SPAN220: Introduction to Methods of Literary and Film Analysis

Semester II: Essay, Performance, Film

Convenor: Jon Beasley-Murray (

Timetable: TuTh, 2-3:30pm, FLEX 207

Office hours: TuTh, 12:45-1:4pm, BuTo 808.


provisional syllabus


week 1
(5 Jan)


introduction and sign-up for presentations


week 2
(10 and 12 Jan)



how to read, first lines, genre, style, translation


week 3
(17 and 19 Jan)

short story


short story, plot, character, indeterminacy

Helen, Gillian, Yamania, Jennifer B

week 4
(24 and 26 Jan)

short story


formalism, historicism, literary history, postmodernism


Jessica, Katrina, Kevin, Melissa, Nadya

week 5
(31 Jan and 2 Feb)


García Márquez


Christine, Jennifer A, Matthew, Jenny N

week 6
(7 and 9 Feb)




Marisa, Darja, Angie, Lauren

week 7

mid-term break


week 8
(21 and 23 Feb)


Un chien andalou (PN1995.9.S85 C55 1990)

film terms and concepts

Graham, Debbie, Erin, Marie-Joëlle

Essay 1 draft due on 21 Feb; final version due 23 Feb.

week 9
(28 Feb and 2 Mar)


Los Olvidados


Morgan, Val, Daniela, Andrea, Lenka

week 10
(7 and 9 Mar)


Camila (PN1997 .C36 1995)


Yumi, Sophia, Azumi

week 11

No class (Latin American Studies Association)

week 12
(21 and 30 Mar)


Flamenco (PN1997 .F42 1998)


Ashley, Maria Ana, Alanna

week 13
(28 and 30 Mar)


No se lo digas a nadie (PQ8498.12.A95 N6 1999)


Dave, Rita, Kerry

week 14
(4 and 6 Apr)


Essay 2 draft due on 4 Apr; final version due 6 Apr.

date TBA



Description: This course acquaints students with the basics of textual and film analysis through the study of various genres and of fundamental analytical terms and theories. Priority will be given to the close reading and analysis of particular literary and film texts.

The texts to be studied are taken from Latin American and Spanish cultural production from various historical periods and movements, and will be examined in translation or subtitled.

Each class will be dedicated to specific exercises of textual or film analysis applied to assigned readings or screenings, and/or the discussion of terminological, conceptual, or theoretical issues. Students will be expected to present their own analyses to the class, either individually or in group work.

Assessment: Two 8-page essays of critical analysis applied to chosen texts (20% each). The papers should be based on texts chosen by the student but these texts cannot be the ones studied in class. Mere description of the text will not be accepted. There will be a final exam worth another 30%. You will also be required to contribute to group presentations in class and this, plus attendance and participation, will constitute the final 30% of your grade.

Late assignments: For each day that an assignment is late, the grade awarded will drop 3%.

Set texts: The literary texts will be made available in a course reader, for purchase from the course instructor (for $15).   The films will be screened on Monday afternoons, 2pm-4pm, Buchanan A100.

You must do the reading in advance of the relevant classes, and bring your copy of the text to class. Likewise you must have viewed the film before coming to class.

Further reading: I also strongly recommend you have

Course convenor: Jon Beasley-Murray ( His office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:45-1:45pm, BuTo 808, or by appointment. You should feel free to get in touch with him if you have any queries or problems. It is always better to deal with problems when they arise than to keep quiet and hope they go away!


My expectations:

Above all, what you are expected to do in this class is to learn how to engage with (that is to think critically and creatively about, and be prepared to discuss) a given set of literary texts and films. The main aim of all the various forms of assessment is to test the extent of your engagement, and to encourage you to articulate the results of that engagement in a variety of formats. Hence, the more effort you put in to reading the texts closely and critically, and formulating your individual responses and arguments in a manner that can be presented persuasively, the better your final grade is likely to be.  

Though knowledge (of historical context and secondary criticism, for instance) and linguistic skills may be useful aids to the formulation of thoughtful argument, this course does not aim directly to test either of these skills. You should not be discouraged if at the start of the semester you fear that your background knowledge of Latin American culture is patchy or non-existent.  

All I want you to do is read or view the set texts and films carefully, think about your reading/viewing, and clearly articulate your own position as a result.

And in class we will be discussing the various ways in which to achieve this goal. There are, however, some ground rules. They are ground rules of gold...

  1. To engage, you must be physically present. So attend, attend, attend.
  2. You must also have covered the material. So read the texts and ensure you see the films at least once (preferably twice). The whole point of this class is that you learn to read and view with care and attention; if you haven't read the texts at all, it's really a non-starter. There may be pop quizzes to test that you are keeping up with the reading.
  3. You must also be prepared to articulate your thoughts, questions, uncertainties, opinions, likes, dislikes etc. So come to class ready to participate, join in group work actively, and contribute to the discussion.
  4. Finally, you must keep at it. But do not expect to grasp everything immediately. (If you did, there would be no point in the class at all.) So communicate any questions or problems you may have, either in class discussion, or directly to me via email or in my office hours.

The golden rules again: 1) attend, 2) read/view, 3) participate, and 4) communicate.

The timetable for each week will be roughly as follows:

You must therefore have completed the week's reading by Tuesday's class.

Good luck. And just do it.

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last updated January 26, 2006