Vol. 2, No. 2, June 2002
Textos en contexto: Literatura
hispanoamericana en multimedia
Reviewed by Joan Clifford
Textos en contexto:
Literatura hispanoamericana en multimedia
95/98 or Mac OS 8.5 and above, Netscape 4.0 and above
or Internet Explorer 4.0 and above
hardware requirements: for PC
||PC: Pentium/233 MHz; MAC:
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
Sound Blaster card or 100% compatible; stereo speakers
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
- 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
- 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: http://www.harcourtcollege.com/spanish/aguilar/
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.