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Hispanic Heritage Month Class Project Integrates Campus Grounds as Literary Forum

Publication Date: 10/3/2011

Cierra Martin ′15 reading a poem out of a tree on campus

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month which continues through Oct. 15, students and faculty of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures recently orchestrated a Spanish poetry project that made the campus grounds a literary forum.

Dr. Elizabeth Pettinaroli explains “So we asked students in the Language Learning Center to prepare these beautiful pieces of paper with ribbons and decorations, but we didn’t tell them what it was for. The whole process was very secretive. They started to wonder, to connect the dots, and it became this kind of mystery.”

Pettinaroli and her colleagues—Drs. Eric Henager, Kathleen Doyle, Clara Pascual-Argente and Nora Jabbour—also asked students in their classes to write selections of their favorite poems on the colored papers to celebrate this very special month for Hispanism. As an effort to make poetry accessible in everyday places, the poems were then hung on trees, and there was an air of excitement as students began to figure out what the project was all about.

Cierra Martin ’15 was sitting in the Language Learning Center when Pettinaroli approached her and asked if she could cut out some shapes and ribbons for a project the other Spanish classes were doing. “I didn’t really know what it was at first, but the idea that a person can walk by and pick up one of these poems out of a tree to read is really interesting.”

Pettinaroli says she got the idea from riding trains in Madrid, where she visits for her research, and from scenes around Argentina, where she is from. “When you ride the train in Madrid, there are excerpts from poetry and stories . . . and in Argentina you see paintings and excerpts at the bus stops.”

Those experiences transform travelers into readers, and Pettinaroli adds she wanted to share this tradition with the Rhodes community and to raise awareness of the importance of literature and the liberal arts.

Her class also is studying poetry of 17th century New Spain and Peru. “By observing the movement of poetry, we can see how parts of the past unfolded,” she explains. In colonial times, celebrations included the display of extremely elaborate allegorical pieces that combined poetry and art on carrozas, a kind of decorated wagon. Poetry was recited, viewed, and performed.

At Rhodes, Pettinaroli teaches the literatures of the Early Modern Hispanic world with focus on space and place. Her work examines placemaking as the literary forum to debate competing visions of globality and the intersections between literature and cartography.

(information compiled by Rhodes Student Associate Nicholas Brydon ’13)



Tags: Campus Life, Faculty, Students


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