Course Syllabus


Political Violence in Narrative of the Americas 

In much of the Americas modernization has been accompanied by rampant abuse of human rights, by kidnappings, tortures and massacres carried out by armies and governments, as well as by networks of organized crime running rampant under weak states. We will examine recent fiction and films focusing on the ‘Dirty Wars’ in Argentina and Chile during the 1970s and 1980s, and their legacy today, as well as on the current ‘Drug War’ in Mexico. These works deal with political violence in its various forms, ranging from military repression, torture and disappearance to the violence associated with the rise of the drug cartels, primarily from the point of view of child narrators. We will also examine the role of the United States in these situations of political violence; and the role of various social actors in attempting to bring the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity to justice. Students will be responsible for keeping a reading and film viewing journal, writing a final 5-7-page analytical essay and taking three quizzes, in addition to participating actively in our class discussions.


Reading and viewing journal          30%

5-7-page analytical essay                30%

3 out of 4 pop quizzes                      21%

Class participation                           19%


Marcelo Figueras. Kamchatka. Trans. Frank Wynne. Grove Press, 2011, 312 pp. ISBN 0802170870.

Laura Alcoba. The Rabbit House. Trans. Polly McLean. London: Portobello Books, 2009, 137 pp. ISBN 978-1-84627-133-5.

Eduardo Sacheri, The Secret in their Eyes. Other Press, 2011, 320 pp. ISBN 1590514505.

Patricio Pron, My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain. Trans. Mara Faye Lethem. Vintage, 2014, 212 pp. ISBN 0307745422.

Cormac McCarthy, The Counselor. NY: Vintage  International, 2013, 192 pp. ISBN 0345803590.


La historia official / The Official Story. Dir. Luis Puenzo. Argentina, 1985. DVD Port Washington, NY:Koch Lorber Films, 2004, 112 min. DVD BOT-1572  “An Argentine teacher lives in blissful ignorance of the evils perpetrated by her country's government. Over time, she begins to suspect that her adopted daughter may have been the child of a murdered political prisoner. When she attempts to unearth the truth, her investigation reveals levels of political corruption so abhorrent that the illusions of her past life are irrevocably shattered.”

Crónica de una fuga / Chronicle of an Escape. Dir. Adrián Caetano, Argentina, 2006. DVD Santa Monica, CA: Genius Products, 2008, 103 min.  DVD GENI 044   “A soccer player is suddenly ripped from the field and finds himself on the floor of a horrific detention center. What follows is a living hell of interrogations and relentless mental and physical abuse. Alongside other young detainees, he battles to survive while awaiting his fate to be decided. With execution looking certain, he and three other prisoners will risk their lives and make a desperate and extraordinarily brave move for freedom.”

Kamchatka. Dir. Marcelo Piñeyro. Argetntina, 2002, 102 min.  Buenos Aires: AVH, 2003. DVD AVH 001  “In 1976 Buenos Aires a professional couple and their two young sons flee from the political crackdown on leftists following the military coup, taking refuge in a house in the countryside. The parents teach the children strategies for survival, largely through game playing, and the older son, ‘Harry,’ adopts escape artist Harry Houdini as his role model. At one point they take in another political refugee, ‘Lucas.’ Everyone in the family adopts an assumed name, and the boys are warned to never contact their friends in Buenos Aires.”

El premio / The Prize (Mexico/France/Poland/Germany, 2011), dir. Paula Markovitch, Perf. Paula Galinelli Hertzog, Laura Agorreca, Viviana Suraniti. DVD. Global Film Initiative, 2013, 115 min. DVD GFI 011  “Under the cloud of a military dictatorship, a young mother and her daughter flee Buenos Aires for the seclusion of a ramshackle cottage along the windy dunes of an Argentine beach. As her mother listens for news from the radio with sad stoicism, restlessly curious seven-year-old Cecilia joins a nearby school overseen by a kindly teacher. A childhood idyll, however, soon becomes contaminated by the general political crisis, as the teacher recruits the class for a patriotic essay contest sponsored by the army—the very people that may have already disappeared Cecilia’s father—in this superbly acted and engrossingly atmospheric drama about innocence in illicit times.” From the DVD cover.

Infancia clandestina/Clandestine Childhood . dir. Benjamín Avila, Argentina, 2011. DVD FILMO 032  “Argentina, 1979. After years of exile, Juan (12) and his family come back to Argentina under fake identities. Juan's parents and his uncle Beto are members of the Montoneros Organization, which is fighting against the Military Junta that rules the country. Because of their political activities they are being tracked down relentlessly, and the threat of capture and even death is constant. However, Juan's daily life is also full of warmth and humor, and he quickly and easily integrates into his new environment. His friends at school and the girl he has a gigantic crush on, Maria, know him as Ernesto, a name he must not forget, since his family's survival is at stake. Juan accepts this and follows all of his parents' rules until one day he is told that they need to move again immediately, and leave his friends and Maria behind without an explanation. This is a story about militancy, undercover life, and love. The story of a clandestine childhood.”

El secreto de sus ojos / The Secret in their Eyes. Dir. Juan José Campanella. Perfs. Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil. 2009. DVD. SONY Pictures Homes Entertainment, 2010, 129 min. DVD SONYHE 196  “Recently retired criminal court investigator Benjamín decides to write a novel based on a twenty-five-year-old unresolved rape and murder case which still haunts him. Sharing his plans with Irene, the beautiful judge and his former colleague, Benjamín's initial involvement with the case is shown through flashbacks as he sets out to identify the murderer. But Benjamín's search for the truth will put him at the center of a judicial nightmare, as the mystery of the heinous crime continues to unfold in the present, testing the limits of a man seeking justice and personal fulfillment at last.”

Machuca. Dir. Andrés Wood. Venice, Calif. : Menemsha Films, 2007?, 121 min. DVD MENE 001 "Explores Chile's bloody 1973 coup through the coming-of-age story of a pair of 12-year-old boys. From opposite extremes of society, Gonzalo and Pedro form an unlikely friendship as politics rip their world apart."

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation / O ano em que meus pais sairam de ferias (Brazil, 2006). dir. Ciao Hamburger. DVD New York: City Lights, 2008, 104 min.

In Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in 1970, 10-year-old Mauro Stein's parents need to hurriedly 'take a vacation,' i.e. hide from the military. They drop Mauro off at his grandfather's apartment in Sao Paulo, without realizing that his grandfather has just passed away. The film follows how Mauro copies with finding himself alone in an empty apartment, in Sao Paulo's Jewish community, and without realizing what danger his parents are in.


The Counselor. Dir. Ridley Scott.  US, 2013. DVD Los Angeles: Twentieth Century Home Fox, 2014, 117 min. DVD TCFHE 529  “A lawyer makes a risky entrance into the drug trade, and gambles that the consequences won't catch up with him.”

Canvas Site:




Mon, March 30 

Film: The Official Story

Wed, April 1

Figueras. Kamchatka,

First & Second Periods:

Biology and Geography,

Ch. 1-39, pp. 3-128.

Tomlinson essay

Mon, April 6

Film: Chronicle of an Escape

Wed, April 8

Figueras, Kamchatka,

Third Period: Language,

Ch. 40-63, pp. 133-229.

Essay 2a. "The Innocent Eye" by Rita DeGrandis


Mon, April 13 

Film: Kamchatka

Wed, April 15
Figueras, Kamchatka,

Fourth & Fifth Periods:

Astronomy & History,

Ch. 64-81, pp.  235-311.


Mon, April 20

Film: El Premio

Swier essay

Wed, April 22
Alcoba, The Rabbit House, pp. 1-137.


Mon, April 27

Film: Clandestine Childhood

Retirement Party & Ch. 1-12, pp. 1-121

Losada essay

Wed, April 29
Sacheri, The Secret in their Eyes,

Ch. 13-19, pp 122-189


Mon, May 4
Film: The Secret in their Eyes,

Ch. 20-33, pp. 190-289

Hortiguera essay

Wed, May 6

Sacheri, The Secret in their Eyes,

Ch. 34-45 & Restitution,

pp 290-384.


Mon, May 11

Film:  Machuca

Wed, May13
Pron, My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain,

Parts I & II, pp. 3-133.

Interview with Pron.


Mon, May 18

Film: The Year My Parents Went on Vacation

Wed, May 20

Pron, My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain,

Parts III, IV & Epilogue, pp 137-212.

Maguire essay on Pron


Mon, May 25

May 25: Memorial Day Holiday

Wed, May 27

McCarthy, The Counselor, pp. 3-97.

Hillier essay on The Counselor


Mon, June 1

Film: The Counselor

Wed, June 3

McCarthy, The Counselor, pp. 98-184.



Course Summary:

Date Details Due