SPAN-397 Literature and Human Rights
This course, which will be taught in Spanish, will study diverse intersections of the arts and human rights issues in the Americas. Through analysis of literature, music, web sites, film and other visual arts, students will interrogate representations of human rights violations affecting indigenous communities, women, political prisoners, industrial workers, gays and lesbians, immigrants, the transnational poor, and others. Students will also read major human rights documents from the French Revolution onward and theoretical literature that conceptualizes human rights.
The course will be structured via five units. The first three will study Guatemala (indigenous people and the civil war, testimonial literature), Argentina (the dirty war and the disappeared, the treatment of gay people), and Colombia (magical realism and torture). The next two units will be devised and led by students and will focus respectively on Central America (El Salvador, Nicaragua and/or Honduras) and on the Caribbean (Cuba, Puerto Rico and/or the Dominican Republic). Transnational connections to people, institutions and issues in the District of Columbia will be encouraged throughout the course.
In addition to oral presentations and other class assignments, all students will be required to participate at least five times during the semester with a human rights groups or campaign and to reflect regularly on those experiences – and how they relate to course readings – in a journal.
By the end of the semester, students will be able to discuss and debate in nuanced ways the principal questions of human rights and the Americas as refracted through the arts. The final paper will demand original research and may extend beyond the above foci to other places where Latin America and the United States overlap, such as the murders of women in Ciudad Juárez, torture in Guantánamo, and conditions of undocumented workers.
Texts & Readings
The principal readings will include parts or all of Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia by Rigoberta Menchú and Elizabeth Burgos, The Little School: Tales of Disappearance and Survival by Alicia Partnoy, El beso de la mujer araña by Manuel Puig, and La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y de su abuela desalmada by Gabriel García Márquez. Other authors and artists who will be studied include Christopher Columbus, Bartolomé de las Casas, Bob Dylan, Alberto Gonzales, Charly García, Serú Girán, Bruce Springsteen, Fernando Botero, and Pete Seeger. Films will include Ilha das flores, La historia oficial, Las Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and Kiss of the Spider Woman. There will also be a field trip.
Other academic years
There is information about this course number in other academic years: