Fall 2021

A Cultural History of Dictionaries in the Hispanic World 

Listed in: Spanish, as SPAN-322

Moodle site: Course


Ilan Stavans (Section 01)


Taught simultaneously at Amherst and Bowdoin, the course is designed as a cultural history of Hispanic civilization through its dictionaries. What authority do they exert? Who collects them? In what way do dictionaries change? The focus will be on the role words have played in history and their political, social, and commercial value. Starting with lexicons of indigenous, slave, and immigrant languages, students will engage in an in-depth exploration of figures like Antonio de Nebrija, Sebastián de Covarrubias, Andres Bello, and Maria Moliner. There will be a discussion of the asymmetrical relationship between Spain and Latin America and the importance of gender, media, sports, and cuisine. The Tesoro de la Lengua Espanola o Castellana, the Diccionario de Autoridades, the Diccionario de la Lengua Española, the MolinerLarousse, and Clave will all be analyzed. Active research in compiling neologisms and other emerging words will be a feature of the course work. The endeavor will culminate in the publication of a scholarly book by Professors Boyle and Stavans on dictionaries in the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. Requirements: advanced and/or near-native language skills. Taught by Professors Margaret Boyle (Bowdoin) and Ilan Stavans (Amherst). Conducted in Spanish.

Requisite: SPAN 301 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Fall semester: Professor Stavans.

If Overenrolled: 3rd and 4th year students


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Issues of Social Justice, Attention to Research, Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing, Community Based Learning, Languages Other Than English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021