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Spanish 90: Spanish Dectectives and the género negro


Fall 2008

M, W 12:30-2

Newport 100

Profa. Sara Brenneis

office: Barrett 106

office hours: Monday 2-3; Wednesday 11-12 and by appointment

  1. Course Description

This course critically examines a genre that has both resided on and represented the margins of Spanish society, and its transformation in recent years into a mainstream and highly exportable cultural phenomenon. Although the Spanish detective narrative has a long tradition in Spanish literature, the influences of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship and its concurrent air of corruption, censorship, and oppression spurred a new period in the genre’s formation. Through the second half of the 20th century, as the country transitioned from a dictatorship to a democracy, the Spanish crime and detective narrative became a manifestation of Spanish society’s struggles with social and political chaos. This course will begin with readings of early short narrative from American, Latin American, and Spanish sources and move on to contemporary narrative examples from Spain in order to convey the growth and unique nature of the Spanish género negro during and after the Franco dictatorship, as well as in present-day popular novels and films.

  1. Objectives and Grading

The basis of the course is the reading, interpretation, and analysis of a variety of texts, including films, in the context of notions of genre, history, cultural context, and literary conventions. Class time will be highly participatory, in the form of full-class and small-group discussions as well as individual presentations, although the professor will occasionally lecture on historical and cultural context as a means to orient the class. The participation grade is based on the students’ expected involvement and engagement in these classroom discussions, and includes announced and unannounced short written assignments. Students will write three essays based on the novels read, analyzing thematic elements, and applying historical and critical knowledge to fictional representations (see Appendix A). The oral grade reflects two possible types of presentations, discussion facilitations and informative oral presentations (see Appendix B), scheduled during the semester. A midterm exam will present short answer questions and identification of terms, characters, etc. from the course readings and discussions. The final project is creative: students will elect to produce either a film or a short story, in Spanish, based on the genre conventions studied throughout the semester. The final project will be a collaborative effort and will demand that the students demonstrate a critical understanding of the Spanish detective genre in order to accurately represent or parody it. Students will individually write a response paper based on the experience of creating the film or short story.

Grade Distribution:

Essays (3) – 35%

Midterm Exam – 15%

Classroom participation – 20%

Oral presentations – 10%

Final Project – 20%

III. Student Responsibilities

Students are expected to adhere to Amherst College’s Honor Code at all times. Students with disabilities or specific limitations that will affect their participation in the course should speak with the professor privately as soon as possible to make arrangements. Regular attendance is required and absences will adversely affect the participation grade. If students must miss a class, regardless of the reason, they should communicate with a classmate about what they missed and inform themselves of the homework for the next class. In order to respect the professor and the students, cell phones and other technological distractions are not permitted during class. This course is conducted entirely in Spanish: respectful dialogue en español is expected at all times!

III. Course Texts:
1) Novels (Available at Amherst Books)

  • La gota de sangre, Emilia Pardo Bazán (1911)

  • Los mares del Sur, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (1979)

  • Beltenebros, Antonio Muñoz Molina (1989)

  • La sombra del viento, Carlos Ruíz Zafón (2001)

2) Short Stories, Critical Articles and Theory (Course Packet available in Barrett 201)

  • “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” Edgar Allen Poe (1841)

  • “El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan,” “La muerte y la brújula,” Ficciones, Jorge Luís Borges (1941)

  • “Historia de detectives,” Cuentos completos, Juan Marsé (1987)

  • Selections from Jeopardy is my Job, Stephen Marlowe (1962)

  • “Realism Revisited: Myth, Mimesis and the Novela negra,Thrillers in the Transition, John Macklin (1992)

  • “The Rules of the Game: Conventions of Detective Fiction,” and “Realismo crítico in the Post-Franco Spanish Detective Novel,” The Detective Novel in Post-Franco Spain, Renée W. Craig-Odders (1999)

  • “Admisiones y supresiones” and “El detective,” El cadáver en la cocina: La novela criminal en la cultura del desencanto, Joan Ramón Resina (1997)

  • “What’s That He Said?: A Dictionary of Slang Employed by the Spanish Fictional Sleuth,” The Spanish Sleuth: The Detective in Spanish Fiction, Patricia Hart (1987)

3) Films (Amherst Streaming Video)

  • “Torrente, el brazo tonto de la ley,” dir. Santiago Segura (1998)

  • “Beltenebros,” dir. Pilar Miró (1991)

4) Additional Texts/Films on Reserve for Span 90

  • The Post-Colonial Detective, Ed Christian, ed.

  • “Torrente 2: Misión en Marbella” y “Torrente 3: El protector”

  • Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian detective fiction : essays on the género negro tradition, Renée W. Craig-Odders, Jacky Collins and Glen S. Close, eds.

IV. Course Outline

El género detectivesco: fuera y dentro de España
Semana 1:

miércoles 3: Introducción al curso

¿De qué consiste el género detectivesco?

Jeopardy is my Job; Maltese Falcon selecciones (handout)
Semana 2:

lunes 8: “Historia de detectives,” Juan Marsé (Course Packet)

“The Rules of the Game: Conventions of Detective Fiction,” Renée W. Craig-Odders (Course Packet)
miércoles 10: “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” Edgar Allen Poe (Course Packet)

Semana 3:

l 15: Redacción y discusión del film “Torrente: El brazo tonto de la ley” (Streaming)

“Admisiones y supresiones,” Joan Ramón Resina (Course Packet)
m 17: La gota de sangre, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Capítulos I-III

Semana 4:

l 22: La gota de sangre, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Capítulos IV-VIII

m 24: clase cancelada

Semana 5:

l 29: “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan” y “La muerte y la brújula,” Jorge Luís Borges (Course Packet)

La Transición y el género negro

m 1: Ensayo #1

Trasfondo histórico

Realismo crítico in the Post-Franco Spanish Detective Novel,” Renée W. Craig-Odders (Course Packet)

Semana 6:

l 6: “El detective,” Joan Ramón Resina (Course Packet)

Los mares del sur, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán 1ª parte (pp. 7-49)
m 8: Los mares del sur, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán 2ª parte (pp. 49-99)

Semana 7:

l 13: Descanso de medio semestre

m 15: Los mares del sur, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán 3ª parte (pp. 100-171)

Semana 8:

l 20: Los mares del sur, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán 4ª parte (pp. 171-220)

m 22: Examen de medio semestre

La transformación post-franquista del género

Semana 9:

l 27: Beltenebros, Antonio Muñoz Molina, capítulos 1-7

“Realism Revisited: Myth, Mimesis and the Novela negra,” John Macklin (Course Packet)
m 29: Beltenebros, Antonio Muñoz Molina, caps. 8-12


Semana 10:

l 3: Beltenebros, Antonio Muñoz Molina, caps. 13-18 (final)

m 5: Ensayo #2

Discusión del filme “Beltenebros”

Semana 11:

l 10: La sombra del viento, Carlos Ruíz Zafón pp. 9-14, capítulos 1-13 (pp. 17-104)

m 12: La sombra del viento, Carlos Ruíz Zafón. caps. 14-25 (pp. 107 – 217)
Semana 12:

l 17: La sombra del viento, Carlos Ruíz Zafón, caps. 26-33 (pp. 218-292)

Propuestas para el proyecto final
m 19: La sombra del viento, Carlos Ruíz Zafón, caps. 34-parte III/7 (pp. 293-390)


Semana 13:

l 1: La sombra del viento, Carlos Ruíz Zafón, caps. parte III/7 – final (pp. 390 – 478/final)

m 3: Ensayo #3

Discusión de otro filme a anunciar

Semana 14:

l 8: Presentaciones

m 10: Presentaciones

martes, 16 de diciembre: Proyectos finales + ensayo de redacción

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