Final year culture modules - semester two

Investigating Iberia: Fictions of Detection

invesigating-iberiaCrime and detective narratives are perhaps the best-selling and most popular form of fiction among readers in Spain today, and the genre has enjoyed an ongoing ‘boom’ since the death of Franco. Investigating Iberia focuses on three of the most significant works of the enormous corpus of detective novels and short stories that have appeared in democratic Spain, from the novela negra that investigates the socio-political concerns of the Transition, through the spy thriller that uncovers the crimes of the dictatorship, to female-focused writing of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries that considers violence against women and how this can be addressed. One of the main aims of the course is to understand how detective and crime fictions function as a singularly effective medium through which key social and political issues are explored in Spain. On this option you will develop your analytical skills through your participation in seminars as well as research carried out in your own time, while also honing your team-working and independent learning abilities. You will have the chance to significantly enhance your proficiency in public speaking through the presentation of your work to your peers.

Libro De Buen Amor

The module examines the Castilian verse work the Libro de Buen Amor from a variety of perspectives. Close reading of the text is accompanied by a strategic overview of a range of contexts of production and consumption. In particular the module will focus on the humorous, blasphemous and occasionally scurrilous devices employed in the construction of the literary masterpiece of the Castilian Middle Ages. By the end of the module, students should be able to: comprehend the surface content of the Libro de Buen Amor; appreciate the range of styles employed and parodied in the work; appreciate the intricacies of the Libro and the multiple levels of meaning therein; assign the Libro to a variety of contexts, and assess its place in the medieval, and modern canons; and employ a range of oral and written skills of argumentation.

Currents in Catalan Literature

In the first part of the semester, students build an overview of cultural developments in Catalonia in the Twentieth Century, set within a wider consideration of Hispanic cultures. The authors and texts chosen for more detailed study in the second half of the semester have all achieved international recognition, and students will be encouraged to approach their work from a comparative perspective. The aim of the module is to offer a general introduction to currents in twentieth-century Catalan Culture, with special emphasis on four authors: Carles Riba (poetry), Montserrat Roig (novel), Albert Boadella (theatre - Els Joglars) and Bigas Luna (film).

Contemporary Portuguese Novel

Portuguese fiction has rightly come to occupy a preeminent place on the world literary scene, and many recent novels by national authors are acknowledged as among the most textually and thematically innovative and exciting internationally. Through the analysis of three texts, on The Contemporary Portuguese Novel module you will develop a deep and detailed understanding of some of the key issues that have concerned the Portuguese nation and its writers since the end of the Salazar dictatorship in 1974.

portuguese-novelYour reading of Lídia Jorge’s The Murmuring Coast (made into a successful movie by Margarida Cardoso) will examine how this particular writer responds to the recollection in Portuguese collective memory of the wars of independence in the country’s former colonies in Africa, and of the subsequent loss of those overseas territories.

Via study of José Cardoso Pires’ noir thriller, Ballad of Dogs’ Beach, you will assess how the detective novel is used by Portuguese authors to ‘investigate’ the crimes of the dictatorship, while reading New Portuguese Letters by ‘the Three Marias’, as the writers were known, will develop your knowledge and understanding of the role and position of women in the changing Portugal of the post-totalitarian state, and how society responded to the textualisation of female sexual desire and eroticism.

The skills you will develop on this course include not only analysis and reasoning as applied to cultural outputs, but you will also enhance your ability to express yourself in written form when you produce your end-of-course assessed essay. You are invited to identify an essay topic yourself in consultation with the lecturer in order that you write about a subject of particular interest to you. As most of the taught sessions for this option are in the seminar format, you will also build on your capacity for team and pair work and discussion in small groups, as well as improving the ways in which you report back findings to the wider class and negotiate with your fellow students on your ideas.

Please note: no prior knowledge of Portuguese literature is needed to take this module. Texts are taught in English translation, so you do not need to have studied Portuguese language to enrol.

A Time of Change: Collective and Cultural Memory in Contemporary Spain

This module offers a panoramic outlook on Spanish fiction since 1975, focusing particularly on the works of the authors who emerged during the 80s. In order to understand the diversity of styles and topics characteristic of this period the module examines a varied corpus of material, including novels and short stories. Seminars focus on topics such as genre questions in contemporary novel, the significance of symbolic elements, or key concepts such as Postmodernism or metafiction. By the end of the module students will have learned to assess the major trends in Spanish fiction in the past thirty years and be able to relate these to a wider Western tradition. The student will also be able to interpret the conveyed meaning of some works and put them in a wider Hispanic and Western context.

A Time of Change: Collective and Cultural Memory in Contemporary Spain

This module focuses on the micro- and macro-social factors which have influenced the genesis of this cultural boom de la memoria. It allows students to acquire a solid grounding in relevant mnemonic concepts such as trauma, post memory (Hirsch 1997), memory work (Kuhn, 1995), and counter memory (Foucault 1980).

By the end of the module, students should be able to demonstrate both an understanding of the relationship between cultural and collective memory in Spain, and a critical awareness of the contestatory role of cultural production. They will be adept at analysing cultural memory texts using their knowledge of key mnemonic concepts as well as identifying and analysing the strategies and innovative techniques employed by cultural practitioners in various media. They will demonstrate a nuanced appreciation of the differences between various media, and be fully capable of formulating their own opinions on aspects of a selection of texts.