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 12:45-1:30 and by appointment.

SPAN 253: Introduction to Hispanic Literature

Fall 2004

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Section 004: T R 11:15-12:30, 103 Ferguson, 3 Credit Hours

Catalogue Description

INTRODUCTION TO HISPANIC LITERATURE ( 3) Introduction to generic distinctions, critical methods, and approaches to Hispanic literature. Prerequisite: SPAN 200

Course Description

This course is designed to introduce students to the theory and practice of literary analysis as applied to representative works from Spain and Spanish-America, and to the historical development of Hispanic literatures.  We will cover works from a broad range of historical periods and we will study different textual forms.  Through a study of literary form, literary examples, and basic approaches to the study of literature students will learn to understand literature formally and contextually.   

Course Objectives

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




Virgilio, Carmelo, et. al. Aproximaciones al estudio de la literatura hispnica. 5th. ed. NY: McGraw Hill, 2003.

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.

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, Quizzes and Homework






Close Readings


Genre Exams


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 and Homework

This is a discussion, reading and writing- intensive course and lectures will be used minimally.  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 I may arrange to make the extra absences excused as well. 

QUIZZES: We may occasionally have a pop quiz or scheduled quiz to determine how carefully students have read assignments.  These will be short and simple. 

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.  I will occasionally collect your answers. Even when these are not collected your preparation of the homework will be obvious by your class participation.


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 log in and 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. 

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. 

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

     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.

     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.

     Try to answer the questions posted by your classmates.  

     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.  

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

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



3. Presentations

Each student will present one of the authors we are studying. You will receive more detail on these presentations in class.

4. Close Readings

The ability to analyze a brief passage in detail is a crucial skill for all students of literature. We will do two close readings in order to help you improve your skills. These will be done in class and the final version will be written outside of class.  I will give more details about this assignment beforehand.

I have created a close reading guide to help you. Make sure to visit the page before these assignments.  You may bring a copy of the guide with you to consult.

5. Genre Exams

We will have three genre exams that correspond to the three genres we cover in the course.  You will be given review information before each exam. There is no final exam.


Created and Maintained by Sophia A. McClennen

Copyright Sophia A. McClennen 2003-4


Created on 12/5/2003

Last updated on 08/10/2004