Spanish 510:
Introduction to Literary Criticism in Graduate Studies
Rei Berroa Oficina: 215E Thompson Hall
Otoño 2004 Martes y jueves: 10:30-11:30 ó por cita previa
Tel: (703) 993-1241
Fax:  (703) 993-1245


Graduate standing in the Master’s program in Foreign Languages or permission of instructor.


In a broader sense, this course deals with the significance of the analysis and criticism of literature in the Master’s learning of Spanish as a national language.  In a stricter sense, on the other hand, it is intended as an introductory graduate level study and practice of criticism of the Spanish-speaking world literary production.  The texts we will read include poetry, narrative, drama and essay.

The main focus of the course is the student's development of strategies for effective literary critical thinking and writing.  You will be learning about and practicing what is commonly referred to as “close reading.” To this end, the first four classes will be devoted to reviewing the fundamental aspects of literary analysis: metrical analysis, poetic license, syllabication, rythm, literary figures (like anaphora, polysyndeton, or antithesis), and the use and function of tropes (like metonymy and metaphor) for poetry; the concept of acts and scenes or actants and characters for drama; story and discourse,  narrator/narratee, point-of-view, irony, voice, and character development for narrative texts; and finally strategies for research, organization, writing, and persuasion for critical essays.

Another important aspect of the course is the introduction to principles of modern literary criticism, such as New Criticism, Reader-Response Criticism, Deconstruction, Feminism, and Postmodernism.

Your further development of speaking, reading, and writing skills in literary and critical Spanish is an added goal in this course.  Although some of the texts we will read are in English, the entire course will be conducted in Spanish.


Charles Bressler, Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. New Jersey:
            Prentice Hall, 2002.
Rei Berroa  & Victorio Aguera, Introducción al análisis del texto literario. Fairfax, VA: George Mason
            University, 2003.
Raman Selden, Peter Widdowson, & Peter Brooker, La teoría literaria contemporánea. 3a. edición.
            Barcelona: Ariel, 2001.
Angelo Marchese & Joaquín Forradellas, Diccionario de retórica, crítica y terminología literaria.
            7a. edición. Barcelona: Ariel, 2000.

[A good number of literary texts or synopsis of well known masterworks will be included for daily rumination. Some of them will be online, some others will be on reserve.  You need to be aware that reading of these texts will be essential for the development of the course.]


Literary language can be tricky.  It is sometimes obscure, and it is often layered with several meanings.  For this reason I have required the use of a critical dictionary in Spanish. I am also recommending that you acquire a dictionary of criticism in English. The best one would be The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, but that would be a somewhat expensive proposition. Instead, I am suggesting that you get The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, prepared by J. A. Cuddon & Claire Preston. It is not as good as the Encyclopedia, but it will be enough to help you understand and decipher the critical and literary language you will be confronted with during this class and throughout your Master's studies. You also need an outstanding Spanish dictionary. I recommend one of the following, in this order: Diccionario de la Real Academia Española de la Lengua prepared by the Royal Academy; Diccionario de uso del español by María Moliner, or  Diccionario del español actual by Manuel Seco. You may also consult the many dictionaries available online atat or the Anaya at http:://

Among the many texts that could help you develop a better understanding and practice of critical analysis, I am going to mention a few (all of them in Spanish). The most widely known are two texts published originally in Salamanca many years ago (Editorial Anaya): Cómo se comenta un texto literario, by Fernando Lázaro Carreter and Evaristo Correa Calderón (this book should already be beyond its 30th edition) and Introducción a los estudios literarios by Rafael Lapesa. Here are the others:

Introducción al análisis de textos by Raymundo Mier (Mexico: Trillas, 1990).
Cómo leer textos literarios by Julián Moreiro (Madrid: EDAF, 1996).
Comentario de textos literarios: Método y práctica by J.M. Díez Borque (Madrid: Playor, 1985).
La intertextualidad literaria by José Enrique Martínez Fernández (Madrid: Cátedra, 2001),
Semiótica crítica y crítica de la cultura by Manuel González de Avila (Barcelona: Anthropos, 2002).
Polifonía textual: La citación en el relato literario by Graciela Reyes (Madrid: Gredos, 1984).
Cómo hacer cosas con palabras by J.L.Austin ( Barcelona: Paidós, 1996).
El devenir de la crítica by Gillo Dorfles (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1979).

You can review selected texts published by Anthropos, Ariel, or any other publishing house specialized in critical discourse.

It is also highly recommended to be familiar with the Diccionario enciclopédico de las ciencias del lenguaje by Ducrot and Todorov or, even better, the revised and much more complete Nuevo diccionario enciclopédico de las ciencias del lenguaje by Oswald Ducrot and Jean-Marie Schaeffer (Madrid: Arrecife, 1998). In English, you should be familiar with the series "Literary Criticism" which presents more than one hundred volumes on each of the categories: Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literary Criticism. As you enter the reference section in Fenwick, they will be immediately to your right.


You will be turning in weekly 300-word short essays (about seven of them) correspondent to our discussions and your readings. These essays will be worth 30% of your final grade.  These papers must be done independently, concordant with the Honor Code at George Mason, and they must be turned in on time.  Your attendance and class participation are essential and are counted as 15% of your grade. Participation includes preparation of questions for discussion and occasional worksheets, a commitment to group work in class, the cohesion of the final presentation you will make at the end of the course, and, of course, your active involvement in class discussion.  Spanish 510 is a meticulous study of the theory and practice of literary analysis and criticism and thus requires the committment of everyone involved in it.  Information you will get from lecture and discussion may not necessarily be found in any book.  You are strongly encouraged not to miss a single class.

After completing the study of literary analysis (Berroa/Agüera), you will be required to write two literary analyses of about 1000 words each: one of a poem and one of a short story (15% each). A longer critical essay will be due at the end of the course.  This essay must build upon the knowledge you will have gained throughout our class meetings and your smaller assignments. The subject discussed could be an in-depth development of one of the smaller papers or a completely new topic. In both cases, you must make clear which one of the critical approaches discussed in class is the one you are taking for your work. The essay will need to be about 2000 words (10 pages) and will be worth 25% of your final grade.  This paper must be typed and must follow the guidelines established by the Writing Handbook of the Modern Language Association (available at the bookstore, in the reference section of the library, or on the Web at http:://

Since this is an "Introduction to Graduate Studies," it is necessary that, along with a framework for literary criticism, students get familiar with the most important tendencies and figures of literary production from the Middle Ages to the present day. These texts are not necessarily connected to the trends of criticism concomitantly presented here with them.  In the same manner in which a literary work can have many meanings, as we advance in the study of the different modes of reading, we hope to reassess the previous points of view taken when those texts were first evaluated.
At any moment during this course, sections from these or other texts could be added to or deleted from this schedule of readings.

Week 1-3
Introduction to the course. What is literature? What is it for? Why study it? Who is the reader? What to do with the read text?
 Read the book by Berroa/Agüera in two installments: "Poesía" (Week 2) and "Narrativa" (Week 3)
Be aware that,  although this manual appears to be easy and simple, it is a very condensed study of literary analysis, so you must read it with full understanding of all its parts.

Week 2
The workings of poetics: metric, figurative speech, tropes. Analysis of a poetic text. [Berroa/Agüera: 1-78]
Week 3
The workings of  literary narrative: story, discourse, point of view, irony, character development.
Analysis of a narrative text.[Berroa/Agüera: 79-130]
Week 4
Starting this week, we will discuss one or more critical theories and approaches every week.
Our main textbooks offer a brief survey of the history of literary criticism and definition of its components [Bressler, 1-34 / Selden, 11-25]. See some of the seminal works of literary criticism: Aristóteles' Poetics or Rhetoric [see a synopsis of his ideas here], Plato's Ion or Gorgias [see a very brief synopsis of his ideas here], Horace's Ars Poetica, or Longinus On the Sublime.

New Criticism (NC) and Russian Formalism [Read: Bressler, 36-52 / Selden, 25-63]
For more on these issues see: New Criticism explained, John's Hopkins Guide (JHG) NC

Week 5
Reader-Response Criticism (RRC) [Read: Bressler, 62-86 / Selden, 65-85]
Check these sites for more: different positions, death of the author, essays on subject, JHG-RRC

Poetry and narrative in the Middle Ages: Jarchas, El Cid [Cantar Primero], Berceo [leer milagros II, III, XX y XXI), don Juan Manuel [leer estos fragmentos del Conde Lucanor], and Juan Ruiz [si no se puede leer todo el Libro de buen amor (texto o crítica) , leer estos fragmentos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

 Week 6
Structuralism [Read: Bressler, 87-113 / Selden, 87-112]
Read also other approaches: basic principles [good synopsis],  Genette's ideas, Barthes's, Foucault's [ver también el E. de Foucault, notas sobre el E. o las fronteras del E.],  heterotopía.

The comedia: Fernando de Rojas's La Celestina [Si no la has leído y no vas a tener tiempo ahora, al menos lee mi breve resumen]

Week 7
Marxism [Read: Bressler, 210-235 / Selden, 113-149].
Professors Tim Spurgin (Lawrence University) and  Dino Felluga from Purdue offer a basic overview of Marxist theory and theorists. 
Read a study guide on Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism.
The Encyclopedia of Marxism can answer many of your questions on this subject.

Cultural and popular literature in the Middle Ages & the Rennaisance: cancioneros (ver facsímiles de cancioneros: Juan del Encina (1496) y de Hernando del Castillo [1511] y no dejen de leer el texto introductorio de Rodríguez Moñino),  romanceros, chivalry & sentimental novels

Week 8
Feminism [Read: Bressler, 178-209 / Selden, 151-184] Check a bibliography & a brief history.
The Siglo de Oro and the creation of the modern novel: the picaresque, Cervantes's novelas ejemplares, Zayas, Galdós, Pardo Bazán, Fuentes, García Márquez
Week 9
Post-Structuralism, Deconstruction [Otro punto], Psychoanalysis [De gran interés para nosotros puede ser la página de la revista Acheronta que tiene las obras más importantes de los clásicos de la psicología, incluidos Freud, Fromm y Lacan]  [Read: Bressler, 114-177 / Selden, 185-224]

The Siglo de Oro and the creation of the national theater:
Lope [cientos de obras del autor: sugiero leer Fuenteovejuna y Arte nuevo de hacer comedias], Tirso [leer la obra que inaugura el tema del Don Juan: El burlador de Sevilla, Calderón, Valle-Inclán, Lorca [leer su Títeres de cachiporra], Villaurrutia [no he encontrado ninguna de sus obras de teatro en la red], and Dragún [leer su Historia del hombre que se convirtió en perro].

Week 10
Post-Modernism [Read: Selden, 243-266; Bressler considers this critical thought as part of Post-Structuralism]
The Siglo de Oro and the creation of the national poetry: Garcilaso [leer sonetos V, XIII, XXIII], the mystics, Góngora [leer "De pura honestidad," "Peinaba al sol" y "Mientras por competir"], Quevedo, ["A una nariz," "Fue sueño ayer," "La vida empieza"] y Sor Juana ["Carta a Sor Filotea," "Sátira filosófica," "Al que ingrato me deja"]
Week 11
Post-Colonialism  [Read: Bressler, 263-277 / Selden, 267-292]
Although concentrated on American and English speaking writers, The Virtual Library has put together an impressive collection of research articles and links about Post-Colonialism on their site. 
The critical and socio-literary essay: Feijoo, Cadalso, Pardo Bazán, Ortega, Rodó, Reyes, Mariátegui and Paz
Week 12
Gay, Lesbian, and Queer theories [Read Selden, 293-320]
Romanticism, Modernism, and the new narrative:
Bécquer, Gómez de Avellaneda, Machado, Darío, Borges, Rulfo, Cortázar, Goytisolo, and Allende
Week 13
Cultural Poetics: Towards a Rhetoric of Cross-Cultural Discourse [Read: Bressler, 236-262 / Selden, 224-241]:
Translating words, culture, events, metaphors, signs...
La identidad intercultural, Cine e intercambio cultural, de globalización a glocalización
The new language of poetry: Lorca (Poeta en Nueva York), Cernuda, Mistral, Vallejo, Huidobro, Neruda, Pizarnik, Rojas
Week 14 & 15 [Final Exam]
Presentaciones individuales [Dependiendo del número de estudiantes que haya en la clase, estas presentaciones se desbordarían también hacia la fecha dedicada al examen final (16 de diciembre)]