Meet Dr. Bender!

Dr. Rebecca Bender is Assistant Professor of Peninsular Spanish Literature and Culture and Director of our annual summer study abroad program in Spain, “Spain Today: Madrid, Pamplona, Barcelona

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Dr. Bender teaches courses in Spanish Peninsular (Spain) Literature and Culture, ranging from Don Quijote to 20th-century women’s literature, as well as courses in Latin American fiction, AP Spanish Literature and L2 Literature pedagogy. She especially enjoys designing literature courses that allow for the creative adaptation of literary aesthetics to alternative mediums like Snapchat, Digital StoryMaps, and public blogs. For example, students in her Fall 2019 Gender & the City in 20th-Century Spain course read three novels that were all set in Madrid during the 1920s, then created Snapchat essays, which they mapped onto specific locations in Spain and Europe using Knightlab’s StoryMap. You can see their maps on the novels at the following links: La rampa (The ramp) (1917), La trampa del arenal (The sandtrap) (1923), and La Venus mecánica (The mechanical Venus) (1929). A variation of this class, Span 735, Mapping Madrid in the Silver Age, will be offered in Fall 2020.

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#Selfie with Spanish 735 (Fall 2019)

Dr. Bender also taught Pop Culture and Cervantes’ Don Quijote in Spring 2018, and her students read over 60 chapters of the Quijote and designed a course blog with Snapchat essays (www.quijotesnaps.wordpress.com). She has also taught several iterations of Spanish 779, AP Spanish Literature, which prepares graduate students and education majors to teach AP Spanish Literature in high schools and to incorporate literature into Spanish classes more generally. Dr. Bender tries to use unique approaches to her literature classes, as she knows students are sometimes (often?) less enthusiastic about studying “literature” (as a student, it was never her favorite, believe it or not!). But she has found that reading in Spanish is one of the best ways to improve Spanish skills and to learn about Spanish-speaking cultures and the diverse history of the Spanish-speaking world. Nearly every semester she teaches at least one section of Span 550, Hispanic Readings and Media, for which students complete a final creative project based on one of the course readings.

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Gradually making their way to the hermitage of San Juan Gaztelugatxe, in Spain’s Basque Country #KSUSummerSpain2019.

Dr. Bender works especially hard to encourage students to study abroad and to promote and create opportunities for them to do so. She first took K-State students to Costa Rica in January of 2018, on a program designed by Dr. Kanost and Angelique Courbou. Most recently, she created our annual summer program in Spain, Spain Today: Madrid, Barcelona, Pamplona, which allows students to earn 6 Spanish credits at the 500-700 level. It will run every May-June for about 4.5 weeks, and includes Madrid’s major museums and cultural sites; day trips to Segovia, Bilbao, and San Sebastian; classes at the Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona while living with host families; and a final 4 days in Barcelona. If you’re interested for the future – even if you’re only in Spanish 1 or 2 now – contact Dr. Bender to plan a study-schedule and learn about your options.

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The midway point of a 13-mile walk on the Camino de Santiago with students in Pamplona, Spain (summer 2019).

The main focus of Dr. Bender’s research is the representation of motherhood in  20th-century Spanish literature — mainly narratives written by women — and the implications that such diverse depictions of the maternal experience in fiction have for Spanish feminist thought. She became interested in this topic when reading Carmen de Burgos’ 1917 novel, La rampa, as a graduate student. She is currently working on her first book, Pregnant Minds and Literary Bodies: Motherhood and Feminism in Spanish Literature of the Modernist Era (1910-1939), which examines early feminist thought in Spain through women’s engagement with maternal themes in fiction. She has been reading and writing more recently about how early feminist ideas that Spanish women expressed and theorized in fiction — in publications that were largely forgotten, overlooked, censored, or even destroyed as a result of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and ensuing Franco Dictatorship (1939-75) — are reappearing in contemporary 21st-century narratives… like the books below, published in Spain in 2019.

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Dr. Bender’s most recent article in this area focuses on fashion, ekphrasis, and the fine arts in Carmen de Burgos’ Avant-Garde novel, La mujer fantástica (published in Madrid, 1923). The full Open Access article can be accessed here, but she also summarized the content and included images of the referenced fashion and portraiture on her blog: Fashion and the Fine Arts in Carmen de Burgos’ Avant-garde Novel, La mujer fantástica.

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In addition to Spanish women’s literature and feminism, Dr. Bender has been working on projects related to second-language (L2) literature pedagogy and study abroad. Her forthcoming article will be published in Hispania (Sept. 2020), the official journal of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP). Presenting her K-State Don Quijote seminar as a case study, she argues for the adaptation of traditional literary analysis skills and final essays to alternative mediums based on pictorial or hybrid modes of communication, like Snapchat. She is also working with Dr. Faber to connect our basic Spanish language courses (Spanish 1-4) to the courses offered in the annual Spain Today program. Students participating in faculty-led summer programs will help generate content for their K-State peers studying Spanish.

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When she’s not busy teaching and working on projects at K-State, Dr. Bender enjoys staying active to burn off stress and extra energy by swimming at the Natatorium, running the trails in Manhattan, lifting weights, and walking her dogs. She enjoys cooking and baking, painting, and traveling — to Spanish-speaking countries, of course, but also throughout the United States (she’s been to 41/50). She loves the southwest (especially New Mexico) and the vast national parks of the western US. Before moving to Kansas, she took a 3-week, 8,000+ mile road-trip with her husband and 2 dogs — camping and living out of their Element-converted-“camper” — and visited the Badlands, Glacier National Park, the Redwoods, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone. This made most people think they are crazy-dog-people…  (*which they technically are).

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Arches National Park (Moab, Utah) and White Sands National Park (New Mexico)
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Road trip with the pups (SD Badlands; Glacier National Park)

She also reads a lot, which can sometimes feel like “work” since she teaches and writes about literature! Two of her favorite recent books in Spanish  — both of which are in the image above — were Tsunami: Miradas feministas, a collection of feminist essays by contemporary Spanish authors and artists, and Tierra de Mujeres, by María Sánchez, a reflection on women and feminist thought in rural Spain. She’s also read all of Italian author Elena Ferrante’s fiction (in English translation of course), and highly recommends the 4 novels that make up the Neapolitan series.

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Tina, Stelluh, and Lucy… Tina is 15 (!), Lucy is 4, and Stelluh had a very happy 13-year life.

If you’re interested in taking courses or working on a research project with Dr. Bender, send her an email [rmbender] or stop by her office, 107 Eisenhower Hall. She would be more than happy to chat with you about a Spanish major, Study Abroad in Spain, or how fun literary, visual, or media analysis can be… just don’t call her “Señora”!

You can follow Dr. Bender on Twitter @rebeccadactyl (some of her course hashtags include #Span550KSU, #Span565KSU #GeneroCiudadKSU, #KSUSummerSpain2019, and #779APLatAmLit) or send her ideas for the K-State Spanish Blog, Instagram (@kstatespanish) or Facebook/Twitter feeds.

 

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