Recently Offered Courses
This seminar will explore letters, chronicles, epic poetry, maps and other forms of colonial textuality related mainly to South America, from the early accounts of the European expansion to local mestizo production in early 1600. Structured as a workshop, the seminar will analyze primary texts in Spanish (and some Portuguese) along with contemporary criticism. The seminar will interrogate the intersection of geography (writing on land) and morals (customs, culture, etc) to produce a working concept of “moral geography”.
Main authors to be studied include: Columbus, Pero Vaz de Caminha, Vespucci, Cieza de León, Bartolomé de Las Casas, Alonso de Ercilla, Juan de Miramontes, Tito Cusi Yupanqui, Felipe Guaman Poma and Inca Garcilaso.Literature and historiography of the Spanish empire and its colonies in the Americas. Beginning with the writings of Columbus and the cartographic imagination, in the first part the students will read texts produced during the conquest and the early evangelization, leading to intense debates on the nature of the Indians and the justice of the European occupation of the New World. In the second part, the focus will be on narrations of the formation of the new criollo culture of the vice-regal city. Emphasis will be on authors such as the mestizo Inca Garcilaso de la Vega and the Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Contemporary critical readings will complement class discussion.
This course is designed to offer an introduction to the diverse histories, cultures, societies, economies and political systems of contemporary Latin America. Drawing on a variety of texts and cultural artifacts (literary prose, poetry, photography, historical and journalistic articles and documentary and fiction film), the course will seek to understand the features that define and question the unity of a large portion of the world with about 20 countries; and the challenging issues and promising traits that the region faces today in a globalized world. Ultimately, the course aims to answer the question of “what is Latin America today?”
SPN 396 Introduction to Spanish American Literature II
This survey course studies Spanish American “literature” from the late eighteenth century to late twentieth century. Students will read letters, essays, chronicles, narrative fiction, poetry and film produced in the vast territories and diverse cultures comprehended between Mexico, Central America, Spanish speaking Caribbean and South America.The course will explore the relation between historical movements and literary and cultural production, the formation of modern national discourses, local traditions and cosmopolitanism. Students will get familiar with the intellectual debates and language that accompanied the formation of a Latin American literature.
SPN 435 Contemporary Latin American Literature
This course will review different “contemporary” narrative traditions in Latin America. The main focus will be on short fiction [cuento o narrativa breve], but poetry, essays, literary criticism and testimonial accounts will also be studied.
One of the main critical questions that will guide our review of about 20 Latin American authors from different countries is related to the problem of contemporaneity. What makes an author or a text a “contemporary”? How can we define contemporaneity in the highly diverse cultural area of Latin America and what is the importance of space or location in this? How can an old text be more contemporary than a new one?
The class will have a seminar structure. Discussions will also touch on issues of gender, power, globalization, sexuality, colonialism, Latin America in the US, invention of traditions and relations between parents and children. Authors to be studies include Aurora Arias, Jorge Luis Borges, Junot Díaz, Gabriel García Márquez, Elena Garro, José Luis González, José Emilio Pacheco, Elena Poniatowska, Virgilio Piñera, Blanca Varela, Juan Villoro, etc.
Literature and historiography of the Spanish empire and its colonies in the Americas. Beginning with the writings of Columbus and the cartographic imagination, in the first part the students will read texts produced during the conquest and the early evangelization, leading to intense debates on the nature of the Indians and the justice of the European occupation of the New World. In the second part, the focus will be on narrations of the formation of the new criollo culture of the vice-regal city. Emphasis will be on authors such as the mestizo Inca Garcilaso de la Vega and the Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Contemporary critical readings will complement class discussion.
This seminar is structured as a reflection on utopian discourses in the Andes. We will begin analyzing early modern European narratives (Vespucci, More) in the humanist tradition to produce a working concept of “utopia” that could have played a significant role in early Andean mestizo colonial texts. The focus will be on Inca Garcilaso’s Comentarios reales and Guaman Poma’s Nueva corónica y buen gobierno, and in documents around Indigenous messianic movements, such as the Taqui Onkoy; on Spanish and Criollo heretics and saints, like Francisco de La Cruz or Santa Rosa de Lima; and in testimonies of indios ladinos (Christian neophytes) in Cieza de León’s, Crónica del Perú and the Manuscrito de Huarochirí.The consolidation of a Criollo ideology embodied in the ideal feminine city of Lima will be studied in the epic poem Vida de Santa Rosa by Luis Antonio de Oviedo y Herrera, Count of La Granja.
The seminar will also attempt to bridge colonial and twentieth century Andean texts and their utopian traditions. The final part of the semester will be devoted to the study of José María Arguedas’s work and the dynamics of utopia and counter-utopia, ideology and utopia, in contemporary critical discourse, fiction and colonial studies (Flores Galindo, Burga). Special attention will be paid to Argueda’s posthumous novel, El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abajo.
SPN 435 New World Encounters
(Literature, non fiction and journalism in Latin America)
Since colonial times, “encounters” have been the basic ground for the production of a Latin American narrative tradition. This course will study the form, structure and historic contexts of “non-fiction” narratives produced in diverse “contact zones”, from early accounts (relaciones), letters and crónicas of the colonial period to the travel narratives of the 19th century and contemporary non-fiction texts and documentaries. The class will also explore the formation of a journalistic discourse in Latin America, the centrality of the crónica, and study the importance of newspapers and journals in the development of a modern Latin American narrative.
SPN 435 Topics: Fictions of Communities in the Andes
This course, structured as a seminar, reflects on diverse images of communities and national narratives in modern Peruvian literature (late 19th and 20th century), studied in their Latin American context. The focus will be in short stories, novels, essays and poetry of the indigenismo (a net of discourses about indigenous cultures) and the urban criollo literature. Authors to be studied include José María Arguedas, Alonso Cueto, Clorinda Matto, Julio Ramón Ribeyro, Mario Vargas Llosa, César Vallejo, etc. Classes will be conducted in Spanish.
The main objective of this doctoral seminar is to reflect on colonial textuality or the processes in which meaning is produced through texts in specific contexts in early Spanish-America. The seminar, conceived as a workshop on critical reading and textual criticism, will be arranged into 4 sections of about 3 weeks each one: 1) a textual study of an account written by the Spanish priest Miguel Cabello Balboa on the maroon societies of the Equatorial coast Verdadera descripción y relación de la Provincia de las Esmeraldas (c. 1582); 2) problems of speech and voice: the poetics and politics of Indian discourses in colonial epic poetry (discussion of selected cantos from Ercilla, Castellanos and Oña); 3) a study of a manuscript of an Andean colonial fiesta (Relación de Pausa 1607); and 4) texts and space: accounts on the geography on the Strait of Magellan 1580 to 1621 (Sarmiento de Gamboa, Argensola and Nodal)
Students are required to write three short reports and a final paper, and give an oral presentation on the final project.
This class will explore “civilization and barbarism” as a long lasting interpretative matrix for Latin America, focusing on essays, novels, short stories and poetry, as well as legal documents, films, urbanism, etc. It will follow a basic historical approach beginning with a reflection on the origins of concept of “civilization,” the colonial debates on the legal status of the Indians and the typology of “barbarians” in the first ethnographic works of Bartolomé de Las Casas and José de Acosta. Eighteenth century racial categorizations, casta paintings, indigenous upheavals, and the emergence of new modern states in the nineteenth century will be also studied through this binary opposition and its critics, as in Sarmiento, Martí, González Prada, etc. The second half of the class will be devoted to twentieth century texts, the avant-gardes and ethnographic writing (novela testimonio). Students will read and discuss the poetry of Palés Matos and narratives by José Luis González, J. M. Arguedas, Mario Vargas Llosa and Gregorio Martínez.
Main authors to be studied include: Columbus, Pero Vaz de Caminha, Vespucci, Francisco de Jerez, Pedro de Cieza de León, Bartolomé de Las Casas, Alonso de Ercilla, Juan de Miramontes, Tito Cusi Yupanqui, Felipe Guaman Poma and Inca Garcilaso.
The seminar will be taught in Spanish, and it is intended only to doctoral students.
HUS 252 Latin America Today
An introduction to Latin American history, geography and culture. All Spanish and Portuguese texts or films in English translation.
For older courses, go to CV
Prof. Paul Firbas