Professor Sophia McClennen / Dept. of Comparative Literature and Department of Spanish, Penn State University, Mailbox: 311 Burrowes, Office:  435N Burrowes Office Phone: 865-0032 E-mail:, Office Hours:  T 8:30-9:30, R 12:30-1:30 and by appointment.

SPAN 220: Reading Ibero-American Civilization

Spring 2009

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Section 001:

T, R 09:45A - 11:00 207 Thomas

 3 Credit Hours

Catalogue Description

SPAN 220 READINGS IN IBERO-AMERICAN CIVILIZATION ( 3) Intermediate level Spanish readings dealing with Ibero-American life from the pre-conquest to the present. Prerequisite: SPAN 200

Course Description

Cultural History/Cultural Representation of Latin America

This course provides a survey of Latin American cultural history from pre-conquest to the present.  In addition to reading primary texts and secondary sources we will investigate the problem of cultural representation.  By comparing secondary sources and primary sources we will analyze the problem of historical accuracy and historical knowledge. Latin America is a complex region of more than twenty nations and even more regional and ethnic identities. It is simply impossible for us to study each of these groups for over more than 500 years of history in great detail with only 16 weeks of class.  Consequently we will focus on a small set of events, attempting to understand them with a certain degree of complexity, while simultaneously critiquing the idea of official history.

Course Objectives

Students enrolled in this course should expect to develop the following skills:




1.       Eugenio Chang-Rodríguez Latinoamérica: su civilización y cultura

2.       Denis Lynn, et. al. Tradición y cambio.

General Information:

Academic dishonesty: Students are expected to uphold the University's standards of academic integrity. Academic dishonesty will be dealt with according to University policies.

Registration Policy: During the drop/add period at the beginning of the semester, the department encourages students to visit this and other courses in order to make informed decisions about which courses to take. After the first week, however, only students registered in the course may remain; no student may late-add (or restore a dropped registration) after the third week of the semester without petitioning the department on a form available in the office, 311 Burrowes.

University Access Statement: The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified students with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities.  If you anticipate needing any kind of accommodations in this course or have any questions about physical access, please tell the instructor as soon as possible. 

Course Requirements

Grade Breakdown:

Participation, Preparation, Quizzes and Homework


Angel/Message Board Participation









Grading Scale:


100-93= A


92-90= A-


89-88= B+


87-83= B


82-80= B-


79-78= C+


77-70= C


69-60= D


59-0= F


Course components

1. Participation, Preparation, Homework, and Quizzes

This is a discussion, reading and writing- intensive course.  The success of this format depends on how well-prepared each student is BEFORE coming to class.  Effective participation requires that students arrive to class on time and ready to engage in advanced conversation about the materials for that day. Students will be given a chance to discuss and defend their opinions in class as well as learn to be tolerant of differing opinions. Moreover, students are encouraged to examine their convictions and interpretations not only by writing but also in the process of classroom discussion. Class will often be divided into smaller discussion groups in order to discuss topics in greater detail. Your class participation grade is based on observations of student performance in the following categories:

Class Participation Grading Scale:


Student is well prepared and enthusiastically participates in all class activities; is very considerate and cooperative with the rest of the class; asks questions and responds to questions in comprehensible Spanish with few errors; makes an effort to use new or more advanced grammar structures and vocabulary; demonstrates knowledge of course materials; consistently practices critical thinking; actively helps to create a vibrant learning community.


Student is generally prepared and willing to participate in class activities; is relatively cooperative with the rest of the class; asks questions and responds to questions most of the time in comprehensible Spanish with only minor errors; makes an inconsistent effort to use new or more advanced grammar structures and vocabulary; makes an inconsistent effort to refer to readings and course topics generally practices critical thinking; helps to create a vibrant learning community.


Student is often unprepared and reluctantly or sporadically participates in class activities; often does not ask questions or respond to questions; tends to speak English during class or speak Spanish with frequent and repeated major errors; rarely makes an effort to use new or more advanced grammar structures and vocabulary; rarely makes an effort to demonstrate knowledge of course materials; rarely practices critical thinking; does not show much interest in creating a vibrant learning community.


Student is generally unprepared, unwilling to participate in class activities and unable to answer questions; is incapable of formulating comprehensible questions or responses in Spanish, has poor pronunciation and/or incorrect grammar; makes little effort to use new or more advanced grammar structures and vocabulary; demonstrates little understanding of course materials; does not practice critical thinking; distracts from the creation of a vibrant learning community.


Student is absent (physically or mentally), unprepared, inattentive, uncooperative or disruptive in class.

A note on attendance: Your attendance is absolutely essential for the success of this course.  Not only do you miss the class activities of the day, but we miss your contributions.  Even though it is important for you to be in class, life will occasionally interrupt your ability to join us. For example, you may have a required university activity, you may be sick, or you may have a family obligation.  When you cannot be in class it is important for you to notify me so that I can help you to make up missed work.  Also, when possible, please bring verification of your absence (a note from your coach or doctor for instance).  Each student may miss class twice with no penalty to their participation grade. If you miss class more than twice for reasons beyond your control please see me and we can discuss your situation.

Homework: In addition to reading for class you will often be given questions to consider before coming to class.  You should make notes and write brief answers to these questions before arriving.  

Quizzes: We will occasionally have both scheduled and unscheduled short quizzes.


Participation is not limited to in-class discussion -- we will also be discussing issues on our MESSAGE BOARDS available on ANGEL. The MESSAGE BOARDS are set up to encourage discussion and debate of topics covered in class as well as other issues that you think are relevant. Each student is expected to write a message at least 7 times over the course of the semester. You do NOT need to write something every week, but you should read the postings before class. You DO need to post to the Forum on 7 different topics. I will post issues regularly for you to consider.

NOTE: For students who are less comfortable speaking in class, sustained participation on the MESSAGE BOARDS can help balance hesitancy in classroom participation. 

The MESSAGE BOARDS have topics listed that are in synch with our course. Please check the message boards before each class for discussion questions, topics to consider, and to respond to issues. You can also use the message boards to post questions or information. If you have questions about how to use ANGEL ask me for help. 

Ĝ     You must post to the message boards at least 7 times not counting required posts, such as your introduction or other assignments.

Ĝ     You must post to the message boards on a regular basis.  Posting seven times at the end of the semester will not receive full credit.

Ĝ     While you are welcome to post brief questions and answers, the postings for your grade must be a substantial communication, i.e., approximately 5 complex sentences.

Ĝ     Try to answer the questions posted by your classmates.  

Ĝ     You should try to post questions so that I can answer them for the benefit of all students.  It is generally better to post a question to the message boards than to me on e-mail, since if you have a question chances are your class mates are curious about the same thing.  Then, when I answer, all will see my response.  

Ĝ     Post useful web resources and explain why they helped you.  You can also post any tips on using websites.

Ĝ     You need to check ANGEL before each class, because I will often post important class info there.


3. Presentations/Challenging Official History

This course provides an overview of Latin American history and culture. Even though we begin the course asking questions about how this history is constructed, I have made selections and choices that have determined much of our course content. 

This presentation is your opportunity to challenge my choices.  You will present on a person, place, event, or issue that you feel SHOULD have been included in the course. You will teach the class about something you feel is important to understanding Latin America and that is missing from our syllabus. 

Each presentation should be approximately 10 minutes and should use media (Powerpoint, film clips, music, etc.).  You will give an overview of your topic as well as a rationalization for why you feel that your topic provides an important perspective on LA that we would have otherwise missed. You will receive more detail on these presentations in class.

4. Mid-term

Mid way through the course we will have a mid-term.  We will cover short answer in class and then there will be two short take home essays.

5. Final Exam

The Final exam will be similar in format to the mid-term. You will be given more details about the final in class.


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Created and Maintained by Sophia A. McClennen

Copyright Sophia A. McClennen 2007


Created on 12/5/2006

Last updated on 01/05/2009