Creative Literature-Based Mapping Projects form Spanish 735

Did you know that “Literature” courses are much more than reading and writing essays? Analyzing literature is basically collecting data… and understanding and interpreting the story depends as much on your cultural and historical knowledge as on your language skills. To practice these skills outside a traditional research paper or essay format, students in Dr. Bender‘s Fall 2020 seminar, Spanish 735: “Mapping Madrid in the Edad de Plata (1898-1939)” worked on non-traditional final projects that creatively combined principles of cartography and narrative analysis. This was an experimental project for Dr. Bender and her students, during a rather experimental semester back on campus with Covid-19 still being a concern — it was a a hyflex class and there were ongoing uncertainties surrounding scheduling, attendance, and the use (or restriction) of different spaces on campus.

Students could choose to produce a “narrative cartography” (a geographically-informed map that would convey a certain story based on an analysis of the text or a theme)… or a “cartographic narrative” (a more artistic or abstract, conveying a narrative about the text or theme through mapping principles, rather than a map itself). During the semester, the class read two full-length Spanish novels of about 200-pages each — Carmen de Burgos’ La rampa (1917) and José Díaz Fernandez’s La Venus mecánica (1929). They also read articles and essays on early 20th-century Madrid, Literary & Artistic Avant-garde movements, and women’s participation in public and private spheres of 1920s urban life. To associate plot-points with the real, historical places they were based on, students consulted historical and contemporary maps of the Spanish capital, from the 18th-century to the present.

Below are a few examples of what students came up with for their final projects:

Dual-degree senior Natalie Burton (Chemical Engineering & Spanish, ’21) designed a board game for “La rampa” (1917) inspired by the rules and structure of Risk. She used a geographical map of Madrid, then the board game format, to creatively represent the “potential” journey or trajectory of a woman in 1920s Madrid.

A double-major in Biology and Spanish designed a game board (our class noticed that most board games are in fact “maps”) of early 20th-century Madrid, based on ALL the class readings; the black, white, and gray colors reflect the somber tone, as the city proved especially harsh for women. The game pieces are women from the “Otra generación de ’27”, and the title “Scary Land” (Tierra Aterradora) and format are modeled after Candy Land.

Senior Spanish major Carly Brown (’21) designed an cartographic narrative of the protagonist’s journey in “La rampa” (1917), beginning as a shopgirl at the Bazar, passing through a failed relationship and pregnancy, then ending as a maid.

A dual-degree Spanish & Business major designed a cartographic narrative representing men’s involvement in and control of women’s lives in early 20th-century Spain, a theme we saw in almost all of the course readings; the man’s nose (right) stretching over the woman’s portrait indicates their “nosy” monitoring of women’s behavior, especially in public city spaces.

This Anthropology major is currently expanding on this cartographic narrative for their International Studies capstone; they mapped the emotions of the female protagonist in “La Venus mecánica” (1929) using emojis with numbers corresponding to quotes from the text. The “citas” reflect emotions associated with certain geographic spaces in Madrid, northern Spain, and Paris.

Finally, senior triple-major (Spanish, Art, Psychology) Anna Welsh (’21) began designing her mapping project as a potential complement to the book, “La rampa”. She is looking at where women appeared in the novel (and in Madrid) based on their ages – represented as children and babies, young single-women, mothers and wives, and “elderly” women, or those beyond about age 50.

In Anna’s case (above), she applied for a student research grant through Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry (OURCI) office, and she was awarded the funds in November. She is currently finishing her secondary research and re-design of the project with Dr. Bender, and she’ll be featured in K-State’s Seek Research Magazine soon. Anna will be sharing her project — “Out of Sight and Underpaid: Women’s Labor and the Urban Landscape of Madrid in Carmen de Burgos’ La rampa” — here on the blog this Spring, and at our virtual Modern Languages Initials Research Symposium in April. See our earlier post about her grant award for this project here: Spanish Major Awarded Research Grant for Narrative Mapping Project


Dr. Bender thanks all her students for their hard work and positive attitudes during a challenging semester (and year). Make sure to follow the blog (enter your email!) and our social media for updates, and to learn about the creative projects and innovative research of our #KStateSpanish majors and graduate students. Our COURSES page contains a description of seminars offered in Fall 2021.

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