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SP4: Modern Spanish Culture and History

This paper is available for the academic year 2019-2020.

Sp4 offers an overview of Spanish culture from the late eighteenth century to the present. Each of the paper’s thematic units will situate a range of cultural production—literature, cinema, visual materials (painting, etchings, cartoons, photography), and state legislation—within its cultural, social, and political contexts. Deploying a patently historical focus, Sp4 will require students to develop knowledge of major events and central figures in modern Spanish culture while considering artistic representation as an index of the times in which these artists lived and worked. While the historical component of the paper will be emphasized in lectures, seminars, and supervisions, students will be required to engage a number of intersecting fields (literary studies, cultural studies, and cinema studies) over the course of the academic year. 

The Darker Side of Modernity    

(Post-) Imperial Fictions  (NB: this topic is obligatory for the exam)

España invertebrada    

From Dictatorship to Democracy    

NB: Many key texts can be found online for free at or or





Topics taught in Michaelmas 2019:


Lectured material:

Antonio Machado, Campos de Castilla (1912)

Ramón del Valle-Inclán, Los cuernos de don Friolera (1921)

Agustí Centelles with Francesc Català-Roca and Robert Capa (photography)

Pablo Neruda, Tercera residencia (1947)



Lectured Material:

Carmen Laforet, Nada (1945)

Ana María Matute, Primera memoria (1959)

Carlos Saura, Cría cuervos (1976)

Pedro Almodóvar, Entre tinieblas (1983) and ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto?! (1984)


Topics taught in Lent 2020:


Lectured material:

Francisco de Goya, Los desastres de la guerra​ (1810-20)

José Zorrilla, Don Juan Tenorio​ (1844)

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer​ poetry from Rimas and a selection of Leyendas (1850s-60s)

Leopoldo Alas ("Clarín"), Doña Berta (1892)



Lectured material:

Benito Pérez Galdós, 'La novela en el tranvia'​ (Spain, 1871)

Carmen de Burgos 'En la guerra' (Spain, 1910)

Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, Sab (Cuba, 1841)

María Nsué Angüe, Ekomo (Equatorial Guinea, 1985)



Preparatory reading: 

You are strongly encouraged to read as many texts as possible from the reading list over the summer vacation. At a minimum, however, please prepare Ana María Matute's Primera memoria before arriving in Michaelmas Term. We also ask that you read Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda's Sab prior to the start of Lent Term.


Teaching and learning: 

Teaching is provided through 16 lectures (4 hours on each topic) and four introductory seminars (1 for each topic). Students receive 8 fortnightly supervisions (plus revision support in Easter term if offering the exam). You are expected to attend all classes for the paper. In supervisions you should expect to look at all the topics.

All students enrolled in Sp4 will be asked to prepare a brief presentation in Spanish (5-7 minutes) in Michaelmas and an abbreviated essay in Spanish (1,000-1,500 words) in Lent to reinforce contact with the target language.

For full reading list, please see Sp.4's Moodle page. The enrolment password can be collected from the paper coordinator.



Assessment is by 3-hour examination in which candidates answer three questions, in each response making reference to at least two texts, films or artists. Examination candidates must must provide one answer to the topic (Post-) Imperial Fictions.

This paper is also available for examination by Long Essay.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Stuart Davis (paper co-ordinator, MT 2019 and LT 2020)
Dr Bryan Cameron (paper co-ordinator, ET 2020)