The Latin American Short Story (MLS2061)

StaffDr Melisa Moore - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Pre-requisitesMLS1001, or MLS1056, and a HUMS (including ML) literature module
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module highlights the recurrent thematic concerns and narrative strategies of the modern Latin American short story. It will develop an understanding of this genre through close, selective readings of chosen texts and cultural contexts, including those of Europe and North America where the short story and related genres, such as the Gothic and detective fiction, flourished from the mid-nineteenth century. The module will encourage critical thinking about the ways in which Latin American writers employ the short story and other literary forms (e.g. the Fantastic) to raise questions about personal and social reality, identity, memory, and liminality, in a bid to negotiate a divided sense of self, and political and social divisions in their respective countries. It offers a valuable opportunity for independent, critical study of selected texts, themes and genres, preparing you for formative and summative assessments, and for studying Latin American culture and society on other Departmental modules. The module also helps to develop important transferable skills, such as the ability for independent, analytical and critical thinking, clear oral and written communication, and for working collaboratively as part of a team. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a sound general understanding of the development and defining features of the short story, and related genres, such as the Gothic, detective fiction and the Fantastic, in Latin American, and, to an extent, European and North American literature and culture.
  • 2. Show a detailed knowledge of the module texts, their recurrent thematic concerns and narrative techniques.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. With some guidance from the course tutor, evaluate and apply a range of critical approaches to the material covered independently.
  • 4. Mount a detailed argument in the appropriate register of English, mustering a range of textual or other evidence in its support.
  • 5. Analyse selected texts in Spanish, of different genres and styles, showing an awareness of their relation to the cultural contexts in which they were produced, and present critical results orally and in writing where appropriate.
  • 6. Following broad guidelines, locate and identify library and electronic resources on a given topic.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Undertake defined learning activities with a measure of autonomy, asking for guidance where necessary.
  • 8. Adopt a critical approach to the selection and organisation of a body of material in order to produce, to a deadline, an oral and a written argument, where appropriate, of some complexity.
  • 9. Present a cogent and sustained argument orally and in writing, in English, on a topic chosen from a range of options provided, following broad guidelines but selecting and adapting them as required.
  • 10. Demonstrate general competence in word-processing and in the use of the Internet in researching and reporting on a topic.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The (Latin American) Short Story: Themes, Theories and Narrative Techniques
  • ‘Borges y yo’ (1957),‘La muerte y la brújula’ (1942), ‘La forma de la espada’ (1942), by Jorge Luis Borges
  • ‘Las babas del diablo’ (1959), ‘Las armas secretas’ (1959), ‘El perseguidor’ (1959), by Julio Cortázar
  • ‘Los funerales de la Mamá Grande’ (1962), ‘La prodigiosa tarde de Baltazar’ (1962), ‘La viuda de Montiel’ (1962) by Gabriel García Márquez
  • Cuentos de Eva Luna (1989), 2-3 stories from this collection by Isabel Allende
  • Module Review/Preparation for Summative Assessment

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1010 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching55 x 1 hour seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Conclusion/Office hour
Guided Independent Study134Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Critical Analysis - of a selected text500 words1-10Written feedback on formative assessment

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Coursework Essay 1002500 words1-10Written feedback and report on summative assessment

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Coursework EssayCoursework Essay1-10Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary Texts

  • Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones, ed. by G. Brotherston & P. Hulme (Bristol Classical Press, 2013)
  • Julio Cortázar, Las armas secretas (Cátedra, 2004)
  • Gabriel García Márquez, Los funerales de la Mamá Grande (Nuevas Ediciones de Bolsillo, 2017)
  • Isabel Allende, Cuentos de Eva Luna (Nuevas Ediciones de Bolsillo, 2014)

Secondary Texts

  • Daniel Balderston, ‘The Twentieth-Century Short Story in Spanish America’, in The Cambridge History of Latin American Literature, ed. by Roberto González Echevarría & Enrique Pupo-Walker, vol. 2 (CUP, 1996)
  • Peter Beardsell, ‘Introduction’, in Julio Cortázar: Siete cuentos, ed. by Peter Beardsell (Manchester University Press, 1994)
  • Karen Cox, Isabel Allende: A Critical Companion (Greenwood Press, 2003)
  • Robin Fiddian, García Márquez: Los funerales de la Mamá Grande (Grant & Cutler, 2006)
  • Jean Franco, An Introduction to Spanish-American Literature (CUP, 2010)
  • Stephen M. Hart, A Companion to Spanish-American Literature (Tamesis, 2007)
  • Susana Jakfalvi, ‘Introducción’, in Las armas secretas, by Julio Cortázar, ed. By Susana Jakfalvi (Cátedra, 2004)
  • Gerald Martin, Journeys Through the Labyrinth: Latin American Fiction in the Twentieth Century (Verso, 1989)
  • Enrique Pupo-Walker, ed., El cuento hispanoamericano (Castalia, 1995)
  • Ian Reid, The Short Story (Routledge, 2019)
  • Verity Smith, ed., Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature (Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997)
  • Mary Ellen Snodgrass, Isabel Allende: A Literary Companion (McFarland & Co., 2013)
  • Philip Swanson, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Gabriel García Márquez (CUP, 2010)
  • Edwin Williamson, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Jorge Luis Borges (CUP, 2013)

A full bibliography of recommended reading will be provided at the start of the module

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Latin American literature, the short story, the Fantastic, the ‘Uncanny’, Magical Realism, Borges, Cortázar, Márquez, Allende