Programa de estudio




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Superficies profundas:  Transacciones culturales en el cuento contemporáneo de América Latina (1960-1990)

Deep Surfaces: Cultural Transactions in the Contemporary Latin American Short Story (1960-1990)

[A Multimedia Teaching Project]

SPAN-4391: Latin American Short Story of the 20th Century

Course Description and Objectives

 Short stories are central to the riches of Latin American Literature. Though the way Latin American fiction was discovered outside the subcontinent obscured the genuine differences in talents as diverse as Julio Cortázar (Argentina), Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia), Sergio Ramírez (Nicaragua), Oscar Cerruto (Bolivia), Iván Egüez (Ecuador), Antonio Skármeta (Chile), Magali García (Puerto Rico), and Senel Paz (Cuba), it is plain they are all using the short story as a vital part of their artistic armory as they explore and try to make sense of the world around them. For the younger generation of both writers and readers, the internationally acclaimed authors are there to be assimilated, to argue with, to measure up to, and move beyond.
 In this multimedia project I want to convey my students a sense of how six  contemporary Latin American writers, belonging to six different countries, have been doing just that. Since the sixties, the short story has continued to play a key role in the region’s literature. To give some sense of literary, historical and political context I will use the countries the stories were written in to structure this WWW Interactive Multimedia project. Though the majority of writers included are of the younger generation, the project is ushered in by Julio Cortázar because his work has been a major influence in contemporary Latin American short story writing.

The sense of dispossession is strong in the selected writers because they have had to come to terms with the political and social realities of their own countries. These writers explore in their fiction life in the great modern cities of Latin America, trying to convey the frenetic pace and confusion of daily existence in those places. Over all the stories in this project reflect the continuing efforts of writers throughout the region to arrive at fables that are timeless and irrefutable by inventing new circumstances and symbols which now continue to ring true. This situation makes the short story perhaps the most adequate vehicle for capturing the urgency of leaving some record of events and emotions in contemporary Latin America that students of this course will find amazing,  entertaining, challenging, and free from the distorted messages of politics and official history.
What I will try to convey in this project, which will contain, in a home page, six web pages (other pages will be developed by students during the semester), is a clear idea of the possibilities that new Latin American writers have found in the short story. In choosing the pieces I have tried to suggest a whole vibrant world closely related in themes and characters with the world of a young generation of readers, the students themselves. These six master Web pages or “docunets,” once completed, would be posted in the WWW for public consumption, commentary, and critique.
 Emphasis in this hands-on course will be on converting the course syllabus and lecture notes into Web-based course materials. Participants will create well-designed, class-based pages with relevant links, tables, graphics, and frames. After completing several linked pages (each group dealing with one country and one short story), students will learn how to establish a Web site, organize their files in a directory, and access/update their site. This will encourage them to visit course pages at any time; find out assignments; view the current week’s set of course-related images, outlines or notes; or ask instructor and/or fellow students for help on a particular topic. Administrative issues covered will include how to use the Web to help students communicate with the instructor; keep up with course requirements and deadlines; build classroom presentations with presentation software such as PowerPoint, PaintShop Pro, and Multimedia Toolbook; provide expertise on how to export presentations to the Internet, using Neuron, a plug-in for Netscape and Internet Explorer; and turn in assignments and papers electronically. Upon completion of the course, students will be able to: Access Web servers; use Web browsers and navigate the World Wide Web; use bookmarks and cite Web references; and use course Web pages to pursue their own research and to communicate with fellow students taking literature classes at different ACS institutions.

Technology: Course Description and Implementation

 The most important aspect of teaching the short story this way is that it allows for a rich interactive reconstruction of fiction that will facilitate the interpretation of stories. With a computer visualization of the stories, in the form, for instance, of an interactive animation, students will be able to internalize basic literary concepts successfully. Concepts and narrative devices previously deemed too complex can now be understood when mediated by an effective visualization. By using numerous platform-independent resources available over the Web, students can capture the material for later reflection and study. In this manner, they can explore and expand the materials used in class by the instructor and do so interactively from virtually anywhere, at any time, and as often as needed. The planned mechanism by which one turns a Web browser into an effective means of presenting a whole course’s worth of material in a classroom will be fairly involved. The approach I will adopt involves building a special classroom interface. When the course is entered, the standard browser controls will vanish and a new set, created using frames and Javascript, will appear. These controls  will provide easy access from any screen to features such as the hierarchical structure of the course, the default forward and reverse path, historical, political and social background of the stories, help screen, a glossary of literary terms, and standard supporting resources of use in both the classroom and home. Equally important will be the establishment of a convention for the navigation and exploration of related resources in order to find and understand links, plots, settings, characters, point of view, language, a sample of interpretations, etc., from anywhere in the course’s home page. This will be done by adopting a convention which specifies the order in which buttons of various shapes and locations should be explored.
 Once the course has been deposited on a Web server it will contain text, graphics, photographs, video clips, self-running and interactive animations, and pedagogical models the parameters for which can be chosen by students or instructors if they  want to supplement a particular topic of the course. With this design, instructors will use the material to facilitate explanations in class and  students will use the material outside of class to not only review, but make further explorations of content and concepts. Even more, the resources of this course will be also available to any other ACS instructor and ACS students on the Internet since the design criteria is intended to be offered from the same server to the campus of  Trinity University and to the campuses of affiliated ACS institutions.
This project will enhance the students’ learning abilities and my own teaching abilities by learning together how to climb the learning curve of HTML and multimedia programming in order to communicate with other ACS departments in my discipline and in order to connect the teaching of foreign languages and literatures with related fields in the humanities. This will be a coherent procedure for the productive exchange of information about teaching and learning, grounded on a Web-based communication technology that facilitates collaboration among faculty; and for the capability to accumulate resources about which to interact.

Curricular Integration and Mechanisms for Assessment

 Currently in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, at Trinity University, we offer, as a Special Topic course, SPAN 4391 “Twentieth Century Spanish American Short Story,” which will be taught by me during the Spring Semester of 1998. Incorporating the interactive multimedia design I am proposing here, I plan to offer it again in the Spring 2000 semester. I shall conduct a pre-registration campaign at Trinity in order to register students interested in this pioneering course.
I intend to monitor the pedagogical outcome through peer review of the materials and university and departmental student evaluations with the assistance of the Computing Center, the Instructional Media Services of the library, the Information Technology Committee and the Teaching and Learning Committee, at Trinity University, and by consulting with other ACS faculty members who have experience developing similar courses. To offer ACS faculty members access to the short story home page through the WWW, I intend to develop a way to request the activation of a Web page “template,” which will prompt the user for input. This input will be used to create a faculty member’s own Web page layout. Upon completion of the prompting sequence, the Web page will be compiled and debugged, assigned a URL, and hyperlinked to the short story home page. Testing might be done online with secured passwords or monitored by the instructor working as a site coordinator. Other assessment methods will include weekly assignments, quizzes on theoretical and technical issues, collaborative skills, mid-semester prototype presentations, projects, and final papers done by students.  Quality control for the learning process will be partially assured by the focus on instructional design that will determine what are students intended to know, do, and assimilate upon completing the course.
The utility of electronic media in instruction as an alternative to traditional media lies in its ability to provide additional pathways to students learning and retention. Thus the implementation of appropriate computer tools in a carefully designed learning environment, as I propose in this project, will offer the potential for real growth and development in teaching and learning.

Pablo A. Martínez
November 1, 1997

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