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Advanced Book Seminar: "Balún Canan" - Part I

Course Description:

In this advanced book seminar, we will read and discuss the novel “Balún Canán” written by the Mexican poet and author Rosario Castellanos (1925-1974), one of Mexico's most important women writers of the 20th century. Balún Canán (“Nine stars”) is how the Maya people referred to the place where the city of Comitán is located. Comitán, founded in 1528 by the Spaniards, is the oldest city of the Mexican state of Chiapas. Today it is the fourth largest city in the state, a cultural mecca, full of history and astonishing architecture from the colonial and prehispanic eras. Notwithstanding, its walls would tell a tragic past and uncertain present, the history of oppression and exploitation of the Mayan people that has continued for over five centuries. This was the town where Rosario Castellanos grew up in a family of landowners.

Balún Canán becomes then a semi biographical novel set in post revolutionary Mexico in the 1930’s during Lázaro Cárdenas’ presidency. This masterpiece is eloquently narrated through the eyes of a little girl that contemplates and learns from a society where men are not born equal. Both perspectives of life, that of the oppressor and the oppressed, their particular customs and their own dramas, are perfectly drawn as the main actors in this historical novel.

Designed for students with advanced reading and speaking skills in Spanish, this course will give you the opportunity to continue polishing your comprehension and conversational fluidity while we embark on this literary adventure that will deepen our insight of the long lasting effects of colonialism and how deeply its structure of power is permanently ingrained across societies in the world.

Special note on the duration of this course: Given the length of this book and in order to have enough time to discuss and talk about each important section of the novel, this course will be spread out  over two terms. In Winter 2020 we will read the first half of the book, and in Spring 2020 we’ll cover the second half of the book.  Students can expect to read 10-15 pages per week and should plan to take both the Winter and Spring sessions of the course to get the most out of the experience.

Where to get the book: Amazon link

Best suited for: Spanish Advanced I or equivalent

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