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Multimedia /Pedagogy:

Multimedia/Pedagogy: Colleges and Universities

Prepared by Richard A. Raschio/Robert A. Quinn


Teaching Language Skills and Cultural Awareness with Spanish Paintings

Marian Mikaylo Ortuño

Baylor University

     Abstract: Recent studies show that the use of visually engaging, authentic materials in the classroom has a definite, positive effect on acquiring language and forming cultural attitudes. With the trend toward developing more creative ways of using class time to achieve linguistic and cultural proficiency, cross-disciplinary approaches that combine language, literature, history, and art emerge as particularly effective means of reaching those ends. This study outlines the benefits of using slides or other reproductions of Spanish paintings from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries to promote language and cultural learning and offers practical suggestions on how to incorporate these resources into the curriculum.

     Key Words: cross-cultural awareness, interdisciplinary studies, proficiency oriented instruction, teaching culture, transition from language to literature courses, art, painting.


     Since the onset of the proficiency movement, a basic problem facing many language teachers revolves around motivating students to accept authentic linguistic input and encouraging oral and written practice (Bacon and Finnemann 467). How does the instructor create the optimal learning environment in which to develop the four skills-comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing -along with an awareness of Cross-Cultural similarities and differences? One possibility is the use of visually engaging authentic materials. These, as recent studies show, facilitate both language acquisition and the formation of cultural attitudes (Duquette 481, Leeber 199, Kienbaum 3). Including �culturally loaded� visual material in the curriculum can transform a language class into a cross-disciplinary course which not only combines language, art, literature, and history, but also helps students take a major step toward reaching proficiency standards.

     Years of classroom experimentation with all grade levels, kindergarten to adult, have shown me that using slides and reproductions of Spanish paintings to develop the four skills and cultural literacy can satisfy both the cognitive and affective needs of students. (79) My findings are not based on empirical evidence, but on observation and experience with elementary, high-school, and university students in the U. S. and abroad, as well as with adult-education classes.

     Slides in particular offer great advantages as an instructional focal point or as a supplement. A number of people can view a slide of a painting at the same time, and special equipment, other than a projector and perhaps a screen, is unnecessary. Most standard classrooms can easily accommodate a slide presentation, and for successful implementation of this technique the instructor need not be an expert in art history. An interest in the field of art, perhaps with the instructor's having taken an undergraduate survey in art history, and a minimum of self-preparation will suffice.

     At any level of instruction, using reproductions of paintings provides several distinct pedagogical benefits, namely: (1) a [501] social, historical, geographical, or religious context for using language skills, oral or written; (2) lower classroom anxiety levels (the structured visual engagement of the learner sparks interest and makes the student more receptive to class input); (3) an opportunity to broaden cognition at all ability levels by viewing culturally significant scenes; (4) a context within which to implement inductive, learner-centered teaching methods; (5) a means by which to develop analytical thinking skills; (6) visual stimulation which heightens interest and draws all students into an active exploration of problems; (7) an easier transition from language to literature courses, once a visual dimension is given to a particular historical period; and (8) motivation for further language study spurred by a sense of personal accomplishment.

     The instructor may incorporate slides of artworks into the curriculum in one of the following ways: (1) as a cultural supplement at any level of instruction; (2) in a cross-disciplinary course; or (3) as part of an instructional program to prepare students for study abroad.

Learning in Context

     Using slides of Spanish paintings can encourage students to engage in creative discourse if we focus on meaning as well as on grammatical form (Krashen 186). Since language is an abstract code of symbols, both verbal and non-verbal, it must be linked to specific content and to experiences for it to function as a communication system (Duquette 449). Slides of paintings -visual sensory stimuli with built-in cultural connections- produce a sudden emotional impact. They immediately focus the students' attention and, depending on the picture, can cause an affective reaction -be it shock, surprise, disapproval, or perhaps even a laugh. (80) At this point the instructor may begin to personalize the learning experience by asking for simple descriptions or by posing leading questions to elicit a verbal or written response.

     Students at any level could, for instance, view El Greco's Magdalena penitente (Worcester Art Museum, 514). (81)

The first question (one which corresponds to the most basic proficiency guidelines for description) is simply, �Qué ve Ud.?� or, �Diga algo sobre esta pintura�. The question may be directed at individuals, pairs, or larger groups of students working together who study the picture and write down lists of descriptive adjectives to incorporate into sentences. When the teacher asks, ��Quién es esta persona?�, depending on the level and background of the group, possible answers might range from �una mujer� to �una religiosa o una santa� or to a precise identification of the figure as Mary Magdalen. The teacher can also begin by offering clues as to the identity of the person depicted. For instance, if the instructor reveals that this is a biblical figure, students soon recognize Mary Magdalen from the most prominent visual symbols in the picture, such as the woman's long hair and the bottle of perfume.

     Questions about �when?�, �where?�, and �why?� logically follow, and again the level of sophistication of the group will determine the types of responses given. A typical preparatory strategy for any level is for the instructor to begin the viewing by distributing the words needed to describe and discuss the picture. The words and expressions pelo largo, cuello alargado, rocas cubiertas de hiedra, nubes tormentosas, and calavera should help the students in describing, and perhaps in guessing the �when?�, �where?�, and �why?� of the situation. Before the students look at the slides, the instructor also provides background information on El Greco (preferably in Spanish), and stresses the historical importance of penitence and the lives of the saints as models of behavior in sixteenth-century Spain. Leading questions might include, ��Qué emoción ve Ud. expresada en la cara de esta mujer? �Por qué tiene sus manos juntas? �Por qué mira hacia el cielo? �Por qué hay nubes tormentosas y rocas alrededor de ella? �Qué características tiene la hiedra que justifican su inclusión en esta pintura? �Qué le otorga a esta pintura ese [502] aire de pertenecer al mundo del más allá? �Por qué hay una calavera en esta pintura?� If the instructor at this juncture can explain how certain iconographic symbols may be used to identify a particular saint (e. g., hair, bottle of perfume -Mary Magdalen), or religious setting (e.g., rocky place -ideal locale for meditation, devoid of the beauties of nature; skull -contemplation of death; ivy- green, eternity, undying affection), what seem like pieces of a puzzle merge into a comprehensible whole (Ferguson 40, 52, 58, 69, 241-42).

     At the elementary and even the intermediate levels, a slide such as the Magdalena penitente can serve as a focal point for an entire lesson. Colors, clothing, parts of the body, and exercises in agreement in number and gender can all be practiced by describing the slide. Students could ask one another questions like these about the picture with the present progressive, preterite, or future of probability: ��Qué está haciendo María Magdalena?� or, ��Qué hizo ella con el contenido de la botella de perfume y qué hizo después con su cabello? �En qué estará pensando ella?�

     Along with the �what?�, �who?�, �where?�, �when?�, and �why?� format, teachers can encourage students at all levels to learn by comparing and contrasting several slides. For instance, the instructor can choose four slides of female figures from different historical or stylistic periods. One picture could be the Magdalen mentioned above, and the others could include an example by Velázquez, perhaps La reina Mariana de Austria (El Prado, Madrid, 1162), Goya's Retrato de doña Isabel Cobos de Porcel (National Gallery, London, 508), and Picasso's Figura femenina ante el espejo (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 886). After providing a description of each, the students (individually or in groups) then formulate lists of similarities and contrasts. The more advanced students go on to develop analytical thinking skills and writing techniques by preparing a composition on how the artist's use of color establishes a different mood in each painting. For instance, the predominant blues in the Magdalen relate to feelings of melancholy, and to the sky and heaven, while the rich reds and dark browns in Velázquez' portrait signal royalty. On the other hand, the transparent black lace draped around Goya's maja conveys a sensuality that contrasts sharply with the ethereal Magdalen and the rigidly posed queen. The most striking contrasts, however, will be noted in Picasso's surrealistic interpretation of the nude. That the woman's reflection in the mirror is not identical, undermines our notions of reality. Her body is painted in bright, warm colors while her reflected X-ray-like image reveals a more somber inner self rendered in cool, dark shades. The instructor may choose to compare and contrast this modern mirror scene to yet another famous nude, Velázquez' La Venus del espejo or Rokeby Venus (National Gallery, London, 1162) who also admires herself in a mirror. An exercise such as this can serve as the basis for a composition, group work, or extended discussion of an abstraction (superior proficiency), reality versus illusion, for example.

     Because of the emphasis on oral skills, teachers tend to overlook the socio-cultural aspects of languages (Westphal). (82) Using paintings as an instructional aid can help bridge the gap between language and culture to make learning both enjoyable and intellectually profitable. Because each picture serves as a window opening onto an authentic view of human experience, paintings lend themselves well to the teaching of language and culture, along with history, literature, and art itself. Viewing reproductions of paintings offers the language learner a global context, one which reflects the organization and institutions of a culture as they respond to social, religious, and political forces (J. Brown 15-16).

     Within the historical context of the twentieth century, for example, certain works by Picasso provide a wealth of material that can spark interest and spur discussion. Although any of his surrealistic works would probably serve equally well to attract attention, the skeleton like figures he painted just prior to World War II stand as stark testimony to the turbulence of that era. [503] Picasso's Abstracción con cielo azul nublado (The Art Institute of Chicago, 883) is an example of one of these nightmarish depictions. The monolithic bony figure, stripped of its flesh and bearing only minimal resemblance to the human form, somehow prophetically anticipates the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. To encourage discussion, teachers can ask: �Describa Ud. lo que ve y comente sobre lo que más le llama la atención. Comente Ud. sobre lo que más le molesta en la pintura. �Qué emociones cree Ud. que el pintor desea despertar en el espectador? �Le gusta esta pintura? �Por qué sí o por qué no? Describa Ud. esta pintura con una palabra�. It has been my experience that, with the visual orientation of today's youth, even the most inhibited students will risk grammatical inaccuracy to comment on these colorful visual symbols.

The Transition from Language to literature Classes

     Providing historical background through slides of paintings can help bridge yet another gap, that between language and literature classes. Students so often feel at a loss during this period of transition that usually occurs around the third semester of study. They frequently lack the necessary background, not to mention the confidence, language skills, and often even the interest in literature needed to understand and appreciate the essays, short stories, and poetry which comprise the standard third- or fourth-semester anthology. These selections typically cut across many periods of literature, and through the showing of carefully selected slides, the instructor can relate a literary work to a particular period in Spanish history by providing a cross-disciplinary introduction, visual and verbal. For example, an instructor could show Picasso's Guernica (Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, 887) as a historically cogent introduction to a story about the Spanish Civil War. Velázquez' or Murillo's bodegones (snapshot-like portraits of ordinary people engaged in everyday activities) and Meléndez' still-life composition help students gain insight into seventeenth-century life and provide an authentic visual background for a reading from the picaresque genre. (83)

The social inequities inherent in Spanish society during the seventeenth century can be brought to life using two projectors at once to contrast, side by side, Velázquez', Murillo's, or Ribera's depictions of the most underprivileged members of society, next to the flattering portraits of the sumptuous royalty at the Court of Phillip IV. (84)

     By emphasizing the confluence of the visual arts, history, and literature, the instructor can help students see and understand parallel trends. For example, the religious fervor of sixteenth-century Spain, captured by El Greco in his other-worldly depictions of saints and biblical characters, mirrors the intensity of the Spanish mystical experience described by Santa Teresa de Jesús in Camino de perfección and San Juan de la Cruz in �Noche oscura�. Although El Greco himself was not a mystic, he knew well how to represent the saints in various stages of the mystical process which culminated in the union with God. El Greco's often very modern-looking, almost expressionistic figures stretch upward toward heaven as if floating. Many are shown meditating and performing preparatory exercises such as acts of penitence and self-mortification in a rocky setting which suggests withdrawal from the vanities of the world. More importantly, the faces of these saints radiate an ecstasy which visually captures their blissful union with the Creator.

     Viewing reproductions of Mannerist and Baroque religious paintings in a Golden Age drama course on the auto sacramental offers an excellent introduction to students in their first attempts at understanding this rather esoteric genre. For instance, the instructor may begin by asking questions about the symbolism in El Greco's pictorial representations of two popular biblical themes of that era, Cristo curando a un ciego (The Frick Collection, New York, 513), and La expulsión de los mercaderes del templo (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 513). The answers generated will provide students [504] with valuable historical insight into how Spain dedicated itself so zealously to combating heresy during that time. The instructor at this point can add that Counter Reformation Catholics, with the Jesuits at the forefront, cleansed their own temples and set out to cure the spiritually blind.

     Once given a visual dimension, today's student can better comprehend how this same militancy in the literary field spawned such a uniquely Spanish literary genre as the auto sacramental. The task of understanding the prevailing philosophy which undergirds the auto, as well as the enormous body of moral, biblical, and hagio-graphical dramas produced during that same period, also becomes easier through the viewing of paintings by some of the more austere religious artists of the Baroque period such as Francisco de Zurbarán and Juan de Valdés Leal. The basic premise underlying much of Spanish religious theater -that life is a dream, La vida es sueño- takes on visibly symbolic form in two hieroglyph paintings by Valdés Leal found in the Hospital de la Caridad in Seville. Together they are called Los jeroglíficos de nuestras postrimerías. The first picture, entitled El triunfo de la muerte (1155), depicts in sobering detail the deceitful and illusory nature of worldly existence through visual symbols which most students find easy to interpret. A large skeleton, for example, dominates the canvas. It carries a coffin and scythe under one arm while, with its bony fingers, it snuffs out the flame of a candle bearing the Latin inscription In ictu oculi (�In the blinking of an eye�). Its fleshless foot rests on a globe amid the discarded swords and armor used to fight long-forgotten earthly battles. Heaped in disarray are voluminous tomes, their crumpled pages signifying the ultimately useless accumulation of human knowledge. Royal crowns, a bishop's crosier, and the papal triple tiara -icons of secular and religious power now in ruins- make a powerful statement that the life of this world is fleeting and essentially meaningless. The painting, as a strikingly memorable visual image, ably captures the essence of Golden Age thought that true life awaits in the world beyond.

     The companion piece to El triunfo de la muerte, El fin de la gloria del mundo (1185), illustrates the postrimerías or �four last things� -death, judgment, heaven, and hell- a theological concept central to understanding Calderón's auto, El gran teatro del mundo. With help from the instructor and secondary sources, advanced students can begin to interpret the enigmatic symbols featured in the painting. In the center of the canvas over the decaying corpse of a high-ranking cleric, a stigmatized hand extends downward from heaven. From the hand hangs a balance representing judgment. The seven deadly sins shown as animal symbols on one side labeled NI MÁS, are counterbalanced by the symbols of prayer and penitence on the other, NI MENOS (J. Brown 128). What will tip the scale in the soul's favor? Here Calderón's auto casts light on an apparently puzzling aspect of the painting. Once the students understand the allegory of the auto within its historical and theological context, they learn that good works and not just faith alone are necessary to offset the weight of sin. Very much within the spirit of the Counter Reformation, Valdés Leal's emblematic painting boldly underscores the differences between the Catholic and Protestant views of salvation.

     On occasion, a particular work in one of the arts has directly inspired the creation of a work in another. Take, for example, Calderón's play El sitio de Breda written at royal behest to commemorate General Ambrosio de Spínola's 1625 victory over the Dutch forces in the battle of Breda. Textual and historical evidence, as well as the symmetrical arrangement of figures crowded onto a visually limited �stage�, indicate that Velázquez created his huge canvas La rendición de Breda or Las lanzas (El Prado, 1163) after having seen a performance of the drama. (85) In a Golden Age drama course, both works could be studied side by side, one complementing the other. In the same course, Velázquez' multi-dimensional Las meninas (El Prado, 1162) can serve as a pivotal visual definition of the concept of [505] metatheater which underlies virtually all Golden Age drama (Stoll 1346). (86)

     Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century history and social issues also take on a vitality difficult for students to experience through written texts alone. Goya, for instance, conveys with brutal frankness the horrors of war and the heroism of the Spanish people in his Fusilamiemtos del tres de mayo (El Prado, 506, 509). The central figure in the canvas, arms outstretched, Christlike, pays dramatic tribute to the people who defiantly rose up against tyranny, which in turn is personified by the faceless row of executioners with their backs toward the viewer. In an eighteenth-century literature course or in a cross-disciplinary course combining art, history, and literature, the instructor can show the above slide and then choose to read poet Nicasio Álvarez de Cienfuego's paean to Godoy's peace accord with France just prior to the Napoleonic invasion, �A la Paz entre España y Francia en 1795�. In an interesting and ironic counterpoint, it stresses, through neoclassical imagery so typical of the time, the deep feelings of brotherhood that the French and Spanish peoples ought to share.

     The terror of a more personal battle emerges in Goya's introspective journey into the recesses of a tortured psyche in his Pinturas negras. Ever the social critic, Goya, even in the most horrific depiction of the collection, Saturno devorando a su hijo (El Prado, 508) makes a compelling statement. The crazed patriarch with eyes bulging and proportioned larger than life, mindlessly consuming the smaller, almost doll-like figure of his own offspring, is a grim reminder of the universal victimization and often total annihilation of the weak by the powerful. Goya's keen social commentary comes through more subtly, but just as effectively, in his stylized and idyllic depictions of Spanish customs in the cartones -preliminary sketches for tapestries. Both the cartón, La boda (El Prado, 507), and a painting on the same theme, Matrimonio desigual (Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid, 507), criticize the custom of arranged marriages between partners of vastly differing ages. The stunning contrast between the grotesque older men and their beautiful young brides stoically resigned to their fate opens up opportunities for the discussion of social as well as ethical issues and could be coupled with literature dealing with similar themes, such as Leandro Fernández de Moratin's El sí de las niñas.

     Sorolla's nineteenth-century characterizations of Spanish regional diversity, which on the surface seem to be light-hearted cuadros de costumbres, have their own form of social commentary and can serve as a visual accompaniment to the study of the nineteenth-century novel. One particularly poignant example portrays a drowned fisherman whose body has just been retrieved by his cohorts (Museo de Arte Moderno, Madrid). It bears the caption Y todavía dicen que el pescado es caro (Aguilera 338). Goya's talent for exposing hypocrisy, Sorolla's impressionism, or Picasso's reflections on the dissonance and fragmentation of twentieth-century life through cubism all open up a wealth of possibilities for the development of linguistic skills and cultural awareness.

Lowering Classroom Anxiety

     Viewing art can alleviate anxiety in language learning. By not forcing the learner into a defensive position, as many other teaching methods do (Horwitz 125), concentration on visual images helps heighten �language class sociability� and encourages the sharing of information (Ely 30). In my experience, almost everyone feels capable of commenting on a picture, if only to communicate one's own impressions. Consider also the benefits of a darkened classroom where eyes remain fixed on the projected image rather than on the speaker. Students will feel less inhibited as the potential for embarrassment diminishes.

     Awareness of personal accomplishment through successful communication in turn leads to the formation of a better �language ego� (H. Brown 6). Here the instructor plays a vital part in bolstering the students' often fragile linguistic ego by not being critical [506] or judgmental about their opinions or commentaries. Another strategy for creating a non-threatening environment in which everyone participates openly is for the teacher to relinquish at times the role of a questioner, allowing the students, as individuals or in groups, to direct a learning segment centered around a picture of their choice. Afterwards, the students formulate questions (another intermediate proficiency goal) to ask the instructor. In addition, the teacher who uses paintings as a focal point can inspire the especially shy or �silent learners� to take risks, once these students realize that what they gain by expressing their ideas or feelings far outweighs the fear of making an error. (87)

Meeting Oral Proficiency Standards

     As a complement to almost any approach -audio-lingual, cognitive, natural- slides or other reproductions of paintings can help students achieve proficiency. Consider, for example, the painting in Figure 1 by Murillo, Una joven con su dueña (Two Woman at a Window, National Gallery, Washington, D. C.). A teen-age girl leans over the sill of an open window and smiles invitingly to one or more individuals below. An older woman, possibly a dueña, shyly peaks out from behind the partially opened shutter. She covers half her face with a cloth, but her eyes reveal a smile. She appears somewhat embarrassed that her young companion may be close to breaking the rules of propriety. (88) A picture such as this offers many possibilities for practising proficiency, novice to superior. Outlined below are brief descriptions of each level (Liskin-Gasparro 158) followed by my sample questions and suggestions.

     NOVICE- Can enumerate, recycle, say learned words or phrases.

     While viewing this slide, students can repeat basic vocabulary items dealing with what is seen and what is implied: la chica, la dueña, la ventana, otras personas abajo en la calle, the word for �open�, colors, other adjectives. The teacher and/or students may prepare a list of words associated by concept, contraventana, ventana, abierta and another list of those which share the same root, una sonrisa, sonreír, sonriente, risueña.

     INTERMEDIATE- Can create with the language. Can describe, ask and answer questions, participate in short conversations. On this proficiency level students may answer questions such as: ��Dónde está esta chica? �Qué está haciendo? �Quién es la otra mujer?� Or, students can ask each other questions, such as: ��Cuántos años tiene la chica? �Por qué le interesa tanto lo que pasa en la calle?�

     ADVANCED- Able to participate in casual conversations, can express facts, give instructions, describe, report, and provide narration about current, past, and future actions.

     �Haga una comparación de estas dos mujeres. �A quién mira la chica? Vamos a suponer que Ud. es la madre (o el padre) de la chica y acaba de entrar en la habitación. Dígale a su hija que siga las instrucciones de Ud. Describa a la chica. Diga lo que estaba haciendo la chica antes de que abriera la ventana. �La llamó alguien desde la calle?� (Narration in the past.) Students could write and act out a telenovela (soap opera) inspired by the scene.

     SUPERIOR- Can converse in formal or informal situations, resolve problem situations, deal with unfamiliar topics, provide explanations, offer supported opinions, hypothesize, and speak about abstract subject matter.

     �Explique por qué se ríe la dueña. En su opinión, �hace bien su trabajo la dueña? �Por qué sí o por qué no? Si Ud. fuera la madre o el padre de la chica, �qué consejos le daría Ud. a ella?� Abstract topics might include defining and discussing parental love or perhaps the concept of friendship.

     Further discussion could lead to culturally relevant topics such as the historical role of the dueña, the attitude toward women in the past and in present-day Spanish society, and the family in Spanish culture, today and yesterday. Students might [507] choose to research these topics and report later. Students can also take turns writing down (perhaps on an overhead projector) questions and answers generated by the instructor or classmates. As homework, small groups collaborate to re-write the answers as a polished paragraph with smooth transitions and coherent structural development. At the advanced and superior levels, outside-of-class reading assignments balance initial in-class viewing when students compare, either orally or in writing, what they have said with the views of art critics.

Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban. Two Women at a Window.
Widener Collection, © 1993 National Gallery of Art, Washington, c. 1655/1660, oil on canvas.

Practical Considerations

     When integrating visuals into the curriculum, the instructor must first establish some criteria for selection. By scanning collections of illustrative plates, the teacher can [508] choose those paintings which have either a thematic connection to a lesson or those which lend themselves to the practicing of certain linguistic functions. (89) Obtaining slides of paintings may involve some effort, but any problems one may encounter here are by no means insurmountable. Most universities, for example, have art history departments which might extend borrowing privileges to fellow faculty members. It is, of course, preferable to amass one's own collection of slides. Anyone who travels can purchase slides from a museum, or teachers can make their own slides from a book of reproductions by using some bright lighting and having a tripod to steady a 35mm camera. This does not violate copyright laws if the slides one makes are for personal use and not for sale. One may also write directly to museums for slides or consult the Slide Buyer's Guide in the reference section of a library. This publication lists ways of obtaining slides through other catalogs and museum sales. (90) The extensive, annotated collections of slides of individual artists and periods, including sculpture and architecture published by Hiares Editorial, is an excellent resource available either from the Museo del Prado (Paseo del Prado, 28012) or from the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Santa Isabel 52, 28012), both in Madrid.

     For the instructor who wishes to offer a cross-disciplinary course combining painting, literature, and history, the biggest drawback will be the lack of suitable Spanish texts dealing specifically with artists and art history. The lack of custom-made, student-glossed textual material, nevertheless, has its positive side, as it can become another opportunity for the instructor to incorporate authentic materials into the curriculum. Because the writings of many Spanish art historians are geared toward the specialist rather than the student, the teacher might opt for more �authentic� journalistic articles or for museum brochures such as those given or sold during special exhibitions. One can find up-to-date information on special exhibitions and works in permanent collections in library reference books. An example is the Traveler's Guide to Museum Exhibitions.

     In most cases, instructors will have to prepare at least a portion of their own materials listing special vocabulary and outlining a particular painter's life along with a description of the artist's technique and other pertinent information. In the field of seventeenth-and eighteenth-century art, however, ready textual material is available in two classic works by José Ortega y Gasset, titled respectively, Velázquez and Goya. These lend themselves very well to a cross-disciplinary course, as do the more recent works of the series Monografías, published in the Biblioteca Básica de Arte collection (see Buendía). For the instructor teaching an advanced course, there is the somewhat more scholarly two-volume compendium by Valeriano Bozal, Historia del arte en España, which encompasses sculpture and architecture from the prehistoric era to the present day.

     In a cross-disciplinary course taught as part of a program abroad, or as part of an extended orientation for students who will be participating in one, teachers can use slides of paintings to maximum advantage. The program abroad is so beneficial precisely because it offers natural exposure to language and culture and places the students at the very center of the learning process (Sikkema 21). A cross-disciplinary preparation can help ease the students into their cultural immersion and alleviate the feeling of being overwhelmed when visiting such culturally imposing bastions as the Prado. Once the elitist aura which so often surrounds painting has been dispelled, a museum will seem like familiar territory. The ethnographic symbols that form the cultural context for all art will have taken on new meaning and will aid the prepared individual immeasurably in empathizing with the host culture.


     Whether in a grammar, literature or cross-disciplinary course, or as part of an orientation program for students planning [509] to study abroad, slides or reproductions of Spanish paintings enhance the learning process. Used either as a focal point or a supplement, Spanish paintings with their aesthetic qualities and built-in cultural context easily attract the attention of potential learners at all levels. The use of slides in particular also helps the instructor lower class anxiety levels by establishing a non-threatening atmosphere in which today's visually oriented students feel free to express their opinions about pictures. As a flexible teaching tool, these visuals complement almost any method of instruction. Reproductions of paintings serve especially well as the basis for proficiency-centered lessons on grammar, vocabulary, and the development of oral and written skills which require analytical thinking. The art of painting is unique in the way that it visually captures and documents a society's reaction to major social, religious, and political forces. Given this inherent connection with history, slides of paintings form an integral part of cross-disciplinary courses combining art, literature, and history. They also provide background and a visual dimension for advanced literature courses. In any class at any level, slides of paintings, either as a focal point or as a supplement, can help bridge the gap between language and culture, and at the same time impart to the task of language learning a vitality and authenticity difficult to achieve through other means. [510]


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