Friday, February 26, 2010

Two Great Texts for Civilization Classes

If you're a Spanish professor in a college or university, you may have heard of the two texts I'm about to recommend without reservation. If you're a student, an adult independent learner of Spanish or just an "culture" buff, these two books are ideal. They are written entirely in Spanish, not watered down for English speakers, so they are ideal for individuals or college programs that take language and cultural studies seriously and recognize that they are inseparable if each are to be genuine.

First, I start with one that focuses entirely on peninsular Spain, I recommend Vicente Cantarino's Civilización y cultura de España. It has 16 chapters, making it quite viable for either semester or quarter academic calendars. It also has useful footnotes throughout, a glossary and a thorough index. Each chapter goes into sufficient depth to make an attentive learner quite conversant about Spanish history, art, politics, literature and much more. It is as ideologically neutral as it is possible to be, given Spain's long and often dark history as a religious, expansionist and conquering empire. Let's just say that Dr. Cantarino is frank about the past without getting on any soapbox. It is an enjoyable and highly informative read.

The other focuses on Latin America, which presents the challenge of presenting so many countries, but which is managed very well by Carlos A. Loprete in his Iberoamérica: Historia de su civilización y cultura. This book also follows a rigorously scholarly format of including footnotes, glossary and thorough coverage of our hemisphere's histories and cultures from pre-Columbian times to the present. I have often recommended it for students interested in doing an independent study course. It too is written entirely in Spanish and includes many questions at the end of each chapter which, when answered correctly and in writing, make handsome assignments that greatly facilitate the teaching and learning of both the content and the medium of the Spanish language.

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