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Fall 2020 

SPAN 597 - Latin American Photography: Archives, Practices, and Theories

Instructor: Marco Martínez 
Course Description: Since the nineteenth century, Latin American photography has generated a massive visual archive of great quality, powerful artistic practices and movements, and theoretical reflections. By focusing on the aesthetics associated with the exotic and picturesque as well as with modern photography, this seminar will examine how this form of art has been defined in practice and theory for more than a century now (since the 1850s). We will also look closely at a selection of materials that addresses challenges related to photo techniques and forms of reproduction; working with visual archives; dynamics of memory; national imaginaries; and photography as a mechanism of social control as well as of resistance. Additionally, we will analyze how these particular reflections on Latin American photography enter in dialogue with their specific local contexts and with a global artistic sensibility, impacted by ¿the age of mechanical reproduction¿ (Benjamin) and, more recently, the advent of virtual reality. Some of the photographers that will organize our discussions are Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Héctor García, Nacho López, Graciela Iturbide, Pedro Meyer, Silvina Frydlewsky, Daniela Rossell, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Enrique Metinides, and Gian Paolo Minelli, among others. Readings for this seminar will be mostly in Spanish and will be drawn from contemporary critical theory in art, philosophy, history, and popular culture.

SPAN 597 -  Latin American Cosmopolitanisms

Instructor: Krista Brune
Course Description: This seminar explores theories and expressions of cosmopolitanism emerging from Latin America beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and continuing through the contemporary moment. The class will consider how understandings of cosmopolitanism have changed in recent decades as Bruce Robbins, Pheng Cheah, and Homi Bhabha, among others, have embarked on a project of ¿new cosmopolitanisms.¿ By following a more nuanced comparative perspective, this course recognizes that cosmopolitanism is no longer privilege of the elites, but rather an experience shared with the poor and others. Latin American scholars Silviano Santiago, Mariano Siskind, and Ignacio Sánchez-Prado invite us to think about cosmopolitanisms in relationship to peoples, languages, and cultures often relegated to the periphery of world literary and cultural systems. In reading their theoretical interventions alongside philosophical texts by Immanuel Kant, Martha Nussbaum, and K. Anthony Appiah and literary works by Brazilian and Spanish American writers, this seminar proposes an investigation into the meanings and expressions of Latin American cosmopolitanisms. The following questions will animate course readings and discussions: How does a study of cosmopolitanism contribute to our understanding of the place of Latin America and its writers in the world? How do Latin American writers exude a desire for the world, which Siskind considers constitutive of cosmopolitanism? To what extent do Latin American cosmopolitanisms vary over time, in response to global geopolitical, economic, and cultural developments?

SPAN 561 - The Cinematic Pluriverse of Pedro Almodóvar

Instructor: Matthew J. Marr
Course Description: This seminar will examine the cinematic imagination of Spain's most internationally celebrated filmmaker, Pedro Almodóvar. Topics to be considered will include Almodóvar's lensing of gender politics, sexuality, multiculturalism, and national identity in post-dictatorial Spain; his nimble negotiation of the local and the global; his taste for cinephilic self-referentiality and hybridity of genre; and a distinctive tendency toward thematic idiosyncrasy. all of which are signature features of his postmodern "brand." Significant attention will be devoted to approaches and trends within the vast corpus of scholarly criticism dealing with the filmmaker¿s oeuvre, and our engagement with film theory will arise organically out of the references from these texts. Some basic tools, techniques, and language of film analysis will be considered, as will a general understanding of field-specific norms of film studies as practiced in North American and U.K. Hispanism.

Spring 2021

SPAN 597 - Golden Age Theatre and the Spanish Game of Thrones during the Middle Ages

Time: TR 9:05-10:20 a.m.
Instructor: Juan Udaondo Alegre
Course Description: Este seminario mostrará que existen en la literatura española personajes y situaciones tan complejos y apasionantes como los que aparecen en la serie de televisión Juego de Tronos (Game of Thrones), y además se comprobará que no es algo casual, sino que ello obedece a unos referentes literarios e históricos semejantes. Juego de Tronos se basa en una popular serie de novelas del escritor George R. R. Martin. Martin ha reconocido como una de sus principales fuentes de inspiración las historias de la Inglaterra medieval y, en concreto, la dramatización que de ellas hizo Shakespeare a través de su famoso ciclo de teatro histórico. Al igual que ocurre con el teatro Isabelino que inspira a Martin, la Comedia Nueva española del mismo período tiene en el teatro histórico uno de sus principales géneros. También de la misma forma, el período medieval es el más representado en las obras de Lope de Vega y su escuela. La crítica moderna ha visto en las historias de ambición y violencia de Shakespeare y Lope de Vega una manera de exorcizar los demonios medievales que condujeron a la creación de los modernos estados europeos. Esta violencia, generalmente motivadas por luchas fratricidas entre nobles y conflictos sociales entre estamentos, contrasta con el mensaje de paz interior que los reyes quisieron transmitir una vez superada la ‘oscura’ Edad Media. Sin embargo, Lope o Shakespeare hicieron que la crítica hacia la injusticia medieval sirviera también para la de su propio tiempo, si bien envuelta en una técnica dramática que atrapaba, y atrapa, a público y lectores. No es extraño que el público del Globe o de los corrales de comedias encontrase motivos de reflexión análogos a los del espectador de televisión actual, pues nada más atrayente que personajes de moralidad virtuosa o ambigua enfrentados a gobernantes despóticos en busca de enemigos interiores y exteriores, dividiendo la sociedad y buscando su propio beneficio. Quizá los poderosos de hoy no difieran tanto de los de otros tiempos. Además, como se analizará durante las clases, entonces y ahora la violencia contra los rivales políticos muchas veces desencadena la violencia contra los miembros más desfavorecidos de la sociedad. Entre estos marginados estaban las minorías religiosas (judíos y musulmanes) y especialmente las mujeres. De hecho, la trama de muchas obras del teatro histórico español tiene su momento culminante en la violencia o la cosificación de las mujeres, siendo este el motivo central de obras tan importantes como FuenteovejunaReinar después de morir o El mejor alcalde, el rey. Otros temas importantes para debatir en clase serán los prejuicios raciales y la diversidad cultural, que se tratarán en piezas como La judía de Toledo o El bastardo Mudarra.

SPAN 597 - La colonia y sus intérpretes

Time: TR 1:35-2:50 p.m.
Instructor: John Ochoa
Course description: This course is a panoramic review of colonial literature from Latin America over a span of four centuries, from the pre-Columbian period to the early nineteenth century. We will consider key works and figures in their respective historical, aesthetic, and intellectual contexts. These canonical figures will include Cristobal Colón, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Bartolomé de las Casas, Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the Inca Garcilaso, Felipe Guamán Poma, Alonso de Ercilla, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora, and Concolorcorvo. Some have been “lost” and “rescued,” and most of them reframed: for instance by americanismo; both by de-colonial thought and neo-colonialism; by feminism; indigenismo and ethnic identity; state-sponsored nation-building; and modern aesthetic movements like the neobarroco. The method will consist of reading excerpts and representative short texts, engaging in a few detailed close readings of selected works. On a broader level we will attend to the impact of the colonial past upon later Latin American imaginaries. 

SPAN 597 - (Anti)Bodies: Embodiment and the New Self in Spanish Modernism 

Time: F 8:00-11:00 a.m.
Instructor: Nicolás Fernández-Medina
Course Description: This graduate seminar explores concepts of the body, identity, and self in Spanish modernism. Through a range of literary and philosophical texts spanning from roughly the 1890s to the late 1930s, it will examine how the body in the Spanish/European modernist context was shaped by power and also employed as an effective aesthetic and political instrument of resistance and knowledge. Topics of study include first-wave feminist theory, avant-garde body culture, health politics and the medicalization of culture, sexology and scientific rationalism, and neo-vitalist philosophy. Ultimately, at the center of this course rests the larger question of embodiment and subjectivity in relation to the problems of representation, interpretation, and meaning. 

Fall 2021

SPAN 597 - Framing Don Quixote 

Time: TR 10:35-11:50 a.m.
Instructor: Juan Udaondo Alegre
Course Description: El presente seminario abordará la obra maestra cervantina desde una sensibilidad contemporánea, incidiendo en su contexto sociopolítico, histórico, filosófico y estético.  Se tocarán aspectos relativos al desarrollo de la novela tanto formales (coherencia interna, elaboración de personajes, parodias en juego, referentes míticos y simbólicos) como ideológicos (sustrato humanista, trasunto biográfico, relectura imperialista). Las aportaciones del profesor situarán el texto cervantino dentro del momento en que se generó, haciendo especial énfasis en las coordenadas estéticas y las manifestaciones artísticas tanto del propio Cervantes como de sus coetáneos. Se anima al estudiante a disfrutar de las numerosas reescrituras tanto literarias como fílmicas del texto con el fin de aportar una mayor riqueza al debate. Los textos asignados en clase deberán ser leídos en su totalidad. La base del curso se estructura a partir de un close reading de la obra complementado con las correspondientes lecturas ancilares. Habrá varios trabajos escritos: presentaciones semanales y un ensayo de unas 20 páginas que se entregará al final del semestre. La evaluación final estará basada en la nota de las presentaciones y del trabajo final, además de la preparación y participación en clase. El profesor se reunirá con el estudiante para discutir el tema del ensayo no más tarde de la décima semana. 

SPAN 597 - Visual and Material Culture in Habsburg Spain

Time: TR 12:05-1:20 p.m.
Instructor: Mary Barnard
Course Description: With the rise of Spain in the sixteenth century as a trans-European and global power, social, political, and aesthetic ideals were aligned with the court, empire and modernity. This course will focus on how major poets of Habsburg Spain used artifacts as material sites of discourse to explore connections to antiquity, cultural memory, political and social events, space, self-representation, and status. Artifacts range from large decorative objects, like tapestries, paintings, and frescoes, to trinkets and accessories. The course will examine how objects are carriers of culture and history; how tapestries and paintings are used to explore questions of patronage, social networking, and gift-giving as well as to celebrate and critique the politics and ideology of empire; how mirrors and portrait miniatures are used for examining questions of introspection and self-reflexivity of an incipient modern subject; and how inscriptions on tombs and urns explore the interplay between orality and writing, voice and memory. The course will also deal with theories that subtend the production of texts: space, ruins, the city as text. Since the topic is part of a larger European phenomenon, the course will include Spain’s cross-cultural relations with Italy.  

SPAN 597 - Embodiments of Writing: Reflections on Our Craft Across Traditions

Time: F 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Instructor: Judith Sierra Rivera
Course Description: This seminar will focus on a big question: What does it mean to be a writer? Specifically, we will concentrate on conceptualizations of "writing" as a practice of the body, and "body" as what shapes and is shaped by writing. Our examination of emotions and ideas associated with the intimacy involved in our craft will consider texts by a wide variety of authors, such as Roland Barthes, María Zambrano, Rosario Castellano, Reinaldo Arenas, Néstor Perlongher, Pedro Lemebel, Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Cherríe Moraga, among others. At the same time, we will comparatively analyze forms of (de)mystifying writing in the European, American, and Latin American academia. We will experiment with our practice as we learn conventions that rule over different kinds of academic texts: abstracts, proposals, conference talks, articles, chapters, and books. For many of us, this experiment will also include a reflection of what it entails to constantly move between scholarly circles in different academic contexts. Readings for this class will be in Spanish and English. The class will be conducted in English.

Spring 2022

SPAN 587 - Stylistic and Literary Criticism: Luso-Hispanic Studies: Theories, Methodologies, and Approaches to the Field

Time: T 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Instructor: Krista Brune
Course Description: This course proposes an introduction to the theories, methodologies, and approaches in the field of Luso-Hispanic literary studies. The class will trace the developments of the field from Hispanism and Latin Americanism through more recent iterations of Transatlantic Studies and Hemispheric American Studies. After this overview, the seminar will delve into theoretical texts and debates of most relevance to our discipline of Iberian and Latin American literatures and cultures. These areas will include, among others, poststructuralism, Marxism, postcolonial studies, feminisms, queer theory, critical race theory, and ecocriticism. Readings will be in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.  

SPAN 597 - Utopian Intellectual and Artistic Practices in Latin America

Time: R 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Instructor: Marco Martínez 
Course Description: Utopia implies the sense of an ideal place on earth, expressed in idyllic social institutions, relationships and conditions. Since the fifteenth century, intellectuals and artists have imagined Latin America as a utopic place on earth. This seminar will focus on projects that explore the concept of utopia in order to understand the variety of political imaginations over the continent. We will focus on the rise, decline, and fall of utopian projects in the region as well as the international dialogues they have generated. Some of the questions we will be exploring are: How is utopia expressed as an aesthetic trope? How utopian projects have changed over time and geographies? How Latin American utopian ideologies and aesthetics have been incorporated or rejected by the State? Some of the authors and documents we will read are José Enrique Rodó, Camila Henríquez Ureña, José Martí, Gloria Anzaldúa, José Vasconcelos, Chela Sandoval, Alfonso Reyes, Gabriela Mistral, José Carlos Mariátegui, Rita Segato, and the EZLN First Declaration in the Lacandona Jungle.

SPAN 597 - Filthy Fiction(s): Spanish Naturalism, Tremendismo, and Dirty Realism

Time: W 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Instructor: Matthew J. Marr 
Course Description: This seminar will consider late-nineteenth century Naturalism, post-Civil War Tremendismo, and Generation X “dirty realism” (or “blank fiction”) of the 1990s—a triptych-like set of modern narrative sensibilities whose sordid reflections of/on the real thrust the genre of the Spanish novel beyond contemporary limits of good taste, while drawing on its foundations in the picaresque.  Authors considered, by way of paired texts, will include: Emilia Pardo Bazán and Vicente Blasco Ibáñez; Camilo José Cela and Carmen Laforet; José Ángel Mañas and Lucía Etxebarría.

Fall 2022

SPAN 597: Family, Nation, Telling, and Other Traumas

Time: W 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Instructor: John Ochoa
Course Description: This course will familiarize the student with psychoanalysis as a way to approach literature and culture. We will cover its basic concepts and structures, especially with regard to trauma and post-trauma. Most relevant will be: 1) witnessing and rendering testimony; 2) inherited or misplaced trauma; 3) responses to the father figure and paternalism. For all, but especially this last topic, we will consider parallels between the individual subject and the collective psyche: both the personal and the national, or the personal as national. For specific case studies/histories, we will draw on the Latin American and Latinx canon, from the Colonial period to the present. These may include El Inca Garcilaso, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Hernandez’s “Martín Fierro," caciquismo, the death of José Martí, Alfonso Reyes and his father, Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo, Cien años de soledad, the Dirty Wars of the 1970s, Rigoberta Menchú, and Gloria Anzaldúa. Theoretical readings will include psychoanalysis and trauma theory by Freud, Caruth, Felman, Laub, and on national identity by Benedict Anderson and Isiah Berlin. 

SPAN 597: Race, Performance, and Possession in the Americas

Time: TR 12:05-1:25 p.m.
Instructor: Sarah Townsend
Course Description: This course will take a hemispheric approach to examining the connections between race, performance, and “possession”—a vexed concept that can refer to everything from property ownership to spirit possession. Over the course of the semester we will explore the multiple meanings of this term and ask what it can tell us about the equally complex notions of “race” and “performance” by studying a diverse array of cultural phenomena from throughout the Americas (theater, performance art, films, literature, historical documents, music, etc.). For example: What sort of logical contortions were required to reconcile the fact that slaves—i.e., pieces of property—could speak, sing, dance, and even write or act? What is the link between the practice of spirit possession in many African-influenced religions and the histories of dispossession experienced by these groups? How might both instances of “possession” place pressure on liberal conceptions of subjectivity, and what can they tell us about the relationship between race and capital? Possible topics include: the exhibition of racially marked bodies and “scenes of subjection” (Sadiya Hartman); examples of racial impersonation such as blackface performance (what Eric Lott refers to as “love and theft”); slaves as objects of conspicuous consumption and the racialization of conspicuous consumption in the present; Haitian vodou, and links between zombies and whiteness in recent popular culture; avant-garde engagements with ritual practices of trance; struggles over copyright and cultural appropriation; and the politics of archives and museum collections. 

SPAN 597: Decadentism, Eroticism, and the Diseased Imagination

Time: F 8:00-11:00 a.m.
Instructor: Nicolás Fernández-Medina
Course Description: This course will examine the so-called decadent mentality and the notion of social and moral degeneration that followed the fin de siècle and the first few decades of the twentieth century.

Time: TR 9:05-10:20 a.m.
Instructor: Sherry Roush
Course Description: This graduate course provides the fundamental skills for reading Italian prose. The course is taught in English, and no previous knowledge of Italian is expected. By the end of the semester, successful students will be able to read secondary texts in Italian in their field of research. Please note: there is no emphasis in this course on Italian writing, speaking, or listening skills. Class will meet TR 9:05-10:20 during Fall 2022. For more information, please contact Sherry Roush at slr21@psu.edu.This course fulfills the additional language requirement for the Ph.D. as listed in the graduate handbook.

Spring 2023

SPAN 597: Commodity Cultures

Time: T 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Instructor: Krista Brune
Course Description: This seminar examines the literary and cultural representations and repercussions of Latin America’s extractive economies. Letters, diaries, travelogues, and narratives from the colonial period through the nineteenth century crafted Latin America as a “marvelous possession” whose natural resources were to be controlled, extracted, and exploited for the benefits of elites. To explore how colonial, neocolonial, and neoliberal dynamics of extractive capitalism resonate within Latin American culture, this seminar will focus on commodities such as cotton, sugar, gold, coffee, water, and oil. At the end of the semester, we will move beyond these goods to consider culture itself as a commodity. Our discussions will draw on theoretical and critical readings from, among others, Héctor Hoyos, Macarena Gómez-Barris, Ericka Beckman, Charlotte Rogers, and George Yúdice, in dialogue with primary texts, including essays, novels, and films by Júlia Lopes de Almeida, Fernando Ortiz, Graciliano Ramos, Cristina Rivera Garza, Sebastião Salgado, and Lucrecia Martel. Readings will be in Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

SPAN 597: Mystics, Ascetics, and Visionaries: Religious Writings and the Visual and Material Culture of Counter-Reformation Spain

Time: F 8:00-11:00 a.m.
Instructor: Mary Barnard
Course Description: (NOTE: THIS COURSE IS AN APPROVED ELECTIVE FOR THE DUAL TITLE IN VISUAL STUDIES). This seminar explores works of poetry and prose by religious writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth century--San Juan de la Cruz, Teresa de Ávila, Luis de Granada, and Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza--and the role that pictorial images and artifacts played in the mystical experience, the materializing of visions, and questions of piety, identity, and politics. Art works will include paintings and statuary, psalter illuminations, altar pieces, and relics. Objects of Christological significance like polychrome sculptures of the crucifixion and Christ at the column of flagellation take center stage. We will pay special attention to the interweaving of vision, cultural memory, and sacred spaces. Carvajal will be privileged in this course, as we follow her from her early years living next to the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales in Madrid, as much a museum as a convent, to her final days as an activist in Jacobean England. We will study her letters and autobiography alongside her mystical poems. The course will be conducted in English. Readings will be in Spanish and English. Papers may be written in either Spanish or English.

SPAN 597: La Vida es Sueño and the Theater of Calderón de la Barca

Time: TR 10:35-11:50 a.m.
Instructor: Juan Udaondo Alegre
Course Description: In this seminar we will delve into the complexities and beauty of Calderón de la Barca’s theater, particularly prevalent in his most famous creation: La vida es sueño. La Vida es Sueño and the Theater of Calderón de la Barca: Paradigm, Symbol, and Humankind on Stage.According to many specialists La vida es sueño is the best play of the Spanish Golden Age, and in Spanish literature it represents something comparable to Hamlet. As we will ascertain from the first sessions of the seminar, in La vida es sueño the fineness of the verses is not at odds with the philosophical depth, the richness of characters, and a quasi-perfect plot; indeed, all are features that Calderón developed throughout the rest of his production, a significative selection of which we will examine during the rest of the semester, including El alcalde de Zalamea, Amar después de la muerte, El gran teatro del mundo, El príncipe constante, La cisma de Inglaterra, La dama duende, etc. When analyzing these plays we will start with their historical, political, and sociological context. After this, we will discuss how Calderón addressed the major themes of his time and to what extent his reflections on freedom, war, honor, violence against women, human nature, political power and its limits, assimilation of ethnic and religious minorities, tragic vs. comic, etc. are still valid. The seminar will also highlight the playwright’s conception that theater should first be staged and then read. For this reason, in every class we will engage in the analysis of the dramatic text (characters, conflicts, stage directions, etc.), watch clips of theater performances of the plays we are reading, and discuss how theater, cinema, and television professionals have approached both the dramatic wealth and the allegorical worlds of Calderón.