Being relatively new to Geneseo’s campus, visiting assistant professor of Spanish Francisco Puerto Ureña hopes to help students explore Spanish culture while analyzing zombie narratives in different media. Known by his students as “Paco,” Puerto has a passion for the material that shines through when teaching SPAN 482: Spanish Zombie Narratives.
The course involves examining Spanish zombie films, comics and novels in order to establish the relationship that exists between politics, art and popular culture in Spain today. Puerto stresses that despite the fact that the majority of works read in college are scholarly, there is still value in pop culture pieces.
“I think that popular culture is many times disregarded, and I think they also have a place in academia at college,” Puerto said. “It can be very beneficial for students to study this mainly because this popular culture can give us very valuable and important insight in a society, regarding how this specific society functions, which in our case is Spanish Contemporary society.”
Puerto explains that although the zombie narratives are primarily for entertainment purposes, they also reflect the condition of society.
“It’s a learning process to understand that we are not in front of a novel or a movie that is the work of an artist that is making a point,” Puerto said. “But it is really again, a reflection of our society and some of the things that we see in those novels will be very cliché or can be racist or sexist and that is because they reflect society, and our society nowadays is all of those things.”
Deviating from a traditional teaching style, Puerto tries to employ a teaching style that promotes class discussion, in-class debates and in-depth analysis of the text. For this reason, he doesn’t give tests or exams on the material and instead asks students to write essays analyzing the different narratives.
“What students need to take away from this class is the skill of critical thinking, of reading in a more sophisticated way, being able to deconstruct discourses,” Puerto said. “And that is something that we practice and that we can show by writing and discussing in class.”
Puerto explains that in this type of course it can be challenging for students to change their approach to the text.
“When you are studying Cervantes or Shakespeare or one of those great authors, the text offers so many layers that you can explore and work with,” Puerto said. “But in these classes, the worth of these novels is most of the times for pure entertainment. Then again, as readers and cultural explorers, it’s also in our part the investigation of the society, but they are not as multifaceted as other works that have a more artistic intention.”
Accounting major junior Tomás César is currently enrolled in SPAN 482 with Puerto and genuinely enjoys the material assigned in class.
“I love his class,” César said. “The readings are so interesting and fun that when I’m doing them for two or three hours, it feels like I’m procrastinating because I’m actually enjoying them.”
Spanish and communication double major senior Gabrielle Kupiec is also a student in the course and has enjoyed exploring the various texts.
“Paco clearly loves what he is teaching about, and his passion makes the rest of the class want to participate,” Kupiec said. “As a senior in the languages department, I love the fresh take on a literature course.”
Puerto’s unique course offers a fun way to improve one’s fluency in the Spanish language while simultaneously being enthralled with flesh-eating monsters. He hopes that this course can equip his students with skills that will serve them for life.