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Ph.D. Seminars | SPRING 2019


Ph.D. seminars to be offered in the spring semester of 2019. Should you have any questions, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Graciela Montaldo.


  • Research & Professional Development Workshop II (SPAN GR6100) | Mondays, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. | All LAIC first-year Ph.D. students must register
  • Colloquium in Latin American & Iberian Cultures I (SPAN GR9046) | Thursdays, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. | All LAIC first-year Ph.D. students must register
  • Workshop on Scholarly Writing (SPAN GR6200) | Carlos J. Alonso  | Thursdays, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. | All LAIC third-year Ph.D. students must register

This course aims to develop awareness about what constitutes effective scholarly prose.  It proposes to hone the student’s handling of writing as a vehicle for the expression of intellectual thought, but also to develop a consciousness of the rhetorical strategies that can be used to advance a critical argument effectively.

Advanced Ph.D. students will have the opportunity to either work on the production of a dissertation prospectus, or on a paper they have produced during their graduate career to turn it into a publishable manuscript.  Those who choose the latter will undergo the process of transforming the limited and sometimes inchoate expression of an argument produced as a final class exercise into a manuscript that may be submitted to a critical journal.  Students will be expected to produce multiple drafts of the chosen piece, with the ultimate goal of developing a text that may stand a chance of being accepted for publication in a major journal.

Spanish GR6200 is required of all students entering the sixth semester of the new LAIC Ph.D. program.  To register for the course, all other students must submit beforehand the original paper they propose to develop into a full-fledged academic article.


  • Socialists, Abolitionists and the Politics of Community (SPAN GR6013) | Ronald Briggs Mondays, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

This course considers the confluence of two political and literary movements that sometimes linked themselves to one another and that nearly always found themselves lumped together by their nineteenth-century opponents. Socialism and abolitionism nourished and were nourished by international networks of intellectuals and writers who translated texts, adapted general arguments to local circumstances, and raised their own experiences to points of general theory. In the Spanish-speaking world these networks followed the old lines of communication from the pre-independence era while also connecting to burgeoning discussions in Great Britain, France, and the United States. How did the goals of socialists and abolitionists overlap and conflict? What literary and discursive techniques proved most (and least) effective for attracting new converts to the cause? What role did old and new concepts of community play in reformers’ vision for a changed world and in the reactions to this vision synthesized by their opponents?

We will be working across national and linguistic boundaries as well as those of genre and form, reading poems, essays, novels, and autobiographical narratives. Uniting them all is a shared interest in community as a desirable form and the printed page as a medium for expressing and propagating it. As Caroline Levine has put it, “there is no politics without form.” This course begins from the thesis that the revolutionaries and reactionaries of the nineteenth century converged on human community as a form for expressing the new egalitarian structures they wished to create. The reactionaries who opposed them appealed to community, too,  characterizing egalitarianism as a threat to the very bonds that made community possible. By reading these three orientations together across time and place we will be rethinking the roots of revolutionary, reformist, and reactionary approaches to rhetoric and thought, currents that continue to shape contemporary political and literary discourse.

  • Consumer Culture in Latin America (SPAN GR6545) | Graciela Montaldo Tuesdays, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

This course focuses on the roles of consumer culture in Modern Latin America throughout literature, essays, visual texts, films, and new cultural experiences. The course discusses processes of globalization and how culture, in Latin American countries, offered a place for reflection and interchange of new experiences. It also offers a genealogy of the relations between culture, politics, and the market in modern practices like fin-de-siècle travel writing and chronicles, and other crucial moments during the twentieth century (the Avant-Garde, the Sixties, and contemporary cultural production). Within the frame of new consumer culture studies, we will study works and practices where consumerism is a political issue. This course will provide students with an understanding of key aspects of modern Latin American culture as it relates to the market, to aesthetics, and to politics, including the confrontation between elite and popular cultures, practices of resistance, representation of violence, cities as spectacles, and new phenomena (such as cultural tourism and landfill art). The class will be conducted in Spanish.

  • Theories of Art in the Iberian Worlds (SPAN GR6343) | Alessandra Russo Wednesdays, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

In recent decades scholars have focused their attention on a precise aspect of the Iberian expansion between the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries: the vast circulation of overseas objects as “goods,” with the consequent enrichment of the European collections, the birth of the Wonder Cabinets etc. Beyond these physical movements of new items, from Peru, Brazil, India, New Spain, Sierra Leone, or the Philippines, however, another parallel and equally significant process took place: the production and circulation of texts documenting, describing and analyzing the diversity of these creations, the qualitative exceptionality of their creators´ abilities, their mythologies, their material specificities, and their possible aesthetic, theological, or political links as well as their key role in the Iberian domination process itself. These two movements between texts and images are intimately intertwined: as more items were being produced overseas, more texts were being devoted to their existence and production; then as more texts were being written, published, and read, more objects were being desired, commissioned, invented, and shipped. The seminar will explore the variety of these sources -variety of genres (chronicles, histories, inventories, grammars, dictionaries, legal or inquisitorial processes), variety of authorships (conquistadors, missionaries, ambassadors, travelers, visitadores, cronistas, naturalists, historians, collectors, artists) etc.- in order to examine the relationship between textual and visual production in Early Modernity. The study of this unexpected “literature of art” will be continuously accompanied with the discussion of the actual artifacts commented in the sources. We will also consider if there are local specificities in the production of such texts: for instance, is the impressive amount of sources exclusively related to the “American” (New Spain, Brazil, Perú…) artistic processes understandable within a broader Iberian perspective or is there something specific in the observation and examination of the “American” aesthetics?

  • Corporealities: Theorizing Bodies 
in Spanish and Argentine Film (SPAN GR6014) | Susan Martin-Márquez, Visiting Professor from Rutgers University | Fridays, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

In this seminar we will explore cinematic and cultural theories of the body, paying particular attention to the figuration of onscreen bodies (mostly of human but also of non-human animals), and their relationship to the embodied experience of the film spectator. Topics to be considered include: biopower/biopolitics; performance theory; the racialization and gendering/sexing of bodies; gaze theory; “body genres” such as melodrama, pornography and horror; disability studies; animal studies; and the haptic, or tactile, “cinesthetic” and kinesthetic qualities of cinema. Theoretical texts will be read alongside films produced since the 1960s by renowned (and a few commercial) directors from Argentina and Spain, two nations whose cultural and sociopolitical contexts—inflected by Catholicism, the colonial legacy, and the experience of authoritarian rule and its aftermath—are intensely imbricated with the “disciplining” as well as the “unruly” rebellion of bodies.

Prior exposure to film studies is welcome but not required. The first seminar session and part of the second will be dedicated to a crash course in textual analysis, and portions of each subsequent seminar will also be devoted to formal readings of specific scenes.

Last Updated 8 months ago


LAIC, « Ph.D. Seminars | SPRING 2019 », Blogs, Columbia University | LAIC, Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures (online), published on November 6, 2018. Full URL for this article

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