21G.717 | Fall 2004 | Undergraduate

Introduction to Spanish Culture


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: Two sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


This course has several purposes. The major concern will be the examination of Spanish culture including Spain’s history, architecture, art, literature and film, to determine if there is a uniquely Spanish manner of seeing and understanding the world - one which emerges as clearly distinct from our own and that of other Western European nations.

As we examine the origins of Spain, we will emphasize certain themes: the importance of the co-existence of three cultures - Arabic, Christian and Jewish, over 700 years as a shaping factor in the Spanish way of being, the question of honor - personal and social - and the striving for the definition of a national culture. The artistic role of the convert Jews, mystics and heretics, marginal figures in Inquisitional Spain, will be linked to the twentieth century artists who, because they disagreed with the Fascist regime, were marginalized through exile, imprisonment or censorship.

In addition to acquiring information about Spanish culture, another concern of this course will be to provide a bridge between advanced language courses and advanced literature courses. Thus, we will stress the acquisition of rapid reading skills in Spanish, the expansion of vocabulary to allow you to deal with abstract concepts in Spanish, the refining of your ability to express complex ideas orally in Spanish, and the development of more sophisticated listening skills. While some members of the class will be native speakers, all class members are expected to participate fully in discussions.


  1. You are expected to attend all classes, as class discussion is crucial. Any unexcused absence will automatically lower your grade.
  2. Each student will participate in two group projects during the semester. Each group will be responsible for reporting back to the class. The group will meet to discuss a teaching plan, and prepare readings and visual material on the topic. The group should obtain bibliography and materials that can be distributed to the class when making their presentation. Research, coherence and the presentation itself will be graded.
  3. You will be required to write three short papers during the term. In addition, you will write a response journal to the text you have read, see the calendar for due dates. These will be your responses to a few questions we shall pose about the text, and the writing can be relatively informal. These “responses” will not be graded; these are aimed to assist you in organizing your thoughts for the class discussion to follow. However, failure to submit a response on the day it is due will result in a zero on that assignment: these responses are meant to give you the opportunity to think about the texts before the class meeting.
  4. You will be expected to come to class fully prepared to discuss that week’s material: that is, you will have read the day’s assigned text, and/or seen the assigned visual material, before coming to class. Assignments are posted very clearly on the syllabus. Any change in the syllabus during the course of the semester will be duly announced in class. If you are absent that day it is your responsibility to make sure you are aware of what you need to prepare.
  5. All readings and selections from anthologies, newspapers and magazines will be supplied by the instructor to the class.
  6. The films for this course will be shown outside class. The dates and venue for these screenings will be announced on the first day of class. Short excerpts from other visual and audio material will be presented in class.

Please note: Essays submitted late without prior permission from the instructor will be penalized by one full letter grade. Acceptance of late papers will remain subject to instructor’s discretion. Always keep a printed copy of your essay.

Unless you cite a book, article, or internet source, we assume the words and ideas in your essays are your own. Please remember:

  • Plagiarism is a very serious offense. If it is found that you have plagiarized - deliberately or inadvertently - you may face serious consequences, including suspension. Student dishonesty damages not only your own reputation, but that of MIT.
  • Plagiarism occurs when you borrow another’s words or ideas and do not acknowledge that you have done so. In this culture, we consider our words and ideas intellectual property. Like a car or any other possession, we believe our words belong to us and cannot be used without our permission.

If at any point, you should feel the need for further discussion to clarify any issue, the instructor will meet with you outside class.


Class Participation 30%
Group Presentations 20%
Response Papers 25%
Essays 25%

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2004