20 July 2011

If I do teach Cortázar

First of all, if I do teach Cortázar, it would almost certainly be limited to Spanish 3. Secondly, if I do teach Cortázar, I would probably not teach the story I was assigned for my grad class: I'd so much rather sink my teeth into my favorite story by Sr. Julio: "Axolotl." That or do like la profesora said she does with her composition classes and have students explore one of his instrucciones pieces and then make their own wacky instructions.

However, I was assigned to present "Casa tomada," and so I shall. I have assembled various resources, in a glog, of course, including the following:

  • a link to the full text
  • a YouTube introduction to the author from an 1970's interview
  • a translated mini-bio (with a link to the original source)
  • a brief list of some of his major works
  • a quote from Borges about him
  • a map of the house that is tomada (with the source link, of course)
  • quotes that show why the characters' "matrimonio de hermanos" is creepy
  • a couple of quotes & schedule of their lives "sin pensar"
  • an artsy video with Cortázar narrating
  • a link to a video (Glogster & YouTube need to work out some copyright stuff, I think) that appears to be some college kids' interpretations of what really happened in the story
  • an interview with Cortázar about what the story's really about
  • a scrambled list of household-related vocabulary from the story, in document form
Now, I'm thinking that I would probably actually present all of this before I had students read the story, maybe even have students poke around on it flipped classroom style?  Maybe they could write me something they know about Cortázar and/or an outline of what they think happens in the whole story. Perhaps they would re-construct the story in pairs before the reading.

But even before pre-reading strategies, I think I would want to frame the story in a larger unit, probably returning to dictatorships. I think the essential question would be "Why do people allow dictators to take over?" So even before getting to this story, I would delve into (hopefully) some primary sources, or at least some articles and/or videos about Perón's reign. This might require a whole other glog...

In the interview I put on the first glog, of course Cortázar reveals the story is really just a dream he had, plus the siblings. However, he also says that the dream very well could have been a product of fears related to the dictatorship. As such, I think it offers a very useful analogy for the way dictators assume power, paso a paso, kind of like Niemoller said: "First they came for the socialists..."

Right before reading (after the glog responding), I'd have students group the household vocabulary: you know, semantic mapping. I'm tempted to let them play with the vocabulary out of context, collage-style, though I suspect my PLN would frown on it.

As for during reading, I'd almost certainly have to "gloss" the story. They say not to change the text, just the task, but I'm not sure if glossaries count as changing the text. Still, since this is all hypothetical, it's glossed. I think we would read as a class or in partners. And we'd read the story in pieces, and do a reflection activity for each:
  1. Description of the siblings / portrait of Irene & narrator (labeled?)
  2. Description of the house / "blueprint"
  3. Creepiness begins / recording with sound effects
  4. Things get normal(ish) again / perhaps a re-telling with a blue-print and Barbies...
  5. Creepiness wins / story from creepiness' perspective (what is it? individual interpretations)
Then, of course, they'd put everything (worthy) together in a glog for their e-portfolios.

You know, I may not ever teach "Casa tomada," but I think I may use this unit structure somehow in the future:
  1. Essential question
  2. Background videos/articles
  3. Story background
  4. Vocabulary
  5. Story + reflection activities
  6. Glog

17 July 2011

Spanish writers you should check out

You know Cortazar, Borges, Paz, Lorca, and, of course, Garcia Marquez.

But do you know Pardo Bazan, Unamuno, Valle Inclan, Matute, Rivas, Gomez de la Serna, Huidobro,  and Quiroga?

I'm halfway through a course on Hispanic short stories organized by region, and week 1 was Spain (which, if you do know the second set of authors was pretty obvious). I have, however started next week's assignments, so an Uruguayo snuck in. Plus the other course I'm supposed to bulldoze through by the end of 3 weeks is pretty canonical, focusing primarily on Borges, Paz, and Lorca, but referring to others, like the Chilean father of creacionismo (not what you think), and their influences on said DWM's.

Still, I've read and heard about some really good stories that I thought you should know exist, if you didn't already. You should also know that most of these stories are readily available online at this awesome site that is the lifeblood of Dra. Napiorski's class: Biblioteca Digital Ciudad Seva. You can get your canonical fix there too!

Of the new list, by far my new favorite authors are Miguel de Unamuno and Manuel Rivas.

I was not exactly impressed by "La Venda" on the first reading, until we talked about San Manuel Bueno and the priest that lost his faith, but continued to try to maintain the "mentira vital" for his town, so that they could experience fulfillment that religion offers and reason denies. The protagonist's blindness and bandage suddenly became profound and beautiful metaphors. I don't think I could really teach this story, living in the South, without being tarred and feathered, but the appropriate audience might come along one day.

As for "La Lengua de las Mariposas," I was stunned by the symmetry of it at the end and the illumination of the effects of fear in dictatorships. It could so easily be tied interdisciplinarily to The Crucible or even to a unit on dictators as I tried to develop last year. The movie was almost screenable at schools, but not nearly as perfectly wrapped as the story itself, and a little too...European? in its attitudes toward sex at times. I could see showing excerpts to generate and maintain interest and engagement. And the little boy is adorable. I look forward to fitting this one in, as I think its language is not insurmountable for a Spanish 3, maybe even Spanish 2 student, if handled properly.

Other stories that might appeal because of their, well, straight-out disgustingess might be "Un destripador de Antano" (did you detect the word tripa in there? Good.) by Emilia Pardo Bazan, "El Miedo" by Ramon del Valle Inclan, and "El hombre muerto" and "La gallina degollada" by Horacio Quiroga. The first two were presented in class rather than assigned to all of us, but let us just say that one involves killing kids and turning their fat into expensive medicine (though it is rather long), and the other involves skulls with snakes coming out of them (nice and short, relatively accessible language). The third and fourth come from next week's reading, but who wouldn't be tantalized by a man slowly dying after falling on his own machete or a group of neglected children slaughtering their privileged sister like the chicken they saw earlier? The fourth is probably the less linguistically dense of the two, breaking out a little dialogue, so  it has potential for, say, Spanish 3.

La profe assures us that Ana Maria Matute is one of the most popular authors to use with younger folk, in part because of the simplicity of her language, but also because of her preference for youthful protagonists. Don't get me wrong, the woman came of age under Franco, and the stories I've seen are thoroughly depressing. I read "Bernardino," (since Dra Napiorski loved all Matute so much she couldn't choose which to assign) and then "El niño al que se le murió el amigo,as some of my brevity-minded classmates suggested. There are most definitely elements that high schoolers could relate to, and the second is, indeed, short and bittersweet--totally doable in Spanish 2 or 3.

 Huidobro, by his very nature, is probably a bit much even for college courses, though useful for elaborating on surrealism and la vanguardia. Gomez de la Serna's Greguerias, however, could be awesome even in Spanish 1! Some of my favorites: "Los tornillos son clavos peinados con rayo en medio" and "Las primeras gotas de la tormenta bajan a ver si hay tierran en que aterrizar."

The best thing about working on my master's in Spanish is finally exploring beyond the basics and finally having references to find better fits for my own classes.