My New Course on Spanish Culture

I’m teaching all new courses next year which makes me really happy. There are few things I enjoy more than developing new courses. One of them will be “Culture of Contemporary Spain.” This is how I decided to structure the course.

It will be broken up into eight segments:

  1. History.
  2. Literature.
  3. Film.
  4. Politics.
  5. Languages.
  6. Nationalisms.
  7. Economy.
  8. Music.

As we go through these subjects, we will read (the course is conducted in Spanish, of course):

a) Poetry by:

  • Juan Ramon Jimenez. I don’t like him all that much but he is an absolute smashing success with students. For some reason, they can’t get enough of JRJ, so I teach him to make them happy.
  • Federico Garcia Lorca. I’ve been reading so much criticism by Jonathan Mayhew that teaching Lorca has become unavoidable. I have never taught this poet before and I have no idea how the students will like him.
  • Maria Victoria Atencia. Another poet that students adore. I already know that half of the final essays in the course will be on her poetry.
  • Jose Angel Valente. I’m still working on the selection.

There is space for a couple more poets in the course, so any suggestions are welcome.

b) Prose by:

  • Almudena Grandes. We will read a selection from her most recent novel.
  • Carmen Martin Gaite.
  • Ana María Matute.
  • Antonio Muñoz Molina. We will read an article of his on how we should not allow religious fanatics to shut us up. It will fall right before the elections, too. Hee hee hee.
  • Espido Freire.

I’m still looking for at least three more authors. I’m thinking, maybe something by Javier Marias. He’s hugely popular, and I’d like the students to know who he is.

You have no idea how hard it is for me to choose just a few from all the amazing writers I know.

We will also watch two films:

This seems like an unorthodox choice, given that both films are by the same director, Fernando León de Aranoa. But what can I do if he’s the only director in Spain who makes works of art today instead of producing Hollywood-style trash? Of course, we could watch Pan’s Labyrinth, like everybody else does, but how boring is that? Also, Aranoa’s films work perfectly with my course material. Mondays in the Sun features Javier Bardem when he was still a good actor, not a Hollywood lap dog.

I still haven’t started working on the music section of the course. I will only have 4 lecture days to deal with music, so this needs to be planned carefully. Any suggestions?

I’m sorry if this post is boring. I find it helpful to list these things here to assist me in my planning. Somehow, things don’t seem just as real until I see them in the format of a blog post.

If it seems like I’m missing something, or if things don’t make a lot of sense, feel free to comment.

I’m shaking in anticipation because of how much I want to teach this course. This will be a fantastic experience. No PowerPoints will appear in the vicinity of the classroom. Not a word of English will be spoken. We will do tons of writing. Oh the joy, the happiness of a new course!

7 thoughts on “My New Course on Spanish Culture

  1. I keep thinking of suggestions, but then they’re either not Spanish, or not contemporary. Also, I never really liked Pan’s Labyrinth – good call on trying to pick something else.

    Oh right, Princesas is a Spanish film!
    And Manu Chao sings one of my favorite songs in it, “Me Llaman Calle” and I think he is Spanish enough to count for the Spanish music part too?


    1. OK, I snoozed totally on La movida. THANK YOU!

      “I think that what is missing is more culture from other languages than castellano.”

      – In translation, you mean? Any suggestions?

      Btw, I have started to read No sera la Tierra because of your article. It means the article is effective! Any other recommendations on Lat.Am writers of today are also welcome. I’m getting a little fed up with reading nothing but Vargas Llosa.


  2. In translation, yes. You know me, so I love teaching my students about linguistic differences and tensions between the Castillian centre and Catalunya or the Basque country. There are plenty of useful materials that you can use on YouTube: patriotic songs, adds, newsreel. But you will probably cover that pretty weel in your politics and nationalism sections.

    My Cultures of Spain students loved discussing about los ultras sur and other football fanatics. It is a way to discuss about sports and branch it to so many other apsects of contemporary Spain/Europe.

    I am glad that you are reading No sera la Tierra! I do not think that it is good, but you are this novel`s ideal reader.


    1. “I am glad that you are reading No sera la Tierra! I do not think that it is good, but you are this novel`s ideal reader.”

      – OK, this sounds like “You are only capable of reading trash, Clarissa.” 🙂


      1. No no no no no:) It is am ambitious novel and it is worth studying. There are, however, so many cliches in the novel that it becomes annoying. You will discover them as you read the novel.


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