Literature from the Old and New World

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Nov. 1, 2012

Literature from the Old and New World

Trinity University associate professor Carlos X. Ardavín teaches the cultural diversity found in Spanish-speaking countries

SAN ANTONIO - In teaching about the literature and culture of the Hispanic world, Carlos X. Ardavín, associate professor of Spanish at Trinity University, hop-scotches across the globe, from Spain to the Caribbean to Miami to show the great diversity found among Spanish-speaking countries.

Whether it's studying Spain's cultural scene since the end of the Franco dictatorship, introducing students to the Dominican Republic, or examining Cuban American society, Ardavín is keen on sharing the rich literary heritage found in each area.

Spanish Literature after Franco

One of his principal areas of research is Spanish literature, particularly since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975 and the beginning of democracy in Spain.  "There was a cultural explosion. The notion of liberty and democracy created a fertile and fruitful terrain for literature and thinking," said Ardavín, who noted that many writers have gained international attention for their work, both commercially and critically.

A related area of research has been the Trans-Atlantic relationship between Spain and the United States. According to Ardavín, the relationship goes back to the late 19th century, when the Spanish-American War brought out an abundance of literature from Spanish writers. "In the past, the Spanish writers used to assess a country that was superior in all respects to their home country," said Ardavín. "Now writers are assessing a country that is in many respects similar to Spain. The U.S.  is not strange anymore and it is a more level conversation."

Introduction to the Dominican Republic

Ardavín's interests also lie in the New World.  His course, Introduction to the Dominican Republic, gives many students their first foray into the country that borders Haiti on the island of Hispaniola. The one-hour course is part of Trinity's Languages Across the Curriculum   (LAC) program and is taught entirely in Spanish.

Ardavín takes an interdisciplinary approach to the class, teaching on the geography, history, and politics of the Dominican Republic.  In the past, he has invited Dominican dancers and a writer to introduce students to the country's rich music and literary culture. 

"I am very pleased that this LAC course gives students the possibility of getting to know another culture," he said, adding, "It's a class I enjoy teaching." 

He points out that some of his students have traveled to the Dominican Republic since taking the class and one student spent a semester in the Caribbean country.

Signature Class

Using the Dominican Republic class as inspiration, Ardavín developed another LAC course focused on Cuban Americans.  He later transformed the class into a first-year seminar and it was one of the first seminars to be taught bilingually. 

Carlos Ardavin, associate professor of Spanish

"I consider myself a Cuban American and I felt I need to do something about my own community and people," he said.  He is teaching the course again this year, but has decided to teach it in English.

The class is formed around the central themes of identity, exile, and memory.  Ardavín uses poetry, films, and one novel, along with numerous readings, to explore the world of Cuban Americans.  He even has a section on how Miami has become the capital city of the Cuban American community.

"This is my signature course right now," said Ardavín.  "I have put a lot of energy and effort into trying to do it right."

Research and Writing

While he spends much of his time teaching, Ardavín has also become a prolific scholar, writing, editing, and co-editing numerous publications.  One of his most recent efforts is a volume of critical essays titled La influencia de Harold Bloom, which is co-edited with Antonio Lastra.  Bloom is the Sterling Professor of the Humanities and English at Yale University and a widely published and controversial author. 

"Scholars from Spain and the United States, in Spanish, assess the work of American critic Harold Bloom and how he has influenced Spanish and Latin American letters," said Ardavín.  He further explained the book looks at the influence of Bloom's own work, The Western Canon: the Books and School of the Ages, in which Bloom sets out his notion of the central writers of western civilization. According to Ardavín, The Western Canon caused much controversy in Latin America and Spain, leading to questions on defining a canon for Spanish speaking nations.

Ardavín has also made his own contributions to Latin American letters.  He is the author of two volumes of poetry, a number of short stories, and writes a literary column for a newspaper in the Dominican Republic.  And his first novel will be published solely in the Dominican Republic next spring.

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Spanish Literature since 1700
  • Post-Franco Spanish Literature
  • Transatlantic Vistas-Spain-US since 1898
  • Introduction to the Dominican Republic
  • The Cuban-Americans

Selected Publications

  • La Transición a la Democracia en la Novela Española: Usos y Poderes de la Memoria en Cuatro Novelistas  Contemporáneos, The Edwin Mellen Press, 2006. (monograph)
  • Ventanas sobre el Atlántico: Estados Unidos-España durante el postfraquismo (1975-2008); co-edited with  Jorge Marí, University of Valencia, Spain;  2011.
  • La Influencia de Harold Bloom, co-edited with Antonio Lastra; Ediciones La Torre del Virrey/Nexofia, Valencia, Spain; 2012.
  • Poetas Asturianos para el siglo XX; edited collection; received the Alfredo Quirós Fernández Award; Gijón: Ediciones Trea, 2009.

-- Russell Guerrero