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SPAN-499 Literature, Film, Music of Central America
Fall for 2014-2015
Faculty:
  • Lifshey, Adam
  • This course will interrogate a diversity of cultural texts from modern Central America, a region often sidelined in Latin American literature classes. The semester will begin with two country-specific units, first on Guatemalan literature and then on Nicaraguan literature. The course will then broaden both culturally and geographically to study music, film and other arts (including more poetry and prose) from across Central America. In the latter part of the semester, students will be required to take a very active role in researching additional literary and cultural traditions from the region and teaching the results of their investigations to the rest of the class.

    Key questions that will be considered throughout the semester include the following: Does Central America exist in any sense other than geographic? How might a regional identity be defined? Given the different histories and demographics of the various countries, does it make more sense to treat local artistic traditions through national frameworks? Or does that move too evade sharper questions about internal and external fault lines? To what extent is Central America not a marginal space but a globally central one? Given the extremely large Salvadoran population in the Washington, D.C., area, to what extent is Central America even in Central America anyway? And how can the canon of modern Latin American literature be read from Central America? Is southern and southeastern Mexico part of Central America? Is Belize? Is the Panama Canal? Is Panama? In what senses yes, in what senses no? If modern Central America is largely associated with a legacy of conflict, where do Costa Rican arts fit in? Given such Atlantic coast populations as the garinagu, where do the Caribbean and Central America interdefine and distinguish from each other?

    The Guatemalan unit will begin by comparing two principal modern translations of the Popol Vuh: the version by Adrián Recinos in Spanish and the revised edition by Dennis Tedlock in English. Students will then read several fictions by Miguel Ángel Asturias, the first Latin American novelist to win the Nobel Prize, while considering such questions as their relationship the Popol Vuh and considering various definitions of magic realism. This conversation, juxtaposed with questions of testimonio, will continue with analysis of Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú and its accompanying controversies.

    The Nicaraguan unit will include texts by Rubén Darío, Ernesto Cardenal, Gioconda Belli, Daisy Zamora and Sergio Ramírez. Musical subjects will include reggaetón, punta rock, and YouTube videos that portray in song the verses of such poets as Roque Dalton.

    The course will be taught as a seminar, so students are expected arrive to each class prepared to participate with intellectual rigor and creativity. Requirements will include two lengthy and analytical oral presentations, a final essay, and a field trip involving pupusas.

    This course, which will be taught entirely in Spanish, is open to undergraduate as well as graduate students.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    More information
    Look for this course in the schedule of classes.

    The academic department web site for this program may provide other details about this course.

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