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

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese in Benedict Hall

Founded in 1968, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese has grown into a cutting-edge research unit, boasting some 30 tenured and tenure-track faculty members with specializations across a broad spectrum of Literatures, Linguistics, and Cultures from Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Spain, Portugal, and Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking Africa. Our faculty members regularly publish articles in the leading journals of our disciplines, and books in important scholarly presses; have their work funded by grants from the federal government and private foundations; and present their research at national and international conferences and symposia.

Our diverse and interdisciplinary research and teaching interests extend far beyond the traditional fields of theoretical and applied linguistics, national literatures, and languages to embrace cultural studies, indigenous studies, bilingualism, gender and sexuality studies, Afro-diasporic cultures, trans-Atlantic studies, translation studies, intellectual history, popular culture, religion, prose fiction, film, media, drama, performance, and poetry. It is not surprising, then, that our outstanding, committed, and internationally-recognized faculty also hold diverse academic affiliations across the University of Texas campus: with the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (including its Brazil Center and Mexican Center), Modern European Studies, Jewish Studies, Indigenous Studies, Comparative Literature, the Center for Mexican American Studies, the Center for African and African American Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies. These collaborations allow us to sponsor writers and artists in residence and to bring many distinguished scholars to campus.

The main pedagogical goal of our department is to guarantee that every student receives the highest quality education. We accomplish this goal by continually refining and building on the strengths of our academic programs, creatively incorporating technology into our teaching, providing frequent and meaningful feedback, and striving to maintain small class sizes to allow each student individual attention. The department offers an uncompromising and carefully designed curriculum that draws on the innovative research of our faculty, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Our general program is an integral part of the education provided by UT’s College of Liberal Arts and seeks to assist students to develop an informed appreciation for languages, literatures and cultures as well as to acquire basic skills in critical thinking, effective writing, and oral communication in Spanish and Portuguese. Our faculty also contributes to undergraduate education at UT through the School of Undergraduate Studies, especially through an active participation in the “Signature Courses” program as well as in the “Bridging the Disciplines Programs” (BDP) and its course offerings in Film Studies, Human Rights and Social Justice, and Cultural Studies.

Each year, our department helps prepare approximately 800 undergraduate majors in Spanish and/or Portuguese for careers in both the private and public sectors such as: international business, education, health care, public service, and government. Many of our majors before graduation spend at least one semester in Spain, Mexico, or South America, an experience that has proven to be decisive for their language and cultural skills.

Our graduate programs are also essential to the fulfillment of our intellectual mission. Beyond their formal academic and instructional work, our nearly 120 graduate students participate in a variety of activities, including the organization of a bi-annual conference, a literary journal, and informal poetry readings. Through a variety of workshops, they also prepare for various aspects of academic life, including conference presentation, publication, and grant-writing. The Graduate Student Organization (GSO) provides them with the opportunity to perform university service, assist their fellow students, and influence the direction of the program.  As a result of this broad preparation for a career in academia, the department has an excellent record of placing students in promising and rewarding positions when they complete their Ph.D.

The research performed by faculty and students in our field depends in part on the excellence of the Libraries and Centers of the University of Texas at Austin. The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection is a specialized research library focusing on materials from and about Latin America, and on materials relating to Latinos in the United States. The Collection contains over 970,000 books, periodicals, pamphlets, and microforms; 4,000 linear feet of manuscripts; 19,000 maps; 11,500 broadsides; 93,500 photographs; and 50,000 items in a variety of other media (sound recordings, drawings, video tapes and cassettes, slides, transparencies, posters, memorabilia, and electronic media). Periodical titles are estimated at over 40,000 with 8,000 currently received titles and over 3,000 newspaper titles.  Among its gems are the original manuscript of Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela, a first edition of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Inundación castálida, and Indigenous codices of Latin America.

The Perry-Castañeda Library houses an enviable collection of primary and critical texts from Medieval and Modern Spain and Portugal, along with many of the major journals in our fields.

The Harry Ransom Center archives an extensive collections of rare books, manuscripts, photography, film, art, and the performing arts, including manuscripts by Jorge Luis Borges, Pío Baroja, and Octavio Paz. The Fine Arts Library (FAL) serves our Department through its collection of feature films, television shows, and other audio-visual materials.

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese is committed to fomenting a deep and complex understanding of the heterogenous cultures we research and teach, from their earliest inceptions on the Iberian Peninsula and in the Americas, to their most current linguistic and cultural manifestations in Europe, Africa, and the Americas.  The value of this knowledge cannot be underestimated, particularly in light of phenomena ranging from the economic boom in Brazil, to the profound political and social changes in Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Spain, Guatemala, the Caribbean, and Mexico, to the rapidly growing percentage of U.S. citizens of Portuguese or Hispanic heritage in the United States, and especially in Texas.

We encourage you to explore the web pages of our faculty and students to look at their research and teaching interests, to contact our Graduate Coordinator (Laura Rodríguez) or one of our Undergraduate Advisors (Liz Hastings and Christine Fisher) if you are interested in one of our programs, and to take some of the many exciting and important courses that our faculty members offer.

Jill Robbins
Department of Spanish and Portuguese
The University of Texas at Austin
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