New ways of teaching literature

Author: Rhian Davies


This article outlines my experiences in teaching the novels of the major nineteenth-century author Benito Pérez Galdós (1843-1920) to second-year students at the Department of Hispanic Studies, University of Sheffield. My course (HSS 264) aims to encourage students to think creatively and independently, to appreciate not only the stimulation, but also the enjoyment derived from the study of literature. It combines traditional literature teaching with innovative methods and multimedia resources, including an electronic critical edition of Torquemada en la hoguera (1889) and Buñuel's film of Tristana (1892). It is a venture that has enabled both the students and myself to benefit from the virtues of multimedia and 'research-led teaching' in its broadest sense (Brew 2001, McGuinness n.d.).

Table of contents


Teaching literature to Modern Language students constitutes an enormous challenge nowadays. 'A' level Spanish teachers are becoming increasingly discouraged from teaching literature to their students, with the result that, at Sheffield, we are often faced with the prospect of having to teach students who have no prior experience of studying literary texts. For example, out of a group of about 60 first-year Hispanic Studies students in 2002, only 15 reported that they had studied Spanish literature and, in my second-year literature class in 2003, 60% of (29) students did not have an 'A' Level in English.

This situation is aggravated by the fact that apparently students have been conditioned to believe that literary study is composed of black and white certainties. This attitude may be traced back to 'A' level courses, which, through their use of multiple-choice questions, lead students to expect their answers to be simply right or wrong. It is hardly surprising that they are extremely disconcerted when they discover, at University, that radically different interpretations of a literary work may be equally valid. Furthermore, many students are not accustomed to reading on a regular basis, and are, therefore, unlikely to have highly developed critical skills.

Faced with such challenges, I felt obliged to seek new ways of teaching the novels of Benito Pérez Galdós to my second-year students.


Acutely aware of the problems students seem to encounter when approaching literature, which many regard as being elitist and difficult, my principal aims were to increase students' confidence when approaching literary texts, to teach them valuable transferable skills, including problem-solving, to encourage them to use their creative imagination, to think independently, and, ultimately, to appreciate the stimulation derived from the study of literature.

I felt that it would be beneficial to take advantage of the fact that many students are inspired by visual and electronic resources and respond sensitively to such materials. Since more than a third of children under the age of four have a TV in their bedroom and IT is now taught at school from Reception, it is highly likely that such skills will be sharpened further in future generations [Footnote 1]. In introducing some innovation and combining education with entertainment, I also hoped to instil a sense of enjoyment into the course.

These aims were accompanied by a personal desire to make greater use of my research material, largely because, like many other lecturers, I believe that research is primarily concerned with the extension of knowledge and is only truly valuable when communicated, understood and appreciated by others. The interaction between teaching and research is both natural and mutually beneficial. One could even go so far as to say that teaching and research are, and should always be, inseparable.

Course components

HSS 264 has a tripartite structure, based on three very different novels, Doña Perfecta (1876), Torquemada en la hoguera (1889) and Tristana (1892). The module has been taught to classes of c.10-30 students and consists of a total of 18 sessions per semester (1 session per week and 2 sessions in alternate weeks). The study of the novels is preceded by two sessions. The first consists of an overview of the context of nineteenth-century Spain, its history and ideas, followed by a brief introduction to the life and works of Galdós. Here I attempt to situate each of the three novels in the context of the author's work as a whole, before moving on to outline the general literary background, the rise of the novel and the ideas Galdós expressed in his 'Observaciones sobre la novela contemporánea'.

The three novels are studied individually in chronological order.

Doña Perfecta (1876) is taught in a fairly traditional manner. In the first two sessions, we study the novel by chapter. We examine the first chapter in some detail: for instance, we discuss whether it is effective in setting the scene and consider the significance of some of its symbols (notably the train and the cock crowing) and its narrative technique (e.g. the role of the narrator and the information readers are given). The students are provided with handouts containing important quotations from the chapters (and, if necessary, I offer translations of these quotations in class for ex-beginners). In the third session, we move on to examine the work in relation to its historical context and discuss whether it can be seen as a political allegory. In this light, we explore some of the key themes and consider the characters and their roles, discussing, for example, whether Pepe represents the Liberals versus Doña Perfecta and the Traditionalists. We also debate the extent to which Doña Perfecta is a thesis novel and whether this is to the novel's detriment. In the final session we look at the novel's structural and stylistic traits and proceed to analyse its critical reception to date, paying particular attention to the paradox that it is an 'immature' but also an extremely popular work, and note its significance in Galdós's career as an experimenter.

The next novel, Torquemada en la hoguera (1889), is the shortest of the four Torquemada novels (1889-1895), which are centred on the Madrid moneylender, Don Francisco Torquemada. My teaching of this text is accompanied by the electronic critical edition, which has been produced by the Galdós Editions Project ( and published by HRIOnline ( This edition was originally designed for researchers and I initially felt that it might be too specialist and difficult to use in conjunction with my Level 2 teaching. However, as time went by, I became increasingly fascinated by the potential it offered and, since students were particularly keen that it should be incorporated, I decided to make it a more central component of my new course.

To a certain extent, my teaching of this novel is 'researcher-led', or 'tutor focussed' [Footnote 2]. I am carrying out research on the Torquemada novels, I am the editor of this electronic edition, which contains my transcriptions, my notes, and I also encourage students to use my guidance material and my hard-copy edition of the text (Davies 2002). This part of the course has provided me with the perfect opportunity to communicate my ideas, both published and unpublished, including my misgivings with regard to other critics' opinions of this novel. Hence, the students are the 'audience' for my research.

However, my teaching is also 'research-led' and 'student focussed' in the sense that this part of the course is not a simple case of knowledge transmission in which students are a passive audience. When using the electronic edition, students are required to adopt an active role, an inquiry-based approach and become engaged in various decision-making processes. It is a particularly useful resource since it does not overwhelm them with information but is an open critical text. They must decide what they are going to do with the material (some of which, notably the manuscripts, would normally be inaccessible, a fact which they find exciting and stimulating). In the electronic edition of Torquemada en la hoguera students are presented with three early versions of the text and must decide, for instance, which version they are going to use as their base text, which notes they are going to view and so forth, decisions that they rarely have to make when presented with a book. Students, thus, are obliged to act like researchers.

Some students do not have the confidence to view themselves as potential researchers, possibly because they are too accustomed to being 'spoon-fed'. In order to increase this confidence and make them feel that they are on the same wavelength as myself, I find it useful to outline the doubts that I, myself, have experienced and explain my own thought-processes. For example, I highlight the problems I have faced whilst trying to overcome the notion of a dogmatic, omniscient editor in producing the electronic edition, thereby encouraging them to view the reading process as a fluid activity, one that is often subject to numerous variations, even in the case of the individual reader, rather than something that is static and monotonous. Students should recognise that knowledge is frequently provisional and they often respond enthusiastically to opportunities to contribute to a debate, to solve the unanswerable, to assess 'work in progress'.

The electronic edition also serves as a particularly effective means of breaking down the barriers between the modern reader and the nineteenth-century text. Students have access to a range of ancillary material, including critical notes, a map and pictures of nineteenth-century Madrid, which allow them to familiarise themselves with the historical and cultural context, the expansion of the Spanish capital, and its different districts. The material also enables them to appreciate the nineteenth-century context of this novel, the interdisciplinary nature of Galdós's work and the fact that the knowledge of his world and his novels are inseparable. Students are immersed in the nineteenth-century context and, through their interaction with the period, are stimulated to consider how things have changed today and how some problems, including the timeless issues of hypocrisy and death, remain without solution. Hence, they are encouraged to reflect upon the modernity of Galdós and to develop new ways of thinking.

When I feel that students possess the necessary confidence to face the challenge, I begin to involve them in problem solving tasks. By showing them that sometimes there are no wrong or right answers and that in literary texts a great deal is often open to interpretation, I encourage them to think independently and to shun dogmatic approaches. Initially in small groups, and later as a class, we look at the creative processes of Torquemada en la hoguera and discuss the changes introduced at the various stages of composition. Students are invited to speculate on the perhaps complex issue as to why Galdós introduced certain changes, and to decide whether, in so doing, he has corrupted or improved the text. They are surprisingly creative in their quest for possible interpretations when working on such exercises, which enable them to gain an insight into the author's working mind and wonder about his intentions. They can also be encouraged to move a step further and ponder over the possibility that he may have been influenced by external pressures and responded to suggestions from his publisher, friends, or even the general reading-public.

The final novel of this course, Tristana (1892), is a completely different case. Whereas my interest in Torquemada en la hoguera was research-based, I was primarily concerned with Tristana'spotential as teaching material. Even so, there are 'research-led' components in the teaching methods I have adopted.

Before deciding to use Luis Buñuel's film of Tristana (1970) in conjunction with my teaching, I admit that I had to overcome a number of doubts. For instance, I feared that I might be succumbing to student whims and their demands for more film-based modules, that I would regard the quality of the film as inferior to that of the novel and would thus lack the necessary enthusiasm to teach this aspect of the course effectively. I was, however, persuaded to embark upon this experiment using film after attending Russell Cousins's excellent session on teaching Zola's novels through film at the Subject Centre's event on 'Curriculum Innovation', where he demonstrated that this medium offered exciting possibilities for engaging students with literature.

Nonetheless, there were still some potential problems to overcome. I was, above all, concerned that Tristana the novel might become sidetracked or regarded by students as material of secondary importance in relation to the film. If this occurred, it could threaten one of my main goals, namely to encourage students to read and appreciate the literary text. To overcome this difficulty I decided to deal with the novel first, on its own, in a similar style to Doña Perfecta, which ensured that students were familiar with this work, before moving onto the film, which was inspired by Galdós's novel. This was suitable from a chronological, as well as a tactical, point of view.

My main aim in this part of the course was to engage the students and to stimulate their contribution by presenting them with a series of questions that demanded discussion, critical analysis, decision-making, and evaluation on their part. In this way, I chose to mirror a research approach, hoping that I would thus promote independent learning. I was keen to encourage students to regard the film as an interpretation, rather than a faithful reproduction, of Galdós's novel and thus, before the film-showing sessions, I presented the students with a work-sheet (Appendix 1), asking them to read a description taken from the novel of a number of characters, including Tristana, and, on this basis, draw a picture of what they imagined the character would look like.

In the next session, I showed them a photograph of Catherine Deneuve, who played Tristana in Buñuel's film. The purpose of this exercise was to engage the students actively, to encourage them to imagine how they viewed the characters and place themselves in the position of the film director. Even when students made mistakes (- a number instinctively drew Tristana with long, flowing hair even though the text clearly stated that she wore her hair in a bun), I explained that this was a natural process in reading, since there may frequently be instances when the imagination takes over and refuses to heed details provided by the original text. They also came to recognise that the medium of the film could leave indelible impressions on their minds; later many admitted that, if presented with the same exercise after viewing the film, they would find it very difficult to avoid drawing Catherine Deneuve as Tristana.

The greater part of this section of the course was devoted to comparing and contrasting the novel and film. In order to do this effectively, students had to know the novel well and respond thoughtfully and sensitively to the material. The advantage of using Buñuel's film was that it often differed radically from the novel and thus students were obliged to think hard about the reasons for the changes and their consequences.

Using a problem-based learning-method, I provided students with worksheets (Appendix 2), which were designed to facilitate the learning process, stimulate their thought processes and clarify any doubts related to the comprehension of the works. We spent a number of sessions examining particular extracts and comparing them with the novel. For instance, we spent almost a whole session looking at the opening scenes of the film. It was immediately apparent to the students that, unlike Galdós's novel, set in a precise location, the outskirts of northern Madrid, in the suburb of Chamberí, in the nineteenth century, a time when 'new sewer works for the city and primitive industrialization had combined with cheap, rapidly constructing housing to transform the landscape into a sprawling, unplanned suburb' (Partridge 1995: 181), the setting of Buñuel's film is Toledo of the 1930s. I asked the students to consider the impact of the opening shot, which, taken from a similar angle to El Greco's famous painting of Toledo, emphasises the drab and unexciting nature of the place and the notion of backwardness. We considered why Toledo, as a typical provincial Spanish town, might be a more effective location than cosmopolitan Madrid to communicate an aura of monotony and prepare us for the oppressive burden of life in traditional, Catholic Spain to which Tristana would be cruelly subjected in the film.

After analysing the differences between the settings, we were able to consider the factual evidence. Although Buñuel claimed in his autobiography that he wanted to pay homage to the city of Toledo, which he loved, [Footnote 3] it would appear that the reasons for this change of setting were largely practical. His request for permission to film in the capital in 1963 was refused by the authorities on the grounds that the film, which alluded to the practice of duelling, contravened the new code of censorship. (Edwards 1982: 28). Buñuel, however, suspected that it was a result of the controversy provoked by his earlier film, Viridiana.

We reflected upon the opinions of critics, for example the view that the change of setting is not as significant in the case of Tristana as it could have been in other novels, [Footnote 4] and the possibility that the film does not highlight the theme of enclosure apparent in the original novel. [Footnote 5]

We then discussed the impact of Buñuel's decision to transfer his film from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, specifically the early 1930s, a period of social disorder before Spain was invaded by Franco's troops and submerged in the turmoil of the Civil War. [Footnote 6] As in the case of the setting, critics have claimed that the change of chronology in the film has not been as detrimental as it could have been in the case of other novels. [Footnote 7] Nonetheless, the change of timescale not only encouraged us to look for possible links between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but also to consider the elements of modernity present in the novel. We debated critics' suggestions that Buñuel had wished to highlight the fact that problems that were present in the nineteenth century had yet to be eradicated. [Footnote 8] In particular, we deliberated Mellen's view that '[Tristana]conveys the image of a Spain that is already amputated. [...] The crippled Tristana represents in her person the generation to be maimed by the Civil War, embodying as she does the frequent image in Franco's Spain of the amputee' (Mellen 1973: 300). In other words, Tristana, like the Spanish people, is crippled physically, socially and politically. We concluded that both the setting and the timescale, then, conveyed 'the dullness, the clinging to tradition and the crippling claustrophobia of provincial Spanish life.' (Edwards 1982: 226)

Next, we tried to ascertain why the characters present in the opening scenes are radically different in Buñuel's film. Whereas the beginning of Galdós's novel focuses on Don Lope, in the film we encounter the protagonist, Tristana, the maid Saturna and the maid's son, the deaf mute Saturno. We wondered whether this was natural, given that Tristana was the protagonist and whether Buñuel felt that his film needed a more dramatic start, more action and that the audience needed to be introduced immediately to a range of main characters, rather than just one character, in this opening scene.

Finally, we analysed the themes present in Buñuel's opening scene, ranging from traditionalism (expressed through the fact that both are women dressed in the traditional black of mourning), to communication and the theme of 'a crippled and mutilated humanity', presented through the group of deaf mutes (Edwards 1982: 226). We noted that the motif of the cripple would later be extended to Tristana, who develops a tumour in her leg, which is subsequently amputated, and also considered the wider implication of 'a society which cripples and destroys human relationships'.

Throughout this part of the course, I hoped to encourage students to identify with Buñuel as a reader of Galdós's novel and to stress the fact that his film was inspired by the novel and, as such, should always be regarded as a work in its own right and not judged in terms of its inferiority or superiority to the original. Like the students who had attempted to artistically reproduce Tristana in one of the early sessions on the novel, Buñuel, a reader of Galdós, when producing his film, drew on some elements from the novel, highlighting the work's modernity on some occasions, and, on others, introduced changes as he saw fit in accordance with the generic demands of cinematography and his personal interests.

One of the significant advantages of teaching the novel with this film was that I could, at times, adopt a controversial point of view. Students were initially surprised and mystified when I showed them the opening credits, which, no doubt, appeared to be little more than tedious and uninteresting to them on the first viewing. I also found that playing the devil's advocate stimulated students and encouraged them to think and develop their own opinions. They particularly enjoyed comparing their experiences as readers with those of Buñuel, and were very keen to criticise the film director for his portrayal of Tristana and her unfair treatment of Don Lope.

The Course Assessment (Appendix 3) was based on essay-work, which aimed to encourage students to think independently and to interpret the novels innovatively, for instance to compare and contrast the portrayal of the character Tristana in the novel and film, or to analyse the changes in the variants introduced at different stages in Torquemada en la hoguera. The essays produced by the students demonstrated that they had been encouraged to carry out independent study, to think for themselves, and use their creative imagination.


The course was evaluated in two ways: firstly with the basic questionnaire issued by the Department of Hispanic Studies and also with my personal questionnaire (Appendix 4).

The students responded positively to the course. They noted that they particularly liked the variety of resources employed, especially the use of the electronic edition and film, as well as Powerpoint for the lecture summaries, and felt that these had made the learning process varied and interesting. One of my aims had been to encourage students to reflect upon the learning process and the questionnaires indicated that I had been successful in that regard.

Students commented that they approved of the sample of novels studied, which displayed a variety of themes and styles and also gave them an overview of the author's career as a whole. They also praised the combination of general information with specific detail and the fact that the works were open to interpretation. One student wrote, 'Reading three novels gives a good overall understanding of an author's work and helps you to write in more depth about specific aspects.' Others wrote, 'I enjoyed being able to interpret the works in my own way and not being dictated to as regards what is right or wrong' and '[Comparing and contrasting the film and the novel] helped make me aware of how different interpretations of stories are formed.'

Achievements and lessons learned


Multimedia is all too readily associated with innovative teaching nowadays but it should never be forgotten that the use of electronic material per se is not sufficient. Rather its use has to be carefully tailored to the needs of the students. If a lecturer's website is merely a collection of materials to be consulted in conjunction with a particular module, it may be difficult to justify why multimedia should replace the use of books, unless, of course, the material would otherwise be inaccessible. Such websites may even run the risk of promoting passivity amongst students since they can deny them the experience of actively researching materials in a library, or foster a desire for spoon-feeding. Unrestricted access to the internet as a whole may also overwhelm students, sometimes with materials that are not even worth reading or, at worst, are misleading or simply erroneous. Multimedia is like fire: it is a useful slave but a destructive enemy. Used in conjunction with teaching, it should always be dynamic and promote interactivity, yet retain a sense of controlled learning, with the lecturer acting as a guide who is prepared to let students wander at will, but is also quick to ensure that such wanderings are always structured and purposeful.

In this context, the electronic critical edition can be a valuable tool to promote new ways of reading and stimulate students to engage closely and interactively with literature. Although it is unlikely that every lecturer may have the necessary technical resources or the sufficient time at their disposal to produce such complex material, to master the technology and develop an appropriate website, given the increasing number of works digitised, including manuscripts, photographic material and sometimes even complete electronic novels (even though the majority tend not to be critical editions at present), it may be possible to put together a collection of materials without too much effort. It is even possible that students themselves could contribute to such a task.

As for the film component, setting up a series of lectures based around film clips can be time-consuming, but, at the same time, rewarding and thought provoking. In my view, the possibilities offered by film for future literature teaching are endless, particularly when film is employed to stimulate students to compare and contrast literary works with their screen adaptations. In their questionnaires, students were keen to encourage me to make greater use of film and introduce more group work. It is evident that they find film a less intimidating setting for educational debate. Film, coupled with class discussions or brainstorming sessions, which can boost students' confidence when studying literature and enable them to refine their personal interpretations, to develop their argumentative skills and heighten their interest, can motivate students and incite them to learn effectively from each other. Perhaps it is the solitary experience of reading literary texts that our students today find so daunting, and thus incorporating the use of film and increasing the number of class discussions, which require social participation, may be effective ways of addressing this problem.

Future plans

In response to students' requests, I am currently devising a Level 3 module ('Genesis and Genre: From Novel to Play to Screen: Galdós Today'), which will be based upon two Galdosian works, both of which exist in novel and play form. Students will be asked to work in groups on chosen extracts, to compare and contrast the novel version with the play version and, in attempting to take on the role of film directors, consider how they can be adapted for the screen. In so doing they will not only reflect upon the implications of 'genesis' and 'genre', but also ascertain whether there are features that make the works 'modern' and applicable today.

Teaching methods

With regard to the teaching methods I have employed, and particularly in relation to 'research-led' teaching, it is important to weigh up the pros and the cons. There are a number of pitfalls, especially with 'tutor-focussed' teaching, where there may be a 'wavelength' problem. Sometimes it is all too easy to become too blinkered when you are so close to your own work and it can often be difficult for lecturers immersed in their research to remember what it was like to read a novel they are teaching for the very first time. There is also the risk of assuming knowledge that students do not have: some lecturers might fail to see the problems, get frustrated with those who have difficulty, and lack enthusiasm with those students who do not share their natural affinity with the literary work concerned. It was interesting to note that, despite the fact that I devoted a relatively equal number of sessions to each novel, in the questionnaires some students complained that insufficient time was spent on Torquemada en la hoguera, the very novel I have edited. There are, of course, two ways of interpreting such comments: on the one hand, it is possible that I was too close to the novel, and thus assumed knowledge. From this point of view, it can be refreshing for both oneself and for students to teach on a subject that it not directly related to one's specialist research. On the other hand, perhaps students were keen to have more sessions on Torquemada en la hoguera because my natural enthusiasm for the novel made them crave more?...

Overall, the advantages of teaching this course far outweigh the pitfalls. I was able to benefit from a valuable reciprocal relationship with my students, which frequently served as a springboard for new ideas. When attempting to promote the significance of multiple perspectives, it is incumbent upon us, as lecturers, to recognise that we can gain new insights from students' opinions, even if the view the latter adopt may be a cynical one. Teaching and Learning is, after all, a two-way street.

I, personally, experienced a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment of communicating the results of my own research and enabling students to share my ideas. As I have stated previously, research is centred upon personal enquiry and enabling students to share this useful transferable skill and to adopt a much more thoughtful attitude towards their studies is an invaluable component of any literature course. This is why I always begin this course by explaining my personal views as regards the benefits of studying literature and the mental stimulation it offers.

Finally, it remains to be said that the experimental nature of teaching should always be regarded as a virtue. It is a feature, which makes both teaching and research dynamic and exciting for both the students and the lecturer. Like research, the success of 'research-led' teaching is centred upon intellectual ability and expertise, but its other vital components include enthusiasm, confidence, initiative (or self-motivation) and perseverance. The use of multimedia, electronic editions, variant materials and other visual resources not only help to bring literature to life but also enhance its complexity in a manner that students do not find intimidating, but intriguing and thought-provoking. Students are invited to become literary detectives in their own right and hopefully some seeds are sown for the future generation of researchers.

Appendix 1: Character worksheets


Character description: Tristana

La otra [...] era joven, bonitilla, esbelta, de una blancura casi inverosímil de puro alabastrina; las mejillas sin color, los negros ojos más notables por lo vivarachos y luminosos que por lo grandes; las cejas increíbles, como indicadas en arco con la punta de finísimo pincel; pequeñuela y roja la boquirrita, de labios un tanto gruesos, orondos, reventando de sangre, cual si contuvieran toda la que en el rostro faltaba; los dientes, menudos, pedacitos de cuajado cristal; castaño el cabello y no muy copioso, brillante como torzales de seda y recogido con gracioso revoltijo en la coronilla. Pero lo más característico en tan singular criatura era que parecía toda ella un puro armiño y el espíritu de la pulcritud, pues ni aun rebajándose a las más groseras faenas domésticas se manchaba. [...] resultaba una fiel imagen de dama japonesa de alto copete.

Partridge's translation:'The other [...] was young, pretty, and slim with a complexion of the almost unreal whiteness of pure alabaster; her cheeks were without color and her black eyes were more remarkable for their vitality and luminosity than for their size. Her eyebrows were exceptional - they were arcs traced with the tip of the finest brush. Her mouth was quite small and very red, and her lips which were rather thick and full, seemed filled with the blood which had drained from the rest of her face; her tiny teeth were small squares of milk-white crystals. Her hair was chestnut and, although not abundant, shone like tresses of silk and its gleaming disordered mass was gathered into a delightful chignon on the crown of her head. But the most distinctive characteristic of this singular creature was that her whole being possessed a nobility and spiritual beauty; even when performing the dirtiest domestic tasks, she remained without stain [...], she was the very image of a Japanese lady of high status with stiff, raised hair.'

Character description: Don Lope

D. Lope era composición del caballero, como un precioso afeite aplicado a embellecer la personalidad; y tan bien caía en su cara enjuta, de líneas firmes y nobles, tan buen acomodo hacía el nombre con la espigada tiesura del cuerpo, con la nariz de caballete, con su despejada frente y sus ojos vivísimos, con el mostacho entrecano y la perilla corta, tiesa y provocativa, que el sujeto no se podía llamar de otra manera.

Partridge's translation:'Don Lope was his own invention, which he used like an expensive cosmetic to enhance his personality. But it admirably suited his lean face with its firm distinctive lines; and harmonized so perfectly with his tall erect frame, his high-bridged nose, his broad brow and penetrating eyes, his greyish moustache and short stiff provocative beard, that this person couldn't really be called by any other name.'

Character description: Saturna

Llamábase esta Saturna, alta y seca, de ojos negros, un poco hombruna, y por su viudez reciente vestía de luto riguroso.

Partridge's translation:'The latter was a tall gaunt woman named Saturna; she had black eyes and was slightly masculine in appearance; because of recent widowhood she wore deep mourning.'

Appendix 2: Worksheets: clips from Tristana

Opening scenes:

  • What impression does the setting convey? (NB. The river, the effect of the church bells etc.)
  • What effect does the characters' dress convey?
  • Why does Buñuel introduce the deaf mutes at the beginning? (Can you think of possible themes they might express?)

The café scene

  • What is the function of this scene?

Tristana & Don Lope

  • What effect do the characters convey as a couple? What theme(s) might this scene highlight?
  • Does this scene link, in any way, to the café scene?

Convent scene

  • Does this scene symbolise Spain? If so, how?

Stray dog scene

  • Does this scene have a symbolic function in the film? How does it relate to Tristana?

The Bell scene

  • What is the function of this scene? What is its relation to Tristana?

Tristana & the religious statue

  • What does this scene communicate about Tristana?

Don Lope at the clergy

  • What impression does this scene convey of the clergy?

Buñuel's characters vs. Galdós's characters

  • Is the relationship between Tristana and Horacio more prominent in the novel or the film?
  • Is the relationship between Tristana and Don Lope more prominent in the novel or the film?
  • Compare the role of Saturno in the novel and the film.
  • Compare the role of Tristana in the novel and the film.
  • Compare the role of Don Lope in the novel and the film.

Appendix 3: Personal questionnaire

HSS 264 Course evaluation

  1. What did you find most useful about this course?
  2. What did you enjoy least and find least useful about this course?
  3. What would you change about the course to reflect nos. 1 and 2?
  4. Do you feel the course is pitched at the right level for you? Please give details.
  5. Do you think that the required reading is appropriate for this course? Please explain why/ why not.
  6. Did you find the handouts useful? Please explain why/ why not.
  7. Any other comments you would like to make about this course?

Appendix 4: HSS 264 essay titles

Doña Perfecta

Political allegory, moral melodrama or novel of truth and characters. How do you read Doña Perfecta?
Doña Perfecta was Galdós's most popular novel; it is also one of his less mature novels. How far do the same qualities underline both these facts?

Torquemada en la hoguera

Compare and contrast (in detail) the different versions of the first paragraph of Torquemada en la hoguera (i.e. the two manuscript pages, and the versions published in La España Moderna and La Guirnalda). Analyse the changes in the context of the novel as a whole and explain why you feel that, in introducing them, Galdós has:
a. improved the text or b. corrupted the text
Is Torquemada en la hoguera a moralistic novel? Support your argument with detailed reference to the text and to the opinions of critics.


Compare and contrast the character of Tristana as portrayed by Galdós and Buñuel, and consider Beth Miller's statement that Buñuel's Tristana'is certainly a far stronger woman than the Tristana of the Galdós novel.'
Analyse the significance of the theme of change in Galdós's novel and the view that Tristana is a pessimistic novel (particularly in feminist terms).
Compare and contrast the portrayal of the theme of change in Galdós's novel and Buñuel's film.


1.'The number of young children with televisions in their bedrooms has increased, according to research by the Independent Television Commission (ITC).
More than a third of children under the age of four (36%) have a television in their bedroom, with 14% having a video recorder as well.
More than half of children under the age of 16 (52%) had a television in their bedrooms.'

2. Prosser and Trigwell (1999) refer to a branch of research-led teaching where an academic adopts an'information transmission teacher focussed' approach.

3.'Me atraía [...] la idea de trasladar la acción de Madrid a Toledo y rendir, así, homenaje a la ciudad tan querida.' [‘I was attracted to the idea of transferring the action from Madrid to Toledo and thus pay homage to the city I loved so much.'] (Buñuel 1982: 239).

4. Anderson (1985: 64) writes:'Setting [in Tristana] is not always well defined' and notes that, unlike in Fortunata y Jacinta, in Tristana, Galdós does not draw attention to the tension between Chamberí as a place of exile and the older central part of Madrid as a'potential source of wholeness'. He also notes that in Tristana the city of Madrid is out of reach; the characters are marginalized, outside mainstream society. Lisa Condé (2000: 37), for her part, notes the characters' virtual isolation from society and adds,'[Tristana] focuses less on external movements and settings, more on interior settings and psychology. Anderson (1985: 67) also suggests that this focus on interiors highlights Tristana's feelings of entrapment and, as Partridge (1995: 181) observes, it narrows the novel to'a series of intimate relationships'.

5. Lisa Condé (2000: 71) notes that'the film is less confined in terms of space than the original work, [which is] largely limited to enclosed settings.' Joan Mellen (1973: 299), however, has argued that'Toledo's narrow winding medieval streets, provide a real labyrinth to echo Tristana's unconscious imprisonment.' The setting also reinforces the power Don Lope has over her, a psychological power that is so strong that, when she is taken ill, she automatically returns to her him.

6. Critics have noted that the scene in which the workers are being chased in the street by the civil guards is deliberately new in the film to match with the setting.

7. Farris Anderson (1985: 61) notes:'In comparison to the others of the Novelas contemporáneas, Tristana is vague in its chronology and sparse in details of social and political history.' By contrast, Fortunata y Jacinta is so closely linked to the historical and political events of the period that a change of chronology here would have been'devastating'.

8. According to Andrés Amorós Guardiola (1977: 322),'el director aragonés nos está diciendo claramente que la historia de Tristana, tal como él lo ve, no es una historia del siglo pasado, sino algo mucho más próximo, que brota de la España tradicional, y está en las raíces mismas del presente.'


Anon. (2001). 'More Children Have TV In Bedrooms'. BBC News Report (24 July). Accessed 18 July 2005.

Amorós Guardiola, Andrés. (1977). 'Tristana, de Galdós a Buñuel'. In Actas del Primer Congreso Internacional de Estudios Galdosianos. Las Palmas: Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria), 319-29.

Anderson, Farris. (1985). 'Ellipsis and Space in Tristana'. Anales Galdosianos 20: 61-76.

Brew, Angela, (2001). 'Enhancing the Quality of Learning Through Research-Led Teaching'. Accessed 25 July 2005.

Buñuel, Luis. (1982). Mi último suspiro. Barcelona: Plaza & Janes.

Condé, Lisa. (2000). Critical Guide to Tristana. London: Grant & Cutler.

Davies, Rhian. (2002). Galdós y Lázaro: una breve y fructífera colaboración (1889-91). Madrid: Fundación Lázaro Galdiano & Ollero y Ramos.

Edwards, Gwynne. (1982). The Discreet Art of Luis Buñuel: A Reading of his Films. London & Boston: Marion Boyars.

McGuinness, Carol. (n.d.). 'Meanings of "Research-Led Teaching" within the Queen's [University, Belfast] context'. Accessed 26 July 2005.

Mellen, Joan. (1973). Women and their Sexuality in the New Film. New York: Horizon Press.

Partridge, Colin J. (1995). Tristana: Buñuel's Film and Galdós's Novel: A Case Study. Lampeter & Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press.

Pérez Galdós, Benito. (ed. 2005). Torquemada en la hoguera. Electronic novel, ed. by Rhian Davies.

Prosser, M. & Trigwell, K. (1999). Understanding Learning and Teaching: The Experience in Higher Education. Buckingham, UK: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.

Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (2002) Curriculum Innovation in the Teaching of Literature and Culture: Past event summary.

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