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.

2018-2019 Courses

Spanish

Beginning Spanish: At the Movies

Open , Seminar—Year

This course will enable students without previous knowledge of Spanish to develop the skills necessary to achieve effective levels of comprehension and communication. A combination of communicative and vocabulary-building exercises will prepare students to navigate everyday situations, while Spanish-language films by directors such as Pedro Almodóvar, Icíar Bollaín, and Guillermo del Toro will provide the cultural and historical grounding for discussion and enrich classroom exercises that reinforce the skills built into each unit. Students will also begin to develop a critical vocabulary for talking about cultural objects and will write descriptive profiles, creative works, and critical pieces. Students will view the films outside the seminar meetings; group conferences will reinforce the work that we do in class, addressing individual needs and introducing additional cultural materials in the form of songs and newspaper articles. Weekly conversation sessions with a language assistant are also an integral part of the course.

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Beginning Spanish

Open , Seminar—Year

The aim of this course is to enable students who took some Spanish in the past but have not used it in a while to develop the skills necessary to achieve effective levels of communication in Spanish. Before fully embarking in the usage of the language in an active, comprehensive way, we will conduct a thorough review of the grammatical system. Simultaneously, we will proceed to recover, consolidate, and expand a substantial basic vocabulary through a program of integrated readings and communicative activities, including the exploitation of audiovisual resources aimed at developing good aural/oral skills. The main goal of the class is to achieve effective communication in Spanish in a relatively short span of time. From the start, students will be in touch with authentic Spanish-language materials in the form of newspaper articles, films, songs, and poems, as well as short literary and non-literary texts. The viewing of films, documentaries, episodes of popular TV series, as well as the reading of blogs and digital publications will take place outside the seminar meetings, serving as the basis of class discussions and debates. Weekly conversation sessions with the language assistant are an integral part of the course.

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Intermediate Spanish I: Latin America, a Mosaic of Cultures

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

The course will be taught entirely in Spanish. The Spanish Placement test is recommended for students, especially those who have not taken Spanish at Sarah Lawrence College.

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 while exploring the rich cultural mosaic of Latin America. We will also pay special attention to oral communication and the expansion of new vocabulary; and we will explore different writing formats to create a dynamic dialogue among grammar, literature, and culture to contextualize multiple meanings while increasing fluency in every aspect of language production. For conference, students will have a chance to explore and develop topics related to Hispanic culture. To enrich the student’s exposure to the mosaic of Latin American cultures, we’ll try to take advantage of our local resources such as museums, libraries, and theatre. Students will meet with a language assistant once a week in order to practice their speaking and oral comprehension.

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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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Advanced Spanish: Introduction to Literature

Advanced , Seminar—Year

This seminar will operate on two distinct levels: language work at an advanced level, and an introduction to the literature(s) of the Spanish-speaking world via the study of relevant works by very recent authors. Initially, the emphasis will be on the study of grammar, syntax, and the acquisition of a solid body of vocabulary at a sophisticated level. During the first weeks of the fall semester, we will focus on the consolidation and integration of linguistic skills. While we do this, we will explore all forms of culture—making use of different kinds of audiovisual resources such as audio podcasts, interviews, documentaries, TV programs, and other formats. We will also start a program of thorough readings centered on a wide range of disciplines and fields. Art, film, music, photography, theatre, science, politics, comics, video games, gastronomy...all forms and manifestations of culture, high and low, will be the object of our attention as long as their vehicle of expression is Spanish. Students will be encouraged to contribute to the syllabus by locating on the Internet different kinds of Spanish-language materials. Once the theoretical comprehension of grammar—together with the mastery of linguistic skills and the acquisition of both a sophisticated reading capacity and a rich vocabulary—is secured, we will start to give priority to the study of literary works. That will constitute the center of classwork in the second part of the year. During the spring semester, the class will fully operate as a literature seminar. The focus of study will consist of an exploration of the newest literary works produced in the last 10 years all over the Spanish-speaking world, a strikingly rich and diverse body of fictional texts that reflect the incredibly varied cultures of Latin America and Spain as viewed through the eyes of its youngest generations of authors.

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Christians, Jews, and Muslims and the Arts of Medieval Spain: Art, Religion, and Identity

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

How can we read peoples’ sense of identity in the arts? How do religious identities interact with national, regional, and cultural identities? Is European identity necessarily Christian? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this seminar. From 711 to 1492, the Iberian Peninsula was home to a number of kingdoms with constantly transforming demographics, cities marked by religious pluralism, and kaleidoscopic political alliances between political and religious groups. Opposing forces rarely aligned simply with religious affiliation in medieval Spain. If documents give us a biased and incomplete picture of the relationship between and among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, the arts can provide a different kind of testimony to these rich and complex histories that continue to have an impact on our lives today. This is an intermediate course. Some of the things that would qualify you to enroll for this course would be: having previously taken a course in medieval art or Islamic art; having taken a course in medieval or Islamic history or civilization; or the ability to conduct research in Spanish. You are also welcome during interviews to make a case for other skills or background that you feel might qualify you.

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Making Latin America

Open , Seminar—Year

The making of Latin America—deeply embedded in global histories of capitalist expansion, imperial domination, and circulation of Western ideas—must nonetheless begin by looking inward. The course examines the ways in which landowners and campesinos, intellectuals and workers, the military, blacks, whites, and mestizos understood and shaped the history of this region in the world. From the early settlements in the Americas and the pre-Hispanic civilizations to the contemporary battles between neoliberals and neosocials, this yearlong course offers a survey of the more than five centuries of history of the region that we know as Latin America. After an overview of the intellectual and political debates about what the term Latin America means and encompasses, the first half of the course will survey the fall of the Aztec and Inca empires, the colonial order that emerged in its stead, independence from Iberian rule, and the division of the empire into a myriad of independent republics or states searching for a “nation.” By focusing on specific national trajectories, we will then ask how the American and Iberian civilizations shaped the new national experiences and how those who made claims on the “nation” defined and transformed the colonial legacies. In the second semester, the course will delve into the long 20th century and the multiple experiences of, and interplay between, anti-Americanism, revolution, populism, and authoritarianism. We will ask how different national pacts and projects attempted to solve the problem of political inclusion and social integration that emerged after the consolidation of the 19th-century liberal state. Using primary and secondary sources, fiction, and film, the course will provide students with an understanding of historical phenomena such as mestizaje, caudillismo, populism, and reformism, among other concepts key to the debates in contemporary Latin America.

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Drugs, History, and Politics in Latin America and Beyond

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

The “War on Drugs,” shootings in favelas, colgados in US-Mexican border states, and (in)famous drug lords (or ”narcos”) dominate contemporary images of, and conversations about, drugs in Latin America. From the narconovelas and narcocorridos to even narco-tourism, narcoviolence has created a myriad of cultural and social artifacts that cultivate both fascination and repulsion over a phenomenon that has profound economic, social, and political ramifications for the region and for the world. This course seeks to understand the multiplicity of historical causes and effects of narcoviolence in the most conspicuous cases in Latin America during the 20th century: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Central America. To do so, the course will situate the current narcoviolence within a longer history of psychoactive drugs as goods, linking producers and consumers through global capitalism since the early modern period. From coffee to cocaine, we will discuss the origins of both fascination with and prohibition of psychoactive drugs. We will examine the social, political, and economic functions of drugs in different historical contexts, their transformation from luxury to mass commodities, and even their fetishization. In addition, the course explores the economics, politics, and culture of drugs in the long era of narcoviolence and globalization. Using primary and secondary sources, history and social science perspectives, the course seeks to foster deep and serious engagement with the history of Latin America and its complex relation to psychoactive drugs.

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Right and Left in Latin America

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

The categories of right and left go beyond party affiliation or ideological orientation, transcending labels loosely attached to politicians, intellectuals, and institutions. The battles between states and markets, individual rights and collective action, or order and freedom reveal society’s fundamental but constant problem: how to organize itself. Most recently, the Pink Tide—or the rise of popular, socially oriented, and outspoken politicians to the presidencies of Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina, among others—aimed at putting an end to the Washington Consensus era. Reacting against the preeminence of technocrats, open markets, and international capital of the previous decade, these battles unleashed a new chapter in the long-term battle between the right and the left. Drawing on policy battles in the political, economic, social, and cultural fields in the history of Latin America, the course will examine the shifting and sometimes conflicting meaning of right and left. Rather than siding with the frontrunners or underdogs of history, we will attempt to understand the options available to historical actors, the underlying premises of those choices, and the costs and benefits of the policy options of both the right and the left. From the colonial debates on the nature of Indians and their consequent role in the New World society to the Cold War struggles between violent revolution and progressive reform, the seminar covers a broad historical arc but delves deeply into each historical moment. We will use documents produced by those involved in the debates, along with secondary sources, to question the extent to which we can speak about the past using the modern categories of right and left. Thus, the seminar provides an overview of Latin American history through its key figures and classical dilemmas, as well as the analytical tools to understand how political stances about the organization of society—such as right and left—emerge and transform.

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First-Year Studies: (Making) World Literature

Open , FYS—Year

Translation is the lifeblood of literary culture. Translation can also have extraordinary political significance, especially in historical moments when worldviews narrow, borders expand, and difference is treated as a threat. In this seminar, we will read canonical works and celebrated contemporary novels from around the world by writers—including Jorge Luis Borges, Yoko Tawada, Gustave Flaubert, Ananda Devi, Franz Kafka, Samanta Schweblin, Roberto Bolaño, Valeria Luiselli, and many more—reflecting on the literary dimensions of these texts as we also think about questions of translation, circulation, creativity, and consecration. In the process, students will not only learn how to analyze literature, identifying tone or style and building arguments around plot elements or imagery but will also develop frameworks for thinking about which texts make their way into English and how they do so. The course will combine one-on-one conference work with group activities and exercises designed to introduce students to the resources available to them on campus, take advantage of New York City’s cultural offerings, and improve their analytic and expository writing skills with workshops.

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Translation Studies: Poetics, Politics, Theory, and Practice

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

Linguistic proficiency in a foreign language is strongly recommended.

Translation is the process by which meanings are conveyed within the same language, as well as across different languages, cultures, forms, genres, and modes. The point of departure for this course is that all interpretive acts are acts of translation, that the very medium that makes translation possible—language itself—is already a translation. Because difference, “otherness,” or foreignness is a property of language, of every language, perhaps some of the most interesting problems that we will address revolve around the notion of “the untranslatable.” What is it that escapes, resists, or gets inevitably lost in translation? And what is gained? Does linguistic equivalence exist? How do we understand the distinction between literal and figurative, formal and vernacular, expression? And what underlies our assumptions about the authenticity of the original text or utterance and its subsequent versions or adaptations? Although translation is certainly poetics, it is also the imperfect—and yet necessary—basis for all cultural exchange. As subjects in a multicultural, multilingual, and intertextual universe, all of us “live in translation”; but we occupy that space differently, depending on the status of our language(s) in changing historical, political, and geographic contexts. How has the history of translation theory and practice been inflected by colonialism and postcolonialism? How are translation and power linked in the global literary marketplace? Our readings will alternate between the work of theorists and critics who have shaped what we call translation studies and literary texts that thematize or enact the process of translation, beginning with Genesis and the Tower of Babel. In addition, a workshop component to this course, involving visiting members of the foreign-language faculty and other practitioners of translation, will engage students directly in the challenges of translating.

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