Spanish 510:
Introduction to Literary Criticism in Graduate Studies

Rei Berroa Office: 215E Thompson Hall
Fall 2007 Monday: 14:00-15:00 / T&R: 15:00-16:00 or by appointment
Tel: (703) 993-1241
Fax:  (703) 993-1245


In a broad 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 strict 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 literary texts added to the understanding of the critical theory will include poetry, narrative, drama and essay. (Some of these texts will be required reading for everyone.)

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, 2003.
Rei Berroa  & Victorio Aguera, Introducción al análisis del texto literario. Fairfax, VA: George Mason
            University, 2007.
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.]

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


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. If you cannot afford the latter, I would suggest 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. Standford University has began this year an Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the Web. You should be familiar with this new outstanding tool, since many of the subjects we are studying are connected to language and linguistics, philosophy, and the arts in general. 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 Spanish dictionaries available online. [Check some at: 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 a few 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).
Guía básica de la crítica literaria y el trabajo de investigación by Paul Larson & Frieda H. Blackwell (Boston: Heinle, 2006)
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 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.] For your everyday writing needs, you should also own a Diccionario de sinónimos y antónimos (Vox & Larousse have quite good versions of it). Check them out. Besides the one in your wordprocessor [Thesaurus], here is another one online quite complete :


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. Try to  turn them in on time, but it's better to wait an extra day, if you need it, to give me something you will be proud of. The paper should have two parts: the first two thirds should give a synopsis of the literary theory learned and discussed during that week; the other third should consist of your critique of that theory. 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 and evidence of readings through the discussion, the cohesion of the final presentation you will make at the end of the course, and, of finally, your active involvement in class discussion.  Spanish 510 is a meticulous study of the theory and practice of literary criticism (this study will be preceded by a review of the tecniques of literary analysis, at the beginning of the course). It 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 900 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 shorter assignments. The subject discussed could be an in-depth development of one of the shorter papers or a completely new topic. In both cases, you must make clear which one (or ones) of the critical approaches discussed in class is the one (are the ones) you are taking for your work. The essay will need to be about 2500 words (12 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:://

WARNING!: This is a required course for graduate work at Mason.  As your professor, it is my duty to ask you to read a lot of material every week. That's what graduate work is about: reading, writing and critical thinking. So I'll ask you to read a substantial amount of work for each class. You need time to complete these readings. If you cannot take the time to read what the course requires or if you are not willing to devote yourself to it, perhaps you should reconsider your participation in the program. I don't want to scare anyone but I do want to be very clear about it, since we are all responsible adults. I assure you, on the other hand, two things: First, that before you many other students have completed the course successfully, so I don't see any reason for you not to be sucessfull if you want to learn; and second, that if you are willing and open to learn, this course will be a most joyfull experience.

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.  Here is a bibliographyof books on reserve at the Reserve Desk of the Johnson Center 
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: 79-133]
Visit to the Fenwick Library
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 [Read milagros II, III, XX y XXI), don Juan Manuel [leer estos fragmentos del Conde Lucanor  y este cuento] 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.  En esta página hay una reducida pero buena selección de romances y canciones medievales

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, La esclava de su amante de María de Zayas,  Sor Juana ["Carta a Sor Filotea," "Sátira filosófica," "Al que ingrato me deja"], Galdós, Pardo Bazán ("El revólver" y "Feminista"). Sobre Sor Juana, Darmouth College mantiene un proyecto que vale la pena consultar.
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,""A Apolo siguiendo a Dafne," "La vida empieza"]
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 Paper / 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 (17 de diciembre)]