The Reading Matrix
Vol. 2, No. 2, June 2002

Textos en contexto: Literatura hispanoamericana en multimedia
Reviewed by Joan Clifford


Textos en contexto: Literatura hispanoamericana en multimedia


Harcourt College Publishers


Windows 95/98 or Mac OS 8.5 and above, Netscape 4.0 and above or Internet Explorer 4.0 and above

Minimum hardware requirements: for PC PC: Pentium/233 MHz; MAC: PowerPC
24 MB of RAM and 500 MB free space on the hard drive
Color monitor set at 32-bit true color and 800 x 600 resolution (PC)
CD-ROM drive
Sound Blaster card or 100% compatible; stereo speakers or headphones


$61.95 Textbook and CD-ROM

Note: An on-line instructors' resource manual requires a password. Ed.

Textos en contexto: Literatura hispanoamericana en multimedia (2001) by Julia Van Loan Aguilar and José Miguel Oviedo is an innovative multimedia program that creates an interactive learning experience for the student by building literary, cultural, and linguistic activities through resources in the textbook, the CD-ROM, and the World Wide Web. Although there are a few aspects of the program that are problematic, it is a useful and engaging multimedia program that may be adapted to fit a variety of courses. The authors suggest that this anthology of Spanish-American texts may be used in an intermediate class, in conjunction with a second-year language text, in a conversation and composition class, or as resource material in a language laboratory. I would recommend that it be used as a supplementary reading text in an intermediate level course.

The multimedia concept that organizes Textos en contexto will determine the next generation of textbooks and will continue to be explored in future language learning resources because it is a dynamic experience that is learner paced. The format of this anthology is based on the reading and analysis of a short story, narrative fragment, or poem from a variety of authors. The anthology presents new literature to the student but the activities are not limited to literary analysis; they are also designed to facilitate discussion of contemporary social and political concerns The range of activities ensures the development of the traditional four skill areas as well as cultural knowledge. The selection of authors and readings include: Gabriel García Márquez, "Un día de estos"; Pablo Neruda, "Poema 20"; Juan Rulfo, "Es que somos muy pobres"; Julio Cortázar, "Casa tomada"; Elena Poniatowska, "Ángeles de la ciudad" (fragmento de Fuerte es el silencio); Augusto Monterroso, "Mr. Taylor"; Rosario Ferré, "La muñeca menor". They represent a fair distribution of male and female authors, nationalities, and themes.

The following is a list of the components of each chapter of the program and, when appropriate, a brief commentary on the quality or usefulness of the section:

  • Información general (CD-ROM): A prereading exercise to familiarize the student with political and literary figures from the target country, geography of the country, a cultural icon associated with the country. Links to the World Wide Web allow the student to search for information. The student types responses to various written questions and after completing the exercise may print out a copy to hand in to the instructor.
  • Introducción (book): A two-page introduction to the author and his/her role in the literary canon. Comprehension questions follow the reading.
  • Información textual (CD-ROM): This section includes a split screen of the selected literary text and another prereading activity. Students can scan the text as they advance with the questions designed to assist them in orienting themselves to possible themes or vocabulary that might be associated with the literary selection.
  • Biografía (CD-ROM): A chronological list of events in the author's life is provided in one screen while an activity based on the biography is provided in the second part of the split screen. The type of activity varies from author to author. One exercise is to write an appropriate question for the given data (similar to Jeopardy). Another activity is to rewrite sentences changing the verb tense as indicated. The Instructor's Resource Manual suggests that the material be used to role-play an interview with the author.
  • Vocabulario (book): Designed to be an advance organizer, the vocabulary activity highlights important terms that the student will encounter in the reading. Each chapter has a different combination of activities that include: list of the terms, a fill in the blank exercise, matching with a written definition or with a picture.
  • La imagen (book): Visual images with associated discussion questions give students an alternate way to conceptualize or anticipate the literary text. This section requires students to form opinions and sometimes to discuss personal experiences.
  • Dichos y refranes (book): Each saying is appropriate to the theme or cultural background of the reading. It provides a way to enter a discussion of cultural values or attitudes particular to a value system.
  • La lectura (book and CD-ROM): The text is both in the textbook and on the CD-ROM. The authors have compiled a glossary of words that are included in both versions that are meant to facilitate the reading and comprehension. The CD-ROM version is difficult to read because the text font is too small but the electronic version has one advantage over the book copy because it has an audio reading of the text (by the authors when possible). The audio readings sometimes cut off before the voice completes a segment but it is an exciting resource even with some technical difficulties. The other problem with the presentation of the text is that the glossary of words are translations from Spanish to English. An intermediate student should be able to work with synonyms or short descriptions in Spanish in order to identify an unfamiliar Spanish word or phrase. The use of English with the glossary and with the directions to click on the audio button is problematic.
  • Comprensión de la lectura (CD-ROM): The reading comprehension questions are provided in a split screen with the text. The quality of questions varies according to chapter but overall they provide a good overview of plot, character development, and themes. The section on Poniatowska does not appear in the Instructor's Resource Manual.
  • Entrevista con el autor (CD-ROM): The program provides short segments of interviews in either video or audio clips. The technical quality of the clips is good and it is a great benefit to the student to see and hear authentic clips of the authors. However, it is disappointing to see a video clip of Neruda with the audio recording in English. The content of the video clip with García Márquez is also of questionable value. Answers to questions give a good indication of whether student has understood the key points of the clip.
  • Entrevista con el crítico CD-ROM): The interview segment with the critic is a video clip. He speaks clearly and except for the segment on Poniatowska the information is interesting and relevant to the development of a serious discussion of the text. The few follow-up questions are specific to the content of the interview and could be used to help orient the student as they are listening to the selection.
  • Ejercicios lingüísticos (CD-ROM): This section concentrates on a specific grammar concept and vocabulary found in the text. Some activities are: the search for and listing of specific grammatical structures found in the text, the matching of words with a picture, the translation of phrases and expressions from English to Spanish, the search in a contemporary newspaper from the target country for articles with relevant themes, the re-phrasing of a colloquial expression in Spanish, a creative-writing exercise. Depending on how this program is being used (i.e., with another textbook or alone), this section may or may not be useful to the instructor and/or student.
  • Para la discusión (book): Very good discussion questions that use themes, vocabulary, and grammar highlighted in the readings are provided with each chapter. The questions will engage the student with contemporary applications of the topics such as open-ended questions relating to politics and social issues.
  • Para escribir un ensayo (book): The majority of chapters include a generic invitation to use the themes presented in the reading and discussion to write an essay. It gives the address for the Harcourt web page: for further suggestions. [The page does not appear to be active. Ed.] Only the chapter on Neruda includes two specific ideas for the development of an essay.
  • Una canción popular (CD-ROM-only included in two chapters): The chapters on Poniatowska and Monterroso include an authentic popular song that is thematically connected to the readings. Two different screens allow the student to read the lyrics, and respond to questions as s/he listens to the song.

The authors of Textos en contexto have developed a viable multimedia program that could be incorporated into many different types of courses and from which the student would benefit greatly. The selection of texts, the organization of activities, and the easy execution of the program make this an adaptable anthology of texts that will increase the student's interaction with literary texts and cultural issues appropriate to modern thinking processes and learning techniques.












































Joan Clifford is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Romance Studies Department at Duke University where she is the Advanced Spanish Language Program Coordinator. She and her colleagues have worked extensively to expand the use of Blackboard6 in the language classes. She is currently working with a grant from the Center for Instructional Technology to integrate multimedia resources and projects into the Advanced Spanish Language Program courses.