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Jill Robbins, Chair 150 W 21st Street, Stop B3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4936

Spring 2007

SPN 322K • Civilization of Spanish America

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
47645 to 47670 Multiple Sections

Course Description

To grab at a composite is to overlook the particulate. And yet, in order to deal with systems, histories, identities ... even language as a semi-stable continuum, we must grab at composites. In our case, as we embark upon the study of a so-called Spanish American Civilization, we are certainly at risk of over-extension, as the contours and constituents of this space arein spatial, temporal, and qualitative termsquite vast. The designated space points to "established" cultures which are, in the strictest sense, well over 3200 years old, to more than 360 million living human beings who make their homes in 18 countries (and the Estado Libre Asociado of Puerto Rico) which spread across 8.6 million miles2 (22.3 million km2) and range from the wettest lands on Earth (the Chocñ region of Pacific Coastal Colombia) to the driest (Atacama Desert in Chile), from the largest tropical rain forest on Earth (Amazon) to the glaciers of Patagonia. The people of this vast space represent hundreds of ethnic and linguistic groups; and though the ethnicities are too many and too diverse to mention, the major indigenous and African linguistic groups are Tupi-Guarani in south-central South America, Maya (Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Quiché, or Yucatec) throughout Central America, Aymara in Bolivia, Quechua in Peru, Nahuatl in Mexico, and Yoruba in Cuba. Even this most cursory depiction of the vastness of Spanish America already presents the complexity of our subject. Our positioning vis-à-vis this course, therefore, will actually be where we most often reside in consciousness: between narrative and specimen; that is, between a story that makes sense and the details which seem to be left out of the seemingly complete jig-saw puzzle, between a sense of describable identity and a slew of idiosyncratic traits. Perhaps the larger question is: does one lead to the other? Does an intense insistence on narrative yield an understanding of specimen, and vice-versa, or do these represent two, divergent poles? Where does one perspective meet the other, or do they? Ultimately, this is a cosmological question. What seems interesting is that we will begin our semester with cultures that had a resolute faith in the narrative, in the cyclicality of all things, including time itself. We will end the semester closer to our official home: 21st century far-western post-modernity: a place that is ostensibly, and perhaps fundamentally, fragmentary and anti-narrative. Why then, or how, can we speak of a Spanish American Civilization? Leaving aside the fact that we have probably engaged in the common practice of othering the unknown, there is also the fact that the region has undergone four distinct periods or processes: i) a time before European domination; ii) the period of conquest and colonization; iii) the period of national independence; and iv) a modern and, in a more complex sense, post-modern period. Though these categories may not look all that different from the periods and processes that occurred to the north, the particular ways that they were experienced in Spanish America certainly did differ. Also, the region differs markedly from the rest of the Americas by way of its predominantly Hispanic and Portuguese cultural heritage, its predominantly Catholic religious culture, and a judicial system based in Roman Law. As we move into the semester, our goal is to perceive those qualities, those currents, conflicts, sorrows, desires, values, and traditions that make Spanish America a distinct and certainly vibrant part of planet Earth.

Grading Policy

Quizzes: 75 points (total) (15%) Midterm Exam: 125 points (25%) Compositions: 5 x 25 = 125 points (25%) Final Exam: 175 points (35%)


Required: Course Packet, Spanish American Civilization, Porto; available at Jenn's Copies (24th/Guadalupe) Optional: Latinoamerica: Presente y pasado, Arturo A. Fox, available at the Co-Op.This text is recommended for those of you wishing to have a concise historical reference which is based in primary texts. All primary texts have been translated into English.


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