking Americas—such as the notion of “magical realism,” a term that needs careful deconstruction since it has profound connections with forms of fantasy practiced globally in different literary traditions. We will pay careful attention to the African and indigenous roots of the Latin American imagination as it blended with the legacy of European literature. Fiction written by women authors will constitute one of our main lines of investigation. In this context, we will study fictions by Clarice Lispector (Brazil), Rosario Ferré (Puerto Rico), and Rosario Castellanos (México), among others. The essential goal of this course is to acquire and develop critical reading and writing skills. Active participation in class debates on the different literary texts under study will be an essential factor of the course work. Throughout the semester, you will be required to keep a handwritten journal in which you will record your trajectory in the class. Periodically, you will write short, formal reflections and analytical commentaries discussing aspects of the books read (frequency to be determined). We will meet in individual conferences on a weekly basis in the fall and biweekly in the spring. Each term, you will work on a specific project whose nature and scope will be discussed with me at the beginning of each term. At the end, you will produce a paper in the form of an essay (length to be determined). After a thorough examination of canonical texts in the fall, the spring semester will center on the study of recent Latin American literary works and their connections with fiction produced in other parts of the world.


Concepts of the Mind: How Language and Culture Challenge Cognitive Science

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

How does the human mind represent the world? And how do these representations vary across people? Could knowing a different language change how we experience time or even how we see color? Even seemingly simple concepts like “in” vs. “on” mean different things in different cultures, and words like “one” and “two” may not be linguistically universal. Indeed, the very course description that you are reading makes culturally-specific assumptions about psychology and implicitly assumes objectivity. At the same time, humans seem to share certain core experiences, such as perceiving events, creating categories, and recalling the past. Which aspects are shared, and which are unique? In this course, we will draw on research from psycholinguistics, cognitive development, and cultural psychology to learn cognitive science in a larger context. Critically, we will consider how each of those fields have been severely constrained by an emphasis on white, Western, industrialized experiences. We will investigate the broader social and ethical consequences of these assumptions and explore insights and challenges that emerge when we step out of this limited perspective. We’ll draw on primary and secondary sources, including research articles, literature, videos, raw experimental data, and audio recordings. Students will develop projects in conference work that combine their interests with the course content, such as designing an experiment to test cross-linguistic differences in visual attention, analyzing vocabulary from languages other than English, or replicating and reinterpreting an existing experiment using culturally-responsive practices.


Creative Nonfiction

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Fall

This is a course for creative writers who are interested in exploring nonfiction as an art form. We will focus on reading and interpreting outside work—essays, articles, and journalism by some of our best writers—in order to understand what good nonfiction is and how it is created. During the first part of the semester, writing will be comprised mostly of exercises and short pieces aimed at putting into practice what is being illuminated in the readings; in the second half of the semester, students will create longer, formal essays to be presented in workshop.