Spanish MSt/MPhil Programmes

These are the Special Subject options available in 2019-20. These are indicative of the course offerings for the sub-faculty, so applicants should note that not all options will run in all years, and some course content might change. 



Myth, History, and the Construction of Identity in Medieval Iberia (Michaelmas, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Hazbun

This course will examine the re-imagining of the past in medieval epic and chronicle, with a view to exploring the ways in which the literary reconfiguration of history in these texts shapes the identities of their day, comprising ethnicity, gender, proto-nationalist sentiment, and religious affiliation. Close attention will be paid to the literary strategies which underpin the transformation of history, and to the creative interchange of history and myth. With close reference to the rich cultural background and political history of medieval Iberia, the course will also seek to understand the ideological foundations of the reconception of history.

Textual Criticism, Philology, and the Editing of Hispanic Medieval Texts (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Morras

This course will explore, with a strongly practical component, the main problems posed by the editing of Hispanic medieval texts, and how textual criticism has, in different times and places, developed different text-editing methodologies. The link between textual criticism and philology – defined as a comprehensive textual, linguistic, and cultural approach to texts – will also be examined, as well as its implications for those interested in the editing of Hispanic medieval texts.

The Golden Age

Developments in Prose Narrative in the Spanish Renaissance (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Thacker

This course examines the extraordinary innovations in prose narrative in the Spanish Golden Age. This period saw the publication of the first picaresque novels, Don Quijote, Persiles y Sigismunda and a new type of short fiction (practised by Cervantes, Lope de Vega, María de Zayas and Salas Barbadillo amongst others). The course investigates the history of and reasons for the use and abuse, acceptance and rejection, imitation and parody of earlier models in prose works short and long. The influence of classical, Italian and native Spanish prose narrative on late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century works by a number of authors is traced in some detail.

Drama in an Ideological Age (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Thacker

The main purpose of drama is not to support a dominant ideology. This statement is taken as axiomatic in this course’s attempts to test the extent to which Golden-Age drama questioned the dominant world-views of the period. An age which experienced a consolidation of power in church and state and in which many lived in fear of the agents of the Inquisition managed to produce a kind of theatre which could ‘decir sin decir’, which could subtly undermine the ruling ideologies. As well as examining the relationship of theatre to authority (including its use as propaganda) in the works of the major dramatists of the period, this course traces the history of the reception of Golden Age drama from its early troubles with the moralists through to present day critical orthodoxies.

Public Role and Private Self in Golden Age Drama (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Thacker

This course explores the tensions and conflicts which so often arise between ideals of social behaviour and realities of personal desire in Golden-Age drama. It sets out the bases of significant social role-play (for example the conduct of the king, the wife, the peasant) as dramatists understood them and assesses the extent to which these can be modified or questioned by the individual on the stage. The plays studied, written by a number of important playwrights of the period (including Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, Tirso de Molina and Ruiz de Alarcón), are seen to contribute to the processes of demolition of old role models and construction of new ones. Attention is paid to the means by which dramatists address the questions of public role and private self, and to the relationship of dramatic genre to these issues.

Literature and Painting in the Golden Age of Spain (Michaelmas Term)

Convenor: Dr Noble Wood

This course explores the close relationship which existed between writing and painting in the Golden Age, one which went far beyond reworkings of Horace’s ‘ut pictura poesis’. There were poet-painters and painter-poets. Poets also wrote about painters and paintings, or cultivated a highly visual style; dramatists wrote plays about painters, and often use the metaphorical language of paintings. Painters wrote important treatises on painting which make frequent connections between verbal and visual art, while other writers have fascinating things to say about the programmatic nature of particular collections. The Council of Trent’s decree on images affected the course of religious art. The long debate about the status of painting – mechanical craft or noble art – caused writers and painters alike to defend its nobility by emphasising the painter as learned in many things (the libraries of El Greco and Velázquez demonstrate how widely they read). The course will look especially at Juan de Jáuregui, José de Sigüenza, Vicencio Carducho and Francisco Pacheco, alongside paintings by Spanish artists of the period, notably El Greco and Velázquez.

Power, Patronage, and Baroque Culture in the Golden Age of Spain (Michaelmas Term)

Convenor: Dr Noble Wood

In the Spanish Golden Age success in the creative arts was heavily dependent on the benevolent support and active assistance of patrons. This became increasingly the case in the seventeenth century with the reestablishment of the Court in Madrid and the rise of the controversial figure of the minister-favourite. Writers and artists flocked to Madrid, where they engaged in cut-throat battles about livelihoods, reputations, and preferment. The ultimate prize was the favour of the king, the fountainhead of power and patronage. This course will examine aspects of the relationship between Court society and Baroque culture, looking at how writers and artists jockeyed for position, how successive ruling elites came to harness the power of the pen/brush, and how the patronage of, in particular, Philip IV and the Count-Duke of Olivares inspired some of the finest works of the Spanish Golden Age.

The Reception of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the Golden Age of Spain (Michaelmas Term)

Convenor: Dr Noble Wood

In Spain, as in the rest of Western Europe, the Renaissance saw an explosion of interest in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The range of approaches to Ovid’s work seen in this period is reflected in the many and varied forms in which it circulated (‘moralized Ovids’, vernacular translations, illustrated editions, iconographical handbooks, etc.). Writers and painters freely plundered Ovid’s rich storehouse of mythological narratives for subjects worthy of imitation. Such subjects included the tales of Icarus, Orpheus and Eurydice, Polyphemus and Galatea, Pyramus and Thisbe, and Venus and Adonis. This course will examine the influence of Ovid’s Metamorphoses on the literary and visual culture of the Spanish Golden Age. It will look at a range of different attitudes to Ovid, chart the development of the mythological epic and the mythological burlesque, and explore the use made of the “poets’ Bible” in the works of poets and painters such as Garcilaso, Góngora, and Velázquez.

Cervantes’s Experiments in Fiction (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Dr Noble Wood

Cervantes is the great iconic author of Hispanic letters, and his influence on the development of narrative has been incalculable. Indeed, as the American critic Harold Bloom observed, “context cannot hold Cervantes”. This course will place Cervantes’s fiction in the context of Spain’s Golden Age but also look at ways in which it could be said to transcend its age and anticipate modern fiction in its various modes – realist, modernist, and even postmodernist.


Modern Peninsular Studies

Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Spanish Women Writers (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor de Ros

The course approaches women’s writing from both a historical and a metafictional perspective. It is intended to enable students to develop an awareness about questions of canonicity and authorial recognition, exploring theoretical issues related to textual representation and sexual politics.

Responses to the Spanish Civil War (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Dr Omlor

This option explores the varied responses to the Civil War in Spanish literature across a range of genres. The Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) has played an important role not only in the history of Spain and Europe but also within literary and cultural production. During the war, literature and culture were often utilized as propaganda tools on both sides and the war continued to be a point of reference during Franco’s dictatorship, both for writers in exile and at home. From the transition to democracy which followed Franco’s death in 1975 onwards, Spanish literature has been engaged in a so-called recovery of historical memory which ran in parallel with the passing of the Ley de Memoria Histórica (2006). Students will investigate the various responses to the war and its aftermath in the works of writers such as Javier Cercas and Javier Marías. They will have the opportunity to focus on those issues and genres that interest them the most and are encouraged to employ a variety of different approaches to the study of the subject, including a comparative one.

Ramón del Valle-Inclán (1866–1936) (Hilary Term)

Convenor: Dr Lonsdale

Valle-Inclán was one of Spain’s most innovative twentieth-century authors, best known for his creation of the esperpento. In spite of enormous critical interest in his work in Spain, he is little known in translation and features only sporadically on undergraduate courses in the UK, such that his contribution to modernist literature is not widely appreciated or understood. This special subject will allow students to explore not only such masterpieces as Luces de bohemia (1924) and Tirano Banderas (1926), but a range of other dramatic, prose fictional and poetic works, as well as his aesthetic treatise La lámpara maravillosa (1916) and some of his journalism. Students will consider Valle-Inclán’s linguistic and technical innovations in their cultural and literary context, and will be encouraged to develop their own specific areas of critical interest.

Spanish American

Realism and Its Alternatives in Spanish American Narrative (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Dr Moran 

Since the 1940s Spanish American narrative has been among the most innovative and vibrant in the world, as is witnessed by the work of such authors as Borges, Asturias, Carpentier, and Rulfo, who were established figures before the ‘Boom’ of the 1960s and 1970s, by internationally acclaimed ‘Boom’ writers like García Marquez, Vargas Llosa, Cortázar, and Fuentes, and by several generations of later authors who have been the focus of international attention. While some have been innovative realists, others have sought alternative means of depicting their sub-continent and conveying their personal vision. Students will investigate the various responses to realism seen in the works of modern Spanish American writers; they will, however, be encouraged to concentrate on those areas and issues that most interest them and to employ a range of approaches in their study of this subject.

Latin American Avant-Garde Poetry: Theory and Practice (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Dr Moran

This course would involve tracing and evaluating developments in Latin American poetry from Darío to Nicanor Parra and beyond, studying examples of poetry in relation to the various creeds and manifestos of the modernistas, ultraístas, estridentistas, creacionistas etc.

Political Commitment and the Avant-Garde in Latin American Literature (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Dr Moran

This course would deal with the various ways in which creative artists (poets, novelists and playwrights) have tried to address in their work the problem of combining, without compromising either, aesthetic freedom and basic socialist sympathies. In particular, it will focus on the problematic proposition that radical, avant-garde writing may be more politically potent than more classical forms of social realism – an issue that will be considered in the light of recent critical theory dealing with such matters. Writers studied would/could include Pablo Neruda, César Vallejo, Julio Cortázar, Tomás Eloy Martínez, Reinaldo Arenas, Jorge Adoum, and Ariel Dorfman.

Borges (Michaelmas Term)

Convenor: Professor Bollig

Not only did Borges have a seminal influence on contemporary Latin American literature, his work also had a remarkable impact on writers and theorists in Britain, the USA, France, Italy and elsewhere. This course will look at key texts by Borges which anticipate some of the principal concerns of critical theory, e.g. the arbitrariness of personal identity, the “death of the author”, intertextuality, the “constructed” nature of subjectivity and knowledge. It will also study other phases and aspects of Borges’s output – e.g. the poetry of his youth and old age, his later fiction – in order to arrive at a fuller understanding of the range and variety of his interests.

Sex, Sexuality, and Masculinities in Spanish American Literature (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Bollig

There is a strong recent tradition of studies of the role and portrayal of gender and sexuality in Latin American literature; a number of contemporary studies explore the question of “masculinities” in writing. In this option students will have the opportunity to explore a range of texts from the post-Independence period using a variety of theoretical optics. Topics may include: masculinity as a theme in “national romances” and other “foundational” texts (Mármol, Echeverría, Azuela); sexuality and the vanguards (Mistral, Neruda and others); the role of masculinity and machismo and its contestation in revolutionary writing (Vallejo, Dalton, Lezama Lima); the portrayal of transvestism (Donoso, Puig, Perlongher) and gender- or sexuality-related violence (Menchú, Lemebel, Almada, Mariana Enríquez); and so-called “post-masculinities” (Carrera, Pauls).

Latin American Cultural Studies: Key Texts (Michaelmas Term)

Convenor: Professor Bollig

In the last years of the twentieth century, Latin American Cultural Studies emerged as a discipline in its own right, in particular in the United States, with courses, journals, and anthologies bearing the name. Such a development should not sideline a long-standing tradition of cultural analysis and criticism of Latin America from Latin America. We focus in particular on texts that use cultural analysis (in the broadest sense) to address questions of national and international politics, addressing concepts such as internationalism, hybridity, transculturation, and post-autonomy. Texts to be studied could include: Simón Bolívar, “Carta de Jamaica”; Domingo F. Sarmiento, Facundo; José Enrique Rodó, Ariel; Oswald de Andrade, Manifestos (“Pau Brazil”, “Antropófago”); Gilberto Freyre, Casa grande e senzala; José Carlos Mariátegui, Siete ensayos de interpretación de la realidad peruana; Roberto Fernández Retamar, “Calibán”; Ángel Rama, La transculturación narrativa; Carlos Monsiváis, Mexican Postcards; Josefina Ludmer, Aquí América Latina.

Latin American Cinema (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Professor Bollig

This option gives students the opportunity to study and analyse major movements in the history of cinema in the countries of Latin America, from the radical experiments and manifestos of the 1950s and 60s to recent productions, including the successful international collaborations of the twenty-first century, and contemporary documentaries. The course encourages comparisons between directors, movements and films from different countries, through the lens of issues such as national identity, social criticism, ecology, landscape, gender, class and race. Students may also choose to focus on specific directors. They are encouraged to consider the relationship between theoretical approaches to cinema, including manifestos, as well as works of film-theory and film-philosophy, and the films being studied. [Students may attend the undergraduate lectures on Latin American cinema given by the sub-faculties of Spanish and Portuguese.]

The Body in 20th and 21st Century Spanish American Fiction (Michaelmas Term)

Convenor: Dr Vazquez-Medina 

This course allows students to conduct a thematic study of the body across a range of Spanish American fiction from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The body is a central motif in works by authors such as Miguel Ángel Asturias, María Luisa Bombal, Juan Rulfo, Rosario Castellanos, Gabriel García Márquez, Tomás Eloy Martínez, Luisa Valenzuela, Carmen Boullosa, Lina Meruane, and Guadalupe Nettel. In works by these and other writers, bodies have been used to articulate a variety of themes and concerns, addressing a range of human experience from the personal to the national. Students will be able to focus on the primary texts that most interest them, and will be introduced to the contextual and theoretical frameworks that may be most relevant in each case.

Haunting in Latin American Fiction (Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term)

Convenor: Dr Blanco

This course will explore Latino-American literature of haunting, ghosts, and revenants in the long twentieth century. Students will be asked to question the use, location, and logic of ghosts in literary fiction. They will also study the ways in which different authors (among them Machado de Assis, Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Márquez, Juan Rulfo, and the contemporary Latino writer Junot Díaz) craft these figures and the events of haunting in order to ask specific questions about the problems of history and its progress. The curriculum will be organized according to different theoretical approaches that have been used to study ghosts, thus offering students the opportunity to perform close readings of key texts, as well as methodological frameworks to debate the critical understanding of this literary phenomenon.


Medieval and Early Modern Iberian Studies

Students who choose to work exclusively on subjects in the Medieval and Golden Age periods may include one element in Portuguese.

Latin American Literature

Students who choose to work exclusively on Latin American subjects may include one Brazilian element.

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