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SPAN 423 Madrid-Barcelona-Nueva York: Performing Urban Identities

This guide is designed at assist the students in Professor Gold's Spring 2021 course with the research for their final project

Trabajo Final

SPAN 423, Primavera 2021
Trabajo final: Getting Started

The final assignment for this course is a research paper on a topic of your choice, based on your interests. Because the paper will require planning and research, it's advisable to divide your work into stages: choice of topic, thesis argument,  first draft, and final version. Toward the end of the semester, everyone will also be asked to submit a one-paragraph abstract on Canvas that explains the thesis of the paper, the principal texts being studied, main arguments, and conclusion(s). The exercise of distilling your paper into a single paragraph will help you clarify your focus and organization; by posting it on Canvas you will share your ideas with others in the class and foster dialogue on the issues raised by this course. I hope you have already begun to narrow down a topic. The earlier you start, the more time you will have for reflection and revision and to find library and other research materials.

The actual text of your paper should be 10-12 pages in length.  End notes, bibliography, and title page are *not* included in this total. You are expected to use a minimum of 8 new critical reference sources, some of which should be in Spanish. (Certainly you are encouraged to use more sources).  You may use some of the readings we’ve already used during the semester, if relevant, but they cannot be counted as new sources.  If you are using any of the literary texts or films from the course, these also do not count as new bibliographic sources. Please be careful when using web sources. Articles from scholarly journals and scholarly books that you read online are all acceptable (but see additional details below). You are expected to cite from and actually use the sources in your paper, not merely list them as entries in your bibliography.

Additional instructions on formatting will be provided in a separate message.


How do I choose a topic?  There is so much material out there.

Start thinking about topics and questions we've covered already in class.  Are there issues that especially caught your attention?  Are you more interested in Madrid or Barcelona?  Or writing by/about Hispanic/Latinx communities in New York, which we’ll study in the final unit of the course?  (Or some combination of these?).  Do you want to look more closely at the 19th century, or do your interests lie with the 20th-21st century?  You may want to work more in depth with texts/authors/topics we have already explored preliminarily, or perhaps you want to investigate a new area.  For instance, you might  read an additional work by one of the authors we've read (say, other stories by Pardo Bazán, additional essays by Martí on the New York scene, or additional Barcelona texts on the Okupa movement).  Alternatively, you might want to look at other fictional or documentary films on urban life in the cities we're studying, or read the text(s) of another author who wasn't included on the syllabus (for instance, the New York poetry of the Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos, or the "subway poetry" of the Chilean writer Enrique Lihn in A partir de Manhattan).  Or you may br interested in looking at different examples of a particular genre--for example, autobiographical texts and memoirs--or even at a different city in Spain (for ex., the impact of the new Guggenheim Museum on the city of Bilbao).  I can suggest additional titles and authors if you think you might want to branch out in this way.  You may also choose to use a comparative approach.  Browse the library, either in the stacks (if you’re on campus and make an appointment) or online, for further ideas. Sociological or historical inquiries into city life of Madrid/Barcelona/NY are also viable options--sustainability, transportation, sports, gender issues, immigration, health, etc.

How do I find bibliography on my topic?

It's assumed that you already know how to do basic DiscoverE searches, including subject searches using key words.  Specialized databases are especially helpful in locating sources; there is a link to Databases on the Woodruff Library page, in the pull-down menu.  The MLA International Bibliography lists articles and books related to literary texts and some films as well as literary and cultural theory.  Sociological Abstracts is useful for finding material related to topics such as urban planning, migration, memory and public space, urban social identities, etc.  See also Social Science Abstracts. There are specialized databases in fields including History; Art; Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Film Studies; Environmental Studies, and many others that may be relevant to the topic you’re researching. If you go to the EbscoHost database link, you will find a list of all the subject databases housed on this platform. To do a cross-database search, check off those databases you think might contain material relevant to your topic and then input your search terms. Our subject librarian for Spanish, Phil MacLeod, is always available to help students as they research their final projects. He has also designed a page specifically for students doing research in Spanish and Portuguese:, as well as a library research guide for Latinx studies:

Additionally, he has created a Library Research Guide specifically for our course that can be accessed directly from our Canvas course page, and you should consult that for suggestions.

I recommend you use EndNote or other similar programs, which allow you to manage bibliographic information from each of your sources.

How should I organize my paper?

Although research papers may take many forms, depending on the topic and approach, they all share certain things in common.  A research paper is built upon a clearly defined thesis which is presented in the introduction. The body of the paper, in which you incorporate your research, presents the main arguments that sustain the thesis and includes examples that defend it. The conclusion summarizes the arguments, indicating further not just that you have “proved” your thesis but how you did so and what the ramifications are.  Although these are points that have all been made regarding writing assignments in the 300-level foundational courses that you've taken, they bear repeating because they are intrinsic to the mode of inquiry that a research paper represents.

Why do I need to exercise caution in using websites as sources?

The internet is a vast repository of raw material on almost any subject imaginable. The democratic nature of the Web, however, is precisely what makes it problematic as a  research tool.  Anyone can design and post a website; since there is no oversight, websites may contain erroneous, biased, and even inflammatory information (BTW, this includes Wikipedia).  By contrast, scholarly books and journal articles are published only after rigorous evaluation by knowledgeable referees, which makes them much more reliable sources. Using printed sources—from Woodruff or  that are available online (also including newspaper articles)—is more likely to yield the sort of information you will need for your paper. Potential exceptions to this: when the subject of a paper is an analysis of web pages themselves or of the appearance of a particular topic on the web, then it's acceptable to use these sites as research sources.  However, in this case the websites are not being used as refereed sources of accurate information.

I've looked at some materials online but I'm still having trouble figuring out a topic; I'm not sure if my idea is too broad (or too narrow) or whether it's even feasible to pursue.  What should I do?

That's easy: consult with me, either during office hours or by e-mail.  Preferably the former, since it allows for a fuller discussion and real-time give and take.  The final paper shouldn't be just a mechanical exercise but rather a genuine learning experience in which you enter into a dialogue with others —scholars, your classmates, your professor – who are equally engaged by the subject of urban dynamics and the representation of cities in fictional and non-fictional texts by Spanish/Latin American/Latinx writers. To achieve this, you need to begin with a topic that's on sure footing.  See the examples below to get you started thinking about how topics can be delimited.

EX: “Children in Spanish cities“ (too broad)
       “Violence and the Everyday: Barcelona Children's Experience in the Civil War ” (much more specific; looks at a well-defined sector of Barcelona's population at a key historical moment; could refer to one of the texts we've read--i.e., La Plaza del Diamante--but certainly would go beyond literary analysis to include also sociological and historical information).

EX: “Cities and globalization in contemporary Spain” (lacks focus: in which cities? which aspects of globalization--economic, technological, cultural?)
       “McMadrid:  Landscapes of Global Consumerism in Spain's Capital, 2000-2015”  (more coherent; limits the discussion to a specific city; considers the rise in fast food restaurants as symbolic urban spaces and their impact on local business and culture during a specific time period).

EX: “Sex and the city in the Hispanic world” (the catchy title notwithstanding, this encompasses too many discourses: literature, politics, medicine, gender theory, etc.)
      “Spaces of Homosexuality in Madrid: Emergent Communities Since 1975” (shifts the focus to a a single aspect of gender/sexuality and narrows discussion to a few concrete aspects, including possibly symbolic geography and social policy, emphasizing notions of social networks; could include references to literature or film).

EX: “Nuyorican Poetry” (more of a survey than an in-depth analysis: which poets/texts?  Read from what sort of perspective?)
      “ ‘Aliens’ and Alienation: The Bilingual Experience of Ethnicity in the Nuyorican Poetry of Pedro Pietri and Miguel Piñero” (sets up a comparative reading of two major poets with attention to linguistic markers of identity as an expression of urban discontent).

EX: “Art in Latinx New York“  (suggests a superficial, kitchen sink approach)
      “Questioning Identity and Community in Two Exhibits of New York's El Museo del Barrio” (focuses on a specific cultural institution; compares the interrogation of identity in a series of museum exhibits/programs that include art, performance, etc. Note that during the pandemic this museum, like many others, has made its exhibitions available online).

EX: “Terrorism in the Spanish city” (somewhat vague: could refer to physical destruction, psychological and/or economic impact; terrorism committed by whom?)


       “Remembering 11-M: Madrid's Memorialization of the March 11, 2004 bombing at Atocha Station” (much more specific; focuses on a single terrorist event and the monument built to commemorate it, evaluating whether a sense of collective urban solidarity emerged in the bombing's aftermath).

I’d like to focus my research on representations of cities in film. What are suggestions for additional films that deal with Barcelona, Madrid, and/or NY?

For additional films that focus on urban issues, see the partial list below. The majority are fiction films; documentaries are marked by an asterisk:

José Luis Guerín, En construcción (BCN, 2001)*

Cesc Gay, En la ciudad (BCN, 2003)

Jo Sol, El taxista ful (BCN, 2005)

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Biutiful (BCN, 2010)

Pedro Lazaga, La ciudad no es para mí (MAD, 1965)

Mario Camus, La colmena (MAD, 1982)

Basilio Martín Patino, Madrid (MAD, 1986)*

Pedro Almodóvar, Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (MAD, 1989)

Montxo Armendáriz, Historias del Kronen (MAD, 1994)

Alex de la Iglesia, El día de la bestia (MAD, 1995)

Fernando León de Aranoa, Barrio (MAD, 1998)

Alex de la Iglesia, La comunidad (MAD, 2000)

Basilio Martín Patiño, 15M, Libre te quiero (2012)*

Jonás Trueba, Los ilusos (MAD, 2013)

Jaime Rosales, Hermosa juventud (MAD, 2014)

Jerome Robbins y Robert Wise, West Side Story (NYC, 1961)

Leon Ichaso y Orlando Jiménez Leal, El súper (NYC, 1979)

I Like It Like That (NYC, 1994)

Ángel Muñiz, Nueba Yol (NYC, 1995)

Julian Schnabel, Before Night Falls (NYC, 2000)

Alfredo de Villa, Washington Heights (NYC, 2002)

Peter Sollett, Raising Victor Vargas (NYC, 2002)

Gloria La Morte y Paola Mendoza, Entre nos (NYC, 2009)

Cruz Ángeles, Don’t Let Me Drown (NYC, 2009)

Urban Institute