Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 21G.735 Advanced Topics in Hispanic Literature and Film: The Films of Luis Buñuel as it was taught by Prof. Elizabeth Garrels from 1999-2013.

This course explored films spanning the entire career of pioneering Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel (1900-1983). The class materials paid special attention to his Mexican period, in exile, and the films he made in, and about, Spain. The course focused on historical contexts and relevant film criticism.

This course was taught at MIT seven times between 1999 and 2013. Instead of representing a single semester of a course, as is typical on OpenCourseWare, 21G.735 represents a history of the course, and a compilation of all the materials used to teach it, during this period of time.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • Improve ability to read, write, listen, and speak in Spanish
  • Demonstrate improvement in written argumentation and sophistication of expression
  • Demonstrate intellectual maturation and a growing awareness of and sensitivity to the formal aspects of narrative structure and filmic language
  • Increase one’s knowledge of the social and historical realities reflected in the films and learn to discern each film’s point of view regarding these realities

Instructor Interview


Elizabeth Garrels, Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies. (Image by Jon Sachs and used with permission.)

In the following pages, Prof. Elizabeth Garrels describes various aspects of how she taught 21G.735 Advanced Topics in Hispanic Literature and Film: The Films of Luis Buñuel.

  • Course History
  • Film Selections and Viewing Experiences
  • Facilitating Discussions in Spanish with Students at Different Language Proficiency Levels
  • Using Fotogramas as Study Tools

Curriculum Information


  • Completion of Spanish IV and at least one intermediate Spanish subject.
  • Permission was granted to native speakers who had attended secondary school in a Spanish-speaking country, and in very rare cases to non-native students who had completed Spanish IV or the equivalent and who had some additional speaking experience (i.e. travel or work abroad) or frequent conversations with native-speaker relatives.
  • Heritage learners (U.S. Latinos with some home Spanish, but not necessarily formal training), as well as non-native students, were generally required to have an interview in Spanish with the instructor in order to be considered for enrollment.
  • Students were required to have advanced knowledge of both Spanish and English, as reading materials were often quite sophisticated, both in content and style.

Requirements Satisfied

  • HASS-H
  • Global Studies and Languages bachelor’s degree optional requirement


The course was taught in 1999, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013.

Student Information


Fewer than 10 students

Breakdown by Year

Between 1999 and 2013 enrollment included:

  • 1 freshman
  • 4 sophomores
  • 14 juniors
  • 27 seniors
  • 2 auditors

Typical Student Background

  • Of the 48 students, 26 were either foreign-educated native speakers or U.S. Latinos.
  • Students had usually heard of Buñuel prior to the class, and some had seen at least one of his films.



Grade Breakdown

The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 40% Attendance and participation in discussions
  • 5% Written notes on the book Mi último suspiro
  • 20% Oral reports
  • 10% 750 word essay on scene from film
  • 25% 10-page paper

Instructor Insights on Assessment

Grades were given for students’ development of critical thinking and analytical skills, as well as for their mastery of the content; grades were not given for the development or mastery of specific Spanish-language skills.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In class

  • Met 2 times per week for 1.5 hours per sessions; 26-27 sessions total.
  • In-class film screenings
  • Discussions about readings and films

Out of Class

  • Reviewing films
  • Reading assigned books and articles
  • Completing assignments

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2013
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Instructor Insights