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SP9: Spanish Literature, Thought, and History, after 1820

N.B. in 2019/20 students will only be able to take paper SP9 by Optional Dissertation

This paper covers two hundred years of literature, film and art produced not only in Spain, in Spanish, but also the other languages of the Spanish state and indeed beyond its physical borders in relation to Spain’s coloniality.

Students who studied Sp4 in Part IB will find much new material and ideas to explore and some revisions of previously presented materials; those who have not followed Peninsular focused courses before will encounter a rich variety of cultures from the early nineteenth-century to the present day.

The material is grouped into four broad topics which allow students to approach varied cultural, historical and political questions.  The topics are porous, meaning that texts from any given topic are often relevant to other topics.  Students should therefore feel free to explore alternative connections and combinations.

'Nature and Culture' encompasses questions of education, degeneration, politics, art versus science, gender and power, city and country. The four lectures will focus on two important novels of the late nineteenth century.

'Experiments in Form' covers literary experimentation in Spain from the 1960s to the twenty-first century, including an Equatorial Guinean novel and a novel originally written in Catalan by a Catalan-Moroccan female writer.  

'Writing Memory' includes writing the national, and writing the personal, textually and cinematically, with a focus on the legacy of the Spanish Civil War. Included here are also transnational interventions, in the shape of Mexican director del Toro, as well as a novel originally published in Galician.

'Staging Issues' focuses on theatre, from both the early nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As the title suggests, the topic allows for focus on issues of technique and staging, but also on the ways in which the stage can be used to explore issues. 


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



Lectured Material 

Javier Cercas  Soldados de Salamina

Carmen Martín Gaite  El cuarto de atrás with Manuel Rivas As voces baixas/Las voces bajas

Victor Erice (dir.) El espíritu de la colmena

Guillermo del Toro (dir.) El laberinto del fauno 



Lectured Material 

Donato Ndongo Las tinieblas de tu memoria negra 

Najat El-Hachmi El último patriarca / L’ultim patriarca

Esther Tusquets  El mismo mar de todos los veranos

​ Juan Goytisolo  Señas de identidad 



Lectured Material

Leandro Fernández de Moratín El sí de las niñas

Duque de Rivas  Don Álvaro o la fuerza del sino

Ramón del Valle-Inclán Los cuernos de Don Friolera

Federico García Lorca 'The rural trilogy' (YermaBodas de sangreLa casa de Bernarda Alba)



Lectured Material 

Leopoldo Alas (“Clarín”)  Su único hijo

Emilia Pardo Bazán  Los pazos de Ulloa

Preparatory reading: 
  • Brenan, G. The Spanish Labyrinth (1950)
  • Shubert, A. A Social History of Modern Spain (1990)
  • Labanyi, Jo. Spanish Literature: a Very Short Introduction (2010)
  • Triana Toribio, N. Spanish National Cinema (2004)
Teaching and learning: 

Teaching is provided through 16 lectures (4 hours on each topic) with an introductory seminar for each topic. The introductory seminars for both topics will take place in week one in order to allow and even encourage students to move between the topics.  Students also receive 8 fortnightly supervisions (plus revision support in Easter term if offering the exam). You are expected to attend all lectures for the paper. In supervisions you should expect to look at all the topics. Each term students will write one supervision essay entirely in Spanish. Additionally, Sp9 students will have the option to attend one supervision per term, which will be conducted entirely in Spanish. Students will have the option to write one revision essay in Spanish during Easter Term although the vast majority of the feedback will centre on content and not issues related to grammar, lexis, spelling, syntax, etc. NB there is no requirement to answer in Spanish in the examination, although candidates have the option to do so.

Please see Sp.9'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. Candidates may answer in either English or Spanish. It is possible to offer an Optional Dissertation in place of Sp9.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Stuart Davis (paper co-ordinator)