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Oswaldo Voysest: “Historical Figures and Events through Latin American Film and Fiction”

Course’s Ultimate Goal = Explore how film and fiction use history for certain purposes

Information literacy goal = Discuss historical evidence and fictionalized accounts to examine the purposes for which authors and filmmakers have used historical elements

Students will research the genre of the historical novel and film

One example: from the novel La Fiesta del Chivo (The Feast of the Goat) by Mario Vargas Llosa, based on the rule of Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961.

  1. Four historical events students will research:
  2. The kidnapping and murder of Galindez
  3. The Parsley Massacre of Haitian caneworkers in 1937
  4. The torture and murder of the Mirabal sisters in 1960
  5. The assassination of the Goat (Trujillo) in 1961

Evaluation of sources and uses by the author
In reviewing the historical material (scholarly articles, newspapers articles, books …), students will have to look at the following questions.

(Adapted from The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools by R. Paul and L. Elder.)

  • What is the author trying to accomplish? What’s his/her central aim, purpose? (Purpose)
  • What question (issue, problem…) is s/he raising? What’s s/he addressing? Is s/he considering the complexities in the question? (Questions)
  • What information is s/he using in coming to a conclusion? What information does s/he need to settle the question? (Information)
  • How did s/he reach this conclusion? Is there another way to interpret the information? (Inferences / Conclusions)
  • What is the main idea? Can I explain this idea? (Concepts)
  • What is s/he taking for granted? What assumptions have led him/her to that conclusion? (Assumptions)
  • If someone accepted his/her position, what would be the implications? (Implications/Consequences)
  • From what point of view is s/he looking at this issue? Is there another point of view s/he should consider? (Points of view)
  • What does Vargas Llosa incorporate of these four episodes (kidnapping and murder of Galindez; Parsley Massacre of Haitians; torture and murder of the Mirabal sisters; assassination of the Goat)? Why?
  • How would his use of historical material comport with what cultural and literary theorists and critics have said about the historical novel and its use of history?

Assignments and Assessment: The four historical episodes would be assigned to four groups, which will present their findings in class and turn in a report. The examination of the historical material in relation to The Feast of the Goat would consist of a short paper (5-7 pages) about the episode they had to research.