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Color key indicates themes covered by the course content:

H History & Transformation

B Borders & Contact 

I Identities & Communities

L Language at work & at play


Fall 2015

SPAN 197A

(NURS 197A)  Conversational Spanish for Health Care Providers (3) A conversational Spanish speaking course designed to prepare students interested in a health care field to communicate with Spanish speaking patients. 

SPAN 297A

Spanish Through Art  (3) Spanish language and culture at the advanced level through art from Spain and Latin America. Review of the artists' biographies and their works in light of the historical moment, significance, and culture. 

SPAN 297B

Introduction to Latin America Visual Culture  (3) Photographs, cartoons, graffiti, movies, cartels, blogs, advertisement, music videos, newspaper, underground magazines, blogs, are some of the manifestations of the contemporary visual word. This course offers an introduction to the Latin American visual culture in its nearly infinite manifestations.
Prerequisite:  SPAN 100

  • I
  • H

SPAN 497A

Ink and Gunpowder: Detention and Interpretation in Spanish and Spanish- American Detective Short Stories  (3) The goal of this undergraduate course is to give students the theoretical grounding to analyze detective texts, and to introduce them to major trends in Spanish and Spanish-American detective fictions. By reading a collection of short stories, which adopt and adapt different elements of the genre (the criminal, the law, the motivation, the investigation, etc.) we will examine how several Spanish and Spanish American writers use the crime model as a pre- text and a pretext to undergo social criticism, self-inquiry and meta- fictional questionings that expand the scope of the classical whodunit.
Prerequisite:  SPAN 253W

  • I

SPAN 497B

How Languages are Learned  (3) (1) How do humans learn additional languages after they have learned their first language? (2) How does bilingual language development compare to monolingual language development? (3) Why do we find variability in rates and outcomes of second language acquisiton? (4) What does it take to acquire advanced language skills in a second language? By answering these questions, this course introduces students to the field of first, second, and bilingual language acquisition.
Prerequisite:  SPAN 215

  • L
  • B

SPAN 497C

Living Breathing Language  (3) There are nearly 7000 language spoken in the world today. Where did they come from? What makes them different? How are they similar? What happens when they die? This course will explore linguistic diversity, historical change and dialectal variation through the lens of evolutionary biology. Using examples from Spanish, both modern and historical, we will learn how language can be characterized as a living, growing, changing organism.
Prerequisite:  SPAN 215

  • H

Summer 2015

SPAN 197A

Costa Rica: Pura Vida  (0.5) This course will prepare you to undertake travel to Costa Rica as a respectable representative of the United States and Penn State Altoona as well as a willing student of Spanish and international culture. Students will be fully engaged in Costa Rica culture in a very up-close and personal way, utilizing their Spanish skills in an engaging fashion on a daily basis. Excursion to Costa Rica will take place May 17-25. 

SPAN 496A

Spanish in Technical Fields  (3) Study of words and phrases unique to petroleum engineering. Study of grammar including technical and research semantics and grammatical structure. Also, additional cultural component as student examines the how the presence of a pipeline industry has affected the local and national culture in Mexico. 

SPAN 497A

Cuba and Jose Marti  (3) The writings and thoughts of Jose Marti have been foundational for Cuba's literary, political, and cultural expressions and educational institutions before and after the Cuban Revolution (1959). This course will expose students to those writings and ideas from the point of view of post-revolutionary Cuba. Students will be able to compare what they learn in Cuba with other writings and ideas about Marti, related to Latin American in general, ideas on government, society, freedom and independence. During the two weeks in Cuba, Penn State students will be able to learn from different lectures and classes given by university professors and researchers on different aspects of Marti's life and thoughts. They also will be able to participate in Cuba's celebration, May 2015, of Marti's 125th commemoration of his death (1895). 
Prerequisite:  SPAN 253W


Spring 2015

SPAN 197A

Costa Rica: Pura Vida  (0.5) This course will prepare you to undertake travel to Costa Rica as a respectable representative of the United States and Penn State Altoona as well as a willing student of Spanish and international culture. Students will be fully engaged in Costa Rica culture in a very up-close and personal way, utilizing their Spanish skills in an engaging fashion on a daily basis. Excursion to Costa Rica will take place May 17-25.  

SPAN 496A

Bilingualism and Second Language  (3) Research on bilingualism and second language use through reading background literature and developing experimental stimuli and designs. 

SPAN 497A

Contemporary Latin American Cinema  (3) This course explores Latin American cultures through the study of films of the past quarter of a century.

  • H
  • I

SPAN 497B

Women in the Contemporary Spanish-speaking World: Literature and Films  (3) This course explores the contributions of women throughout the Spanish- speaking world to contemporary literature and film, so as to deepen the understanding of its complex and rich cultures.

  • B
  • I

SPAN 497C

Avant-Garde Primitivisms  (3) In this course we will explore the ways in which the tension between the drive for futurity and the appeal of the "primitive" plays out in the visual art, poetry, prose, theater, and films of Latin American and European artists commonly regarded as "avant-garde."
Prerequisite:  SPAN 200 and  SPAN 253W

  • H
  • B
  • I

SPAN 497D

How Languages are Learned  (3) (1) how do humans learn additional languages after they have learned their first langauge? (2) How does bilingual language development compare to monolingual language development? (3) Why do we find variability in rates and outcomes of second language acquisition? (4) What does it take to acquire advanced language skills in a second language? By answering these questions, this course introduces students to the field of first, second, and bilingual language acquisition.
Prerequisite:  SPAN 200 and  SPAN 215

  • B
  • I

SPAN 497E

The Social Life of Spanish Phonetics  (3) This course focuses on variation in Spanish phonetics and phonology causes by dialectal differences and other social factors (age, gender, socioeconomic status, identity). In this course you will also learn how to conduct your own research experiment to investigate the influence of these factors on pronunciation.
Prerequisite:  SPAN 200 and  SPAN 215

  • B
  • I

SPAN 497F

Idiomatic Expressions and Regionalism Across the Spanish-speaking World  (3) The student will study the different idiomatic expressions from Latin America and Spain, using short-stories, articles, and interviews as a main source. Students will write an essay based on their research. 
Prerequisite:  SPAN 001SPAN 002SPAN 003SPAN 200


Fall 2016

SPAN 397 

Modern Spanish Short Story

This course will examine the genre of the Spanish short story from the mid-nineteenth century through the post-Franco years of the Transition to democracy and beyond, focusing on such topics as: an evolving aesthetics of “the real,” the mechanics/stylistics of short narrative fiction in the Peninsular context, voices and perspectives from Spain’s cultural margins, conceptions of national identity, the metafictional mode, the subgenre of the fantastic, and a longstanding tradition of humor and social critique.

  • I
  • H

SPAN 497 

Spanish Social-Issue Cinema (Themes I, H)
Matthew Marr

Since the 1990s, a growing number of filmmakers in Spain have gravitated toward projects concerned with socially charged topics: domestic abuse,terrorism, national memory/amnesia, rural depopulation, immigration, economic malaise, secularization, assisted suicide, disability, etc. In doing so, directors have carved out a heretofore underdeveloped space in a national cinema which,until 1975, saw authoritarian censorship under Franco force directors’ hands with respect to critical openness—and where in the 1980s a flair for art-house experimentation (fueled by the fresh air of democracy) often left real-world issues checked at the cinema door. Yet, just as themes inseparable from a nuanced understanding of contemporary Spanish society have recently moved to the fore of its cinema, so too has the macrogenre of social-issue film diversified in stylistic terms. This course will explore Spanish social-issue cinema through a close analysis of several feature films, documentaries, shorts, frequent theoretical readings, and assignments designed to develop students’ skills as critical viewers.

  • I
  • H

Spring 2017

SPAN 297 

Introduction to Latin American Visual Culture
Marco Martinez

Photographs, cartoons, graffiti, movies, cartels, graphic novels, advertisement, music videos, magazines, blogs, are some of the manifestations of the contemporary visual word. This course offers an introduction to the Latin American visual culture in its nearly infinite manifestations. Through careful looking, reading, writing, and discussions, students will be encouraged to think the visual word in the construction of the historical, political, social and subjective dimensions from the end of the 19th century to our times. Among the issues to be examined are: the function, production, and consumption of visual images in different cultures; the foreign gaze; war and propaganda (Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War), the margins of the city; sexuality and abjection; political power; and death and memory.

SPAN 297 

Spanish in the Digital Age: Culture, Language, and New Technologies
Alex Ramirez

This course provides an opportunity to enhance acquisition of the fundamental elements of the Spanish language. Reading, writing and speaking skills are polished as students build on knowledge of the target culture through research, discussion and projects using the latest technology.

SPAN 497

Voices from the Margin: The Poetry and Drama of Federico García Lorca
Mary Barnard

Poet, playwright, musician, and friend of artists, poets and bullfighters--privileged figures that were outcasts, figures on the margins of society. This course will focus on several of these figures in his poetry and drama, placing them within historical, political, and social contexts, including Lorca’s own controversial presence in the years leading to the Civil War (1936-39): the gypsy as rebel,brawling with his own kind and confronting his enemy, the Civil Guard, in the Romancero gitano; the woman who rebels against the tribal rituals and misguided codes of conduct of a provincial town in the rural tragedy La casa de Bernarda Alba; the black from Harlem in the surrealist Poeta en Nueva York; the noble, bloodied bullfighter in the elegiac Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías. To address questions of theater and drama in relation to social issues, the students will perform scenes (time permitting) La casa de Bernarda Alba and watch and discuss a film production of this play. The course will also include Lorca’s sketch art and musical scores, and the relation of his works to those of his artist friend Salvador Dalí. The course will include a film about Lorca’s life and works, including his mysterious death at the hands of the Nationalists, The Spirit of Lorca (Michael Dibb, 1986).

SPAN 497 

How languages are learned
Karen Miller

What does it mean to be bilingual? (2) How does acquisition of a second language compare to acquisition of a first language? (3) How does bilingualism impact human cognition? (4) What are the social contexts that support language learning and language maintenance? (5) What are the various languages spoken in Spain and Latin America? By answering these questions, this course introduces students to bilingualism in the Spanish-speaking World.

SPAN 497 

The ABCs of Bilingualism: Acquisition, Brain and Community
Lauren Perrotti

Around the world, speaking more than one language is the norm. Have you ever considered what it takes to learn a second language? How the brain manages to juggle two languages in one mind? How communities work and live together while speaking two languages? This course will explore bilingualism, the ability to speak and understand two languages. We'll discover how bilinguals acquire their languages and how they live with them through the lens of bilingual communities. 

SPAN 497 

Playing with your mind: What linguists do to find out how humans learn and process language
Giulia Togato

Language is the main vehicle that humans use to express personal and cultural norms and orientations. The whole essence of our thought as individuals and members of a group is expressed through language. In this course students will explore the importance that language has in social interactions and they will do so through a psycholinguistic lens. Psycholinguistics is the study of the linguistic, psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, comprehend, and produce language. Students will examine the cognitive processes underlying language use (both in comprehension and production, at the lexical, syntactic and discourse level). They will also learn about the main methods that linguists employ to get at these questions via a combination of theoretical tutorials and practical lab sessions. The relationship between language, cognition and culture will also be discussed.  

  • I
  • H

Spring 2018

SPAN 497 

No, all Latinos don’t sound the same: Sociolinguistic variation in US Spanish  
Grant Berry

Has a relative confused Puerto Rico with Costa Rica? Do they think every Spanish speaker they hear is from Mexico? Can you tell the difference? Migrant and longstanding Spanish-speaking communities in the US are extremely diverse, and those diverse backgrounds are reflected in the way they use Spanish. Speakers from different geographic regions speak differently, of course, but individuals within the same community also have distinct ways of speaking from one another. This course will explore variations in the Spanish-speaking world as they are observed in Spanish speakers living in the US (e.g., Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia, Spanish speakers in the Southwest, Latinos in New York and Miami), focusing on linguistic variables in the sound system of Spanish (phonology). Geographic patterns of linguistic variation will be identified and examined, and we will explore social factors—age, sex, socioeconomic status, speech style—that influence how those linguistic variables are used in conversation. Although English will be the primary language used in class discussion, required readings will be in both Spanish and English. Advanced intermediate proficiency or higher is strongly recommended.

  • I

SPAN 497 

Latin(o) American Graphic Novel  
Marco A. Martinez

This interdisciplinary seminar combines literary, visual, and historical approaches to study one of the most rapidly growing and increasingly influential forms of literature: the graphic novel. We will focus on the production made by Latin American and Latinx writers and visual artists, beginning in the late 1990s and continuing to the present day. Through reading, discussion, and presentations, students will develop the literary and visual vocabulary to analyze the conventions and possibilities of the graphic novel. Some of the topics we will be examining are national history, dystopian worlds, migration and racism, literary adaptations, and race, gender and sexuality conceptions. Class will be taught in Spanish.  

  • H
  • B
  • I

SPAN 297 

Spanish in the Digital Age: Culture, Language, and New Technologies  
Alejandro Ramiriz-Arballo

This course provides an opportunity to enhance acquisition of the fundamental elements of the Spanish language. Reading, writing and speaking skills are polished as students build on knowledge of the target culture through research, discussion and projects using the latest technology.

SPAN 497 

Being Bilingual in a Monolingual World  
Mike Johns

Linguistic scholar Francois Grosjean once famously wrote that “the bilingual is not two monolinguals in one person”. But what does this mean, and what does it imply? This question will be at the center of the course, divided into three broad sections: the language science of bilingualism, where students will be introduced to recent topics on bilingual research; the social aspects of bilingualism, which focuses on the cultural and political discussions surrounding bilingualism; and the cognitive ramifications of bilingualism, centered around the “bilingual advantage”. Students will read articles and participate in class discussions, participate in a class debate on the “bilingual advantage”, and complete a final project on a topic of their choosing. The goal of this course is to broaden students’ understanding of the science of bilingualism and further their critical thinking and argumentation skills.

SPAN/PORT 497 

Through the Looking-Glass: Race in the United States and Brazil  
Sarah Townsend

This course takes a comparative approach to the political and cultural dimensions of race in the United States and Brazil. Among the topics we will discuss are similarities and differences in the systems of slavery, Jim Crow segregation versus the Brazilian myth of racial democracy, the influence of funk and rap in Brazilian music, and cases of collaboration between African-American and Afro-Brazilian activists. Materials will include historical and political writings as well as films, literature, and music. Throughout the semester we will also reflect critically on the tendency of intellectuals and artists in each country to use the other as a prism through which to view race relations at home.