Friday, January 30, 2009

Can Spanish Community Service Learning and Literary Studies Co-Exist?

I must admit that I often think of the predominance of literary studies in Spanish departments as sometimes at odds with the on-the-ground work of social justice in a Spanish communty service learning course.

It doesn't have to be that way, of course.

My PhD is in literature. The critical thinking skills I learned in my training have transferred easily to the work of teaching culture, language and professional skills to students working within the local Latino community. The pleasure of "story" behind my passion for literature is still there whenever I hear an immigrant's story--or when I read a student describe their reaction to hear immigration stories, sometimes for the first time. And there are many more connections between literary studies and well-designed community-service learning.

However, I also learned to analyze power dynamics during my PhD, and the position of literature as "real"/"important"/"rewarded" within Spanish programs and CSL as "just teaching" / "service-y" / "applied" is pretty obvious.

So, I'm glad to see that our campus's Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory is hosting a symposium titled, "Comparative Human Rights: Literature, Art, Politics." (Click on the image above to see more details.)

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