21L.640J | Fall 2015 | Undergraduate

The New Spain:1977-Present


Course Meeting Times

Seminar: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


One intermediate course in Spanish or MIT students need to get the instructor’s permission.

Course Overview

This course deals with the vast changes in Spanish social, political and cultural life that have taken place since the death of Franco. Topics include new freedom from censorship, the re-emergence of strong movements for regional autonomy (the Basque region and Catalonia), the new cinema including Almodóvar and Saura, educational reforms instituted by the socialist government, and the fiction of Carme Riera and Terenci Moix. Special emphasis on the emergence of mass media as a vehicle for expression in Spain. The course considers the changes wrought by Spain’s acceptance into the European Community. Materials include magazines, newspapers, films, fiction, and Amando de Miguel’s Los Españoles. The classes were taught in Spanish.


In addition to the required books for this subject, there is additional assigned reading material on the course website. Readings allow us to share information on politics, film, the new constitution, art, education, immigration, the autonomous regions, “la movida” and fashion. There will be several movies and telenovela used in the course as well as DVDs that chronicle the transición from dictatorship to democracy.


Grandes, Almudena. Castillos de Cartón. TusQuets, 2004. ISBN: 9788483102596.

Mendicutti, Eduardo. Una mala noche la tiene cualquiera. TusQuets, 1998. ISBN: 9788472238329.

Molina, Antonio Muñoz. El dueño del secreto. Booket, 2007. ISBN: 9788432217661.

Pedrero, Paloma. Juego de noches. Nueve obras en un acto. Catedra, 1999. ISBN: 9788437617459.

Tremlett, Giles. Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past. Walker Books, 2008. ISBN: 9780802716743.

See the Readings section for a list of the readings used in class.

The movies must be seen before the class date when they will be discussed. Finally, it is important that you read El País so that we can discuss the way contemporary Spaniards view their own and international politics. Reading El País will be an essential part of the subject.


  1. Class discussion is central to this course; therefore, you are expected to attend all classes. Any unexcused absence will lower your grade. If you are sick, or if you must be absent for any other reason, email me before class. Because class meets once a week, missing a class is equivalent to missing a week.

  2. You will be asked to write short responses to questions based on the readings. One purpose of this exercise is to get your thoughts and reactions together for class discussion: Therefore, the responses must be handed-in when you come to class—not a few days or an hour later.

  3. By Week 6, you will each begin to explore some aspect of contemporary Spain in greater depth. These topics can include anything that interests you: Film, educational reform, the problems engendered by having autonomous regions, fashion, music, religion, the new constitution, immigration, gender, government energy initiatives (wind, solar, wave), etc. Each week when noted on the syllabus, you will read two articles on your topic and write a two or three sentence summary. I will distribute samples to give you an idea of what to do. By the end of the semester you will have read quite a lot on your topic and, for your final project portfolio, you will write a report of what you have learned that focuses on the agents of change in contemporary Spain: How has democracy, the end of censorship, Spain’s entry into the European Community, the Spanish economy, etc. transformed the area you are studying. We will also have oral presentations on the topic.

    The most important work you do in this course is the construction of a portfolio that reflects research and your response to that research on a chosen topic. By the second half of the semester, part of each class will be devoted to your giving presentations in which you share insights, problems, and materials you have discovered as you do your research.

  4. You will be using the internet and other sources as you build your portfolio. Much of the portfolio will be constructed around articles you find in various places. Your final report will reflect your own thoughts. If you are in doubt about whether or not to cite sources in your own writing: See me. It is crucial that you state the difference between your thoughts and someone else’s.

    I will try to gear the course to each of your interests. Please let me know if you are having trouble during the semester or if there are specific language skills you would like to improve. This course should be an enjoyable one for you: It is varied in its materials and examines one of the only times in history when the transition from dictatorship—in this case a military / fascist dictatorship that endured almost 40 years—to democracy took place without bloodshed.


Class participation 15
Written responses 40
Oral presentation of portfolio 14
Portfolio 21

*Unless we are specifically doing a task that requires individual access to the internet, no electronic devices are allowed during class time.

*Please read the following note about plagiarism. It is extremely important that you take care to acknowledge any idea that you learn from any source. It is better to be cautious. If you are not sure if you should cite something, please ask one of us.

Plagiarism - the use of another’s intellectual work without acknowledgement - is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted and in all oral presentations, including images or texts in other media and for materials collected online. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else’s work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student’s own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available in the Writing and Communication Center, review their page on avoiding plagiarism, review MIT’s online Academic Integrity Handbook.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2015
Learning Resource Types
Presentation Assignments with Examples