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SPAN 742: Poiesis in Spanish America (Theories and practices of literary creation across genres and periods)

TuTh 11:00-12:15, Hybrid course, probably Tues. on zoom/Thurs. in-person, Dey 205
Prof. A. Rivero (

Description: To fully appreciate the changing roles played by writers and readers in the production and reception of Spanish American literature, it’s essential to understand parallel developments in literary theory and practice elsewhere. Therefore, we’ll focus on seminal texts primarily from the region, but also read those from other countries that impacted how the author and reader were perceived over time, particularly from the late 19th to the 21st century. Authors were viewed as inspired creators, visionaries, authority and national figures, absent centers of meaning, etc., whereas the perspective on readers metamorphosed concomitantly from a passive into an active and co-authorial one. Issues of ethnic, racial, and gendered writing and reading will also be plumbed. In addition, we’ll examine how digital and environmental humanities have transformed reading and writing. Prior knowledge of theory is not required. Specialists in other languages should read the original works. Texts (many are on the Spanish qualifying exam): Mallarmé, “A Throw of the Dice” (poem); Martí, “Nuestra América” (essay); Darío, Poesías (selections); Unamuno, Niebla (novel); Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author (play); Quiroga, “Decálogo del perfecto cuentista” (essay) and selected narratives; Borges, Ficciones (selected short stories); Burgos, selected poems; Sarduy, De donde son los cantantes (novel); Castellanos, “El eterno femenino” (play); Valenzuela, Cambio de armas (selected narratives); Rodríguez Pagán, (selections, digital novel). Theoretical readings on course reserve or online. Texts used depend on availability.

Work for the Course: (1) A 15-20″ presentation (40% of the grade) that includes relevant criticism and theory on a reading from the syllabus. (2) A 15-25 pp. research paper that combines
theory, criticism, and textual analysis (60%); it can either expand the talk or examine
another germane topic. Active participation is expected.