Apprenticeship in Teaching

Encounters with Difference in Early Modern Spain

Doyle Faculty Project

I am grateful that the Doyle Program nudged me out of my comfort zone and forced me to rethink my teaching objectives and strategies.

Barbara Mujica

As a 2011-12 Doyle faculty fellow, longtime Georgetown professor Barbara Mujica focused her redesign efforts on her Early Modern Spanish Theater course, an upper-level Spanish course that examines plays from 16th- and 17th-century Catholic Spain.

Even though Mujica had taught this course several times previously, this time around she decided to completely reorganize her approach to the course materials. Instead of introducing the plays chronologically, she took a thematic approach that brought to the fore questions of difference. Focusing on themes rather than the chronological evolution of Spanish theater helped students see the ways in which theater both perpetuated and subverted the status quo of early modern Spain.

Mujica’s course also pushed students to consider the parallels between early modern Spanish society and society today. As a result of her Doyle redesign, Mujica says that her students “became more aware of diversity in their own lives and more sensitive to how marginalized elements of society are portrayed in the media today.”

The challenge Mujica and her students faced throughout the semester was how to consider the plays respectfully in spite of the chasm between the plays’ worldview and the worldview of students today. As Mujica puts it, “[t]he moral values that governed early modern Spain were in some ways very different from our own. [They] did not exalt tolerance or strive for diversity . . . . The moral question we must consider as educators is: How do we judge a culture whose values we find distasteful without adopting the same biased position we condemn in them?”