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SPAN 596 A: Literary Problems: Twentieth Century

Meeting Time: 
T 2:30pm - 5:20pm
MGH 228
Joint Sections: 
CMS 597 A
Leigh Mercer

Syllabus Description:

SPAN 596/ CMS596: Spanish Cinema and the Uneven Experience of Modernity


Class: Tuesdays, 2:30-5:20 in MGH 228

Professor Mercer

Office: Padelford B219

Office hours: Thursdays 1:40-3:00 and by appointment

Telephone: 543-2059



Course materials:


***All films are available to stream on our course Canvas website, unless otherwise noted***

Click here: Film Page


  • El hotel eléctrico (The Electric Hotel); Segundo de Chomón (1905?)

  • Barcelona en tranvía (Barcelona by Trolley), Ricardo de Baños (1908)


  • Las hurdes, tierra sin pan (Land Without Bread), Luis Buñuel (1933)
  • ¡Bienvenido, Mister Marshall! (Welcome, Mr. Marshall!)and El verdugo (The Executioner) , Luis García Berlanga (1953 and 1963)
  • Cría cuervos (Raise Ravens), Carlos Saura (1976)
  • Laberinto de pasiones (Labyrinth of Passion, Pedro Almodóvar (1982)
  • Jamón, jamón, Bigas Luna (1992)
  • Te doy mis ojos (Take My Eyes), Icíar Bollaín (2003)
  • Princesas, Fernando León de Aranoa (2005)
  • El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth), Guillermo del Toro (2006)
  • Biutiful, Alejandro González Iñárritu (2010)
  • Arrugas (Wrinkles), Ignacio Ferreras (2011)
  • Con la pata quebrada (Barefoot in the Kitchen), Diego Galán (2013)
  • En tierra extraña (In a Foreign Land), Icíar Bollaín (2014)
  • 10.000 km, Carlos Marques Marcet (2014)
  • All readings are available under “Files” on our Canvas course webpage:


Course Goals and Requirements:


This course examines the construction of the Spanish nation in the context of cinematic production stretching from the silent era to the present day. We will interrogate common assumptions regarding Spain’s uneven experience of modernity, at the same time as we consider and complicate the canonical periodization of Spanish cinema. Topics will include: “Las dos Españas, or the two Spains; childhood and the Franco dictatorship; the decadence of Iberian machismo; the culture of crisis; and Spanish responses to immigration and globalization.




  • Class attendance is essential, because your active participation is required for this course to function properly. Students should come to class having screened the films and prepared the readings, and ready to participate regularly in discussion.
  • Students must submit an abstract and minimal bibliography as a proposal for their final paper. An abstract is a summary of about a page (300-500 words) of the topic to be discussed, the primary texts and theories to be studied, the arguments to be undertaken, and the anticipated conclusions to be reached. If you are unfamiliar with this genre of writing, please ask me to provide you with models.
  • Final papers for the course should be 9-10 pp. plus a bibliography, and of a conference presentation quality. What does this mean? While you will research and studiously craft this presentation as much as you might a standard article-length paper, you should use a more informal register and keep in mind the oral delivery of this work.
  • To broaden class discussion and the support the pedagogical formation of students, pairs of students will present on one of the films under study. Students will present for 30-40 minutes on topics of their choosing. Topics must be cleared with Prof. Mercer via email at least 48 hours before class. Students will be graded individually on their preparedness and ability to facilitate class involvement by engaging their classmates in discussion and critical analysis. As much as possible, students should make their presentations interactive and engage with the critical readings assigned for the day of their presentation.
  • Students are responsible for writing one-page reaction papers to each of the films under study. These reaction papers will be collected at the end of each seminar meeting, so always bring a printed copy of your essay to class. These short essays are not meant to be summaries of what you have seen, nor a complete review of the film, but rather offer a sense of your initial critical reflections on the technical, thematic, or affective importance of each cinematic work.
  • So that accommodations can be made, please let me know as soon as possible if you have a physical or learning disability that you believe may affect your performance in this class.
  • No late papers will be accepted, unless you provide a written medical excuse.





            Abstract: 25%

            Presentation: 20%

Participation and reaction papers: 20%

Final Paper: 35%



Course Schedule:


January 3:                Introduction to the course. Las dos Españas, or the Two Spains. Barcelona by Trolley, The Electric Hotel, and Land Without Bread.


Reading: “Silent Cinema and Its Pioneers,” “Surrealism and the Advent of Sound,” “Interior and Internal Spain,” and “History of Spanish Cinema.”


January 10:              The Franco Dictatorship and the U.S.A. Welcome, Mr. Marshall!


                                    Reading: "Film Studies Basics," “¡Bienvenido Mr. Marshall! and the Renewal of Spanish Cinema,” and a selection from Simon Barton’s A History of Spain.

                                    Optional reading: “¡Bienvenido Mr. Marshall!” by Wendy Rolph



January 17:              Dictatorial Decadence. The Executioner


                                    Reading: “The Liberal Dictatorship and its Agony”



January 24:              The Children of Franco. Raise Ravens and Pan’s Labyrinth


Reading: “Cría cuervos, Raise Ravens” and “Malevolent Fathers and Rebellious Daughters.”




January 31:              “El futuro ya está aquí/ The Future Is Already Here”. Labyrinth of Passion


                                    Reading: “Blind Shots” (read only the introductory pages and the section on Labyrinth of Passion)



February 7:              Research consultations with Deb Raftus, Hispanic Studies librarian. TURN IN ABSTRACT via email by Feb 10 at 12pm.           


February 14:            Decadence of the Iberian macho man and the Ave/Eva myth. Spanish women on film. Jamón, jamón and Barefoot in the Kitchen


Reading: "From España ye-yé to España je-je," and



February 21:                        Social horrors. Take My Eyes and Wrinkles


Reading: “Regarding the Pain of Others,” “Representations of Violence” and



February 28:                        Immigration and Globalization.

Princesas and Biutiful       


Reading: “The Politics of Looking,” “Transnational Reciprocity,” and “A Biutiful City.”



March 7:       The culture of crisis. Spain beyond Spain. In a Foreign Land and 10,000 km.


                        Reading: “The Socialists Strike Back,”,, and







Reference Works of Interest:


100 Years of Spanish Cinema, Tatjana Pavlovic

A Companion to Spanish Cinema, Jo Labanyi and Tatjana Pavlovic

A History of Spanish Film, Sally Faulkner

Spanish Cinema, Rob Stone

Spanish Cinema, A Student’s Guide, Barry Jordan and Mark Allinson,

Spanish Cinema in the Global Context, Samuel Amago

Spanish Cinema: The Auteurist Tradition, Peter William Evans

Spanish National Cinema, Núria Triana Toribio

Last updated: 
August 7, 2017 - 9:23pm