Santiago: the academic side

Aesthetically stunning, very safe, quite cheap and culturally vibrant, Santiago de Compostela is a city I will never forget. Gallegos are a fantastic bunch and Galicia is a world of wonders ready to be discovered. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of free tapas you get with every beer. Yes, anybody can find this out in Wikipedia, but what about the academic side, I hear you cry…


A few general points before specifics:

Credits: As in all unis, you need to take 30 credits per semester. Here, however, most subjects are worth either 3 or 6 credits, which means that you might take more subjects per semester in Santiago than in other unis. If you come here for Semester 1 (as I did) 10 of those credits will be covered by a language you choose to learn, leaving 20 credits up for grabs.

Extracurricular activity: As you might have deduced in case you are maths-savvy, 20 is not divisible by 3 – which means that you can either take 18 or 21 credits. The latter option is no problem. However, there is an interesting opportunity to take 18 credits and cover those 2 extra credits by doing an extracurricular activity of your choice which is relevant to your academic interests. I ended up going to a series of conferences on TV shows organized by the Centre of Contemporary Galician Art. Other people volunteered in museums, for example.


2 forking paths: Broadly speaking, people who do this MA choose between subjects related to: a) theory and analysis of literature and culture; or b) edition. The latter should not be confused with newspaper editing though – we are talking about hard-core philological work about text editions from centuries ago. All of the Erasmus troops who coincided with me chose subjects from the first of these two paths – so I know nothing about the darker philological side of the MA.

Theory, theory, theory! If you come here during semester 1 as I did (and by deduction, semester 3 as well) prepare yourself mentally for a semester-long reading of theory. Nope, practically no novels or poetry will appear on the syllabus. This, however, is the opposite for semesters 2 & 4. Also, the approach to theory from many professors tends to be quite a sociological one, so you might do well to revise it (Pierre Bourdieu, Itamar Even-Zohar) if you fancy some prep work.

gif04.gifPresentations: All subjects demanded an oral presentation from each of its students (often done in groups).

Assessment: Aside from the presentations, most subjects are assessed via coursework and not exams, which could mean a free January if you finish everything before Christmas! We never had to answer any specific questions in our essays – the guidelines were vague enough that allowed us to design our own theses.

Language: Tiny detail of big importance: Galicians speak Galego. Classes would normally be in Galego as well. However, out of respect for the Erasmus crew, professors by and large teach in Spanish (check the handbook of each module though, some do specify that the teaching will be in Galego). Written assessment can be both in Spanish and Galego. In the worst case scenario, this language is very similar to Spanish.

Class Presence: There was more class time than I had expected for an MA. And for those of you who are not used to it (as I wasn’t), get ready for every lesson to be 2 hours long. On average, you will probably have at least one 2 hour-long lesson a day, 4/5 days a week. However, timetables are really chaotic and each week is different to the previous one!


Now, let’s dwell into the specific classes I took:

Estudios Literarios Comparados (Ana Blanca Roig & Roberto Sammartín, 6 credits): The first half of this module was imparted by a professor who chose to focus comparative literature through the lens of her area of research, which is children and juvenile literature. The second half (Sammartín) was more of a traditional introduction to debates and topics in Comparative Literature, neatly distributed along four main strands: the Crisis in literature, Translation, the Canon and Historicity; and studied through articles.

Assessment: Class participation, book reports and article reviews.

Métodos de Investigación (Elías Feijoo & Arturo Casas, 3 credits): The first half of this module (Feijoo) was mostly about how to conduct research, not in literature, but in culture. However, be careful not to confuse the kind of “Estudios Culturales” they do at Santiago with Cultural Studies as we might know it. “Cultural Research” is probably a more accurate translation, and it emphasizes a multidisciplinary sciency-approach to culture. The second half (Casas) could be broadly defined as “Intersections between Literature and History”. I reckon this was probably my favourite segment of the semester. Numerous issues like the authority of the historian, how to write literary histories, what can history learn from literature and contemporary exercises on writing comparative literary histories will be brought to the table.

Assessment: 1 presentation and 2 short essays.

Crítica Literaria (Elena, Fernando Cabo, Carmen Villarino, 6 credits): The first part of this module (Elena) is about what we can learn about literary criticism from antiquity. The second (Cabo) is about literature and space/geography rooted in 20th century thought: how authors use space in their novels; literary cartography; literary tourism; the use of real places in fictional discourse, etc The third (Villarino) is an introduction to thinking about culture, understood in quite an institutional way, since you will study issues like cultural observatories, ministries of culture, creative cities, literary tourism, UNESCO declarations, culture and consumerism, etc.

Assessment: 1 presentation and 1 long essay.

Teorías Contemporáneas de la Literatura y la Cultura (Barbeito & María): This module follows the history of 20th century thought through 4 main strands: Structuralism and Post-Structuralism, Phenomenology, Hermeneutics and Marxism.

Assessment: 1 presentation and 1 short essay.


* This post was written by Jorge Sarasola


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