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SPAN-499, The Cuban World: Discourse and Identity

Summer 2013 in Cuba
Professor: Gabriela Zapata
Dates: June 24 - July 24, 2013

The objective of this course is to apply linguistic fieldwork techniques and discourse analysis to discover how Cubans have defined themselves and their country throughout history. The primary focus of this course will be to discover the relationship between discourse and identity through the in-depth study of selected written texts on the geography, economy, history, and culture of Cuba, and the documentation of Cuban citizens’ views through the completion of interviews with representatives of different generations. The course will be based on a series of presentations by experts from the Centro de Estudios Martianos, on the analysis of texts representative of the issues addressed in the syllabus, and on students’ interviews with native Cubans. Students will also review what they have learned about the particulars of Spanish expression and grammar in previous courses and will have the opportunity to improve their communication skills by interacting with native speakers on a daily basis.

This program will offer USC students the opportunity to apply basic techniques in critical discourse analysis to discover the role that different instances of text (e.g., literary and political essays, native Cubans’ personal opinions, posters, newspapers articles) have played in the establishment of Cuba’s national identity. Students in this course will have the opportunity to (1) learn more about critical discourse analysis; (2) improve their oral and written proficiency in Spanish; and (3) broaden their knowledge on Cuba.

Classes will be take place at USC (week 1), and at the Centro de Estudios Martianos (weeks 2-4) in Havana. Daily morning lectures will consist of the analysis of different kinds of texts led by the USC instructor of the class, a series of presentations by Cuban experts from the Centro de Estudios Martianos, and on activities especially designed to address the linguistic needs of students in accordance to their level of proficiency. Students will be expected to participate in class discussions, write reaction papers, complete two interviews with Cubans of different generations, and apply critical discourse analysis techniques to the information gathered to establish the connection between discourse and identity. The class will also include a series of afternoon field trips (e.g., to museums, an agricultural production unit, a Santeria ceremony, etc.) and guided weekend excursions to various sites in and around Old Havana, the colonial city of Trinidad with optional trips to Varadero Beach and Santiago. 

Application Process:

Students interested in applying should complete the application form and submit it to Dr. Zapata in THH 156N along with a copy of their most recent STARS report.  Students considered for the program will then be asked to have an oral interview in Spanish with Dr. Zapata.

Program Costs:

Tuition: $5892 (4 units)

Airfare: $1500-$1700 Round trip: LA/Havana (estimated)

Additional expenses: $1500-$1700*

*Additional expenses include estimated costs for accommodations, meals, visas and other fees, and personal expenses (which can vary greatly from student to student).

Funding is available through SURF, student undergraduate research fund.

For further information on this course, contact Dr. Gabriela Zapata at