Department of Spanish, Portuguese & Latin American Studies

Contact Details

Departmental Coordinators:
Ms Alex Lopez Alvarez
Ms Clare Szembek (Mon-Wed)
tel: 020 7679 3109
ext: 33109

Head of Department:
Dr Humberto Núñez-Faraco
tel: 020 7679 4332
ext: 34332



Course unit value: 1.0
Duration: 2 terms
Day and Time: Wednesdays 9-11
Venue: TBC

Tutors: A. Dr Robert Goodwin B. Mazal Oaknin C. Dr Gareth Wood D. Dr Guillermo Lain
Assessment: Four 1500–2000 word essays or in-class assessments (deadlines TBC)

(0.5cu versions may be taken: SPAN1210A (term 1), and SPAN1210B (term 2), both are assessed by 2 essays).

Course Aim:

Introduce students to a variety of cultural movements, genres and periods. Develop close reading skills. Critically examine notions of Spanish and Spanishness.


This course provides an introduction for students to Spanish culture from the early modern period to the present, introducing a range of different genres, cultural forms and literary movements.

Modules and order are as follows:

Term 1:

A. America

Columbus came across America unexpectedly while searching for Asia. Which is why he called the indigenous people Indians and why he continued to insist that he had found a route to China for the rest of his life. For Europeans, the idea of a New World was so momentous that they struggled to describe it, understand it, and explain it. Native Americans were equally perplexed.

Using pictures and extracts from key sixteenth-century text, this course looks at how the Spanish frontiersmen who led the often brutal exploration and settlement of America tried to understand their extraordinary experiences and how they set about telling the stories of their adventures and describing the astonishing New World to the people back in Europe. The course asks important questions about the way history is written by focusing on the production of the texts and images. It discusses the context in which they were written, and assesses them as evidence of what really happened and as evidence of what their authors wanted others to believe and why

B. Women's Writing in Spain

This section of the course will examine selected texts by Ana María Matute (1926- ), and Rosa Montero (1951- ), two major Spanish writers who started their careers under the Franco regime. Their novels will be studied in the context of the political, cultural and social circumstances of the post-war and transition periods, as well as in the context of the Spanish literary market. To begin with, this module will provide an introduction to the main issues at stake in the question of the existence, or not, of a women’s writing. Special emphasis will be placed on the ‘double-binding’ in which women authors often find themselves. It will subsequently analyse Primera memoria and Crónica del desamor in light of the question of female identity, the shifting place of women in society; together with the public perception of these authors and their relationship with the critical establishment.

Term 2:

C. Marianela

The second half of the nineteenth century in Spain saw an explosion of interest in the possibilities that technology offered in improving man’s environment: from the potential of industry to unlock economic growth to the scientific advances that made new medical treatments available for the first time. Benito Pérez Galdós reflected this climate of innovation in his deceptively simple novel Marianela, the tale of an orphaned and disabled young girl who lives among a mining community in the north of Spain. The account of her life in the company of a wealthy but blind boy, for whom she acts as guide, becomes in Galdós’s masterful hands a sophisticated reflection on scientific progress itself. This section of the course will look in detail at Galdós’s novel and examine how he creates a successful work of fiction from this premise.

D. Avant-Garde/Modernist Prose Fiction (1900-1930)

This section of the course will examine the Spanish novel corresponding to the period of the Vanguard in Europe, allowing the student a proper understanding of what in the Anglo American tradition is known as Modernism (1900-1930 aprox.). The links between James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and/or Marcel Proust and certain Spanish writers of this period have often been ignored. This is the case with Miguel de Unamuno, one of the most important writers in the Modern Spanish Tradition. His most representative novel Niebla (1914) will be studied in this section, and it will be compared with the essay that best described the Avant-Garde/Modernist art and literature: José Ortega y Gasset’s 'La deshumanización del arte e ideas sobre la novela' (1925). This will be discussed within the historical background of Spain at the time.

Preparatory reading and set texts: Coming soon