Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date



Teaching old literature of any kind to undergraduates is a challenge. The language is difficult, the themes often lack resonance for today's students, and the cultural references are abstruse. When one adds to the mix that the works are in an archaic version of Spanish, not the native language of most students in the United States, and that the plays are written in florid, baroque poetry, the task of helping students to appreciate the Spanish comedia for its literary value is made considerably more demanding. A great many students simply do not understand what is going on with the plots and characters when they read a play. One sign of their lack of engagement with the text is the fact that rarely do undergraduates make marginal notes in their editions. It appears they read the texts blankly, waiting for the professor or someone else to tell them what they were supposed to think about them. In class, the students rarely ask questions on their own and do not usually give anything but the most rudimentary answers to questions regarding the basic themes, much less more esoteric topics such as baroque prosody. Faced with fifty minutes of silence, the professor breaks down and lectures, giving the students the information that he or she thinks they need. The overall experience of a class run in this fashion is abysmal for both the students and the professor. The problem is not that students are uninterested in the topics of the comedia. Once they understand what the plays are about—sex, honor, intrigue—students are forthcoming with their opinions and insights.


Laura R. Bass & Margaret Rich Greer


Modern Language Association


New York



Publication Information

Approaches to Teaching Early Modern Spanish Drama