Honors in León, Spain

History, Reconcilation, Performance: Europe and the Americas in the Twentieth Century

March 26, 2012 - June 1, 2012

Poster thumbnail - Spain

15 credits, Honors core credits and VLPA and I&S. Students may receive credits outside of Honors, for example: History, International Studies, or Drama credits. Please see an advisor for details)

Program Fee: $6,625

Program Directors: Glennys Young (History and International Studies) and Lisa Jackson-Schebetta (Theatre Arts, University of Pittsburgh)

Apply through the IP&E website
Due: January 13, 2012
  • October 14 at 12:30 in Mary Gates Hall 211 B
  • November 4 at 12:30 in Mary Gates Hall 211 B

In this program we will examine the ethics of representing war in both history and theatre. Some of the questions we will address are the following: What are the ethical responsibilities of artists, citizens, and scholars who seek to represent war's suffering, death, courage, displacement, and heroism? To whom are they accountable, and why? What does "being accountable" entail when it comes to constructing a narrative whose consequences--trauma, healing, conflict, reconciliation, not to mention a complex mixture thereof--cannot be predicted? How should one resolve these questions?

Our case study is the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), a pivotal crisis of the twentieth century, whose historiography remains fraught with deep passions, geographic prejudices and increasingly complex archives of evidence. The Spanish Civil War has been historicized in contradictory ways: from "the last good cause" to "a communist sham" to a "testing ground for World War II." Though the events from 1936 to 1939 remain riddled with conflicted evidence and steeped in emotion, one thing is certain: for three years, Spain was the center of the world. As such, it posed prescient dilemmas in terms of international hopes, dreams and ethics, dilemmas with which some of the most famous artists, journalists and politicians of the twentieth century grappled: What is the relationship between ethics and representation? Between memory, fiction, and truth? Between conviction, activism, and accountability? What is the responsibility of the historian in relationship to these questions? Of the playwright? Of artists more generally? Indeed, of the global citizen? Such dilemmas continue to haunt us in the present day.

Our home base location for the program will be León, Spain, a rich site through which to engage with the Spanish Civil War and the local and national lives, memories and histories it continues to touch. We will also take excursions to Guernica, Bilbao, Madrid and Salamanca, and, assuming it can be scheduled, to one of the fosas comunes (mass graves), whose excavation of the remains of the War's victims remains a topic of considerable controversy in Spain today. Each of these excursions will be linked with the reading, writing, and performance assignments for the program.


Throughout the program, students will examine the Spanish Civil War and its global context through the politics, policies and cultural artifacts of England, Russia, Spain, the United States, Latin America (especially Mexico, the destination of a large number of refugees from the War), Germany, and Africa. Our interdisciplinary focus will center on the media used to wage, recruit for, represent and remember the Spanish Civil War across diverse geographies. We will examine photography, read plays and literature, view poster collections available on-line and on the excursions, watch films, and visit archives and battle sites.

We will reflect on, complicate and interrogate these histories through the lens of contemporary verbatim and documentary theatre practice, that which calls upon us to be both historians and artists. Students will evaluate key evidentiary, ethical and historical controversies of the Spanish Civil War through the creation and public presentation of theatre pieces.

León, Spain is an ideal location in which to offer a course on the Spanish Civil War, and, in particular, one that focuses on issues of historical interpretation, historical memory, and the ethics of representing the past in theatre and other performing arts. Students will have the opportunity to learn about the Spanish Civil War while living in Spain and being immersed in Spanish culture.


León, as opposed to say, Madrid, also offers a unique perspective on the Spanish Civil War. As a Nationalist stronghold during the war, within reasonably close proximity to Loyalist territories, the war continues to be both present and absent in León, its memory and history complicated by the city's small size and relative distance from the more famous struggles in Madrid, Barcelona and Oviedo. Historiographically, there is a large amount of easily accessible scholarship on the Loyalist side, a body of work that arguably appeals very strongly to American sensibilities of democracy. León's Nationalist past will challenge our biases and aid us in engaging critically with the Republic and its supporters, as well as its detractors.

Logistically, León is a good location from which to explore and reflect upon key sites, such as Guernica, which are particularly conflicted both in the documentary and historiographical record. León's smaller size should also enable relationships with people in the city and the cultivation of an audience for our readings and post-reading discussions. The UW León Center offers a large communal space where students' theatre pieces will be presented and discussed publicly. The León community will be invited to join us, free of charge.

Students will live with Spanish families in León. The University of Washington's León Center will assist in placing students with Spanish families. Students who do not speak Spanish will be placed with a host who can communicate in English. It is the general practice of the León Program of the Division of Spanish and Portuguese to place students with families for home stays, and this has, in general, worked out very well.

Pre-Requisites/Language Requirements

Priority given to students in the Honors Program and students in good standing in History, International Studies, and Drama. Students should have Sophomore or above standing. Students not currently part of the Honors Program or departments listed above are also encouraged to apply.


Lives, History, Memory: The Spanish Civil War, 70 (and more) Years After

HONORS 212, 5 credits. (History or International Studies credits also available)

Poster image from ALBA website
Spanish Civil War poster.
Source: ALBA.

From 1936-1939, Spain was engulfed by a Civil War that took at least 550,000 lives, tore families apart, and destroyed villages. When, in 1939, the Spanish Republic fell, and Spain's fledgling democracy succumbed to fascist military power, the hopes and dreams of many around the world were shattered. Not only did the defeat of the Republic bring Francisco Franco to power for forty years. The Spanish Civil War was also a horrible preview of the savagery of World War II. Today, a little more than seventy years after the conflict ended, Spain is still confronting its past. In the last decade, a grassroots movement, often spearheaded by the children and grandchildren of the War's fascist firing squads, has sought to unearth remains from mass graves, identify them, and give them dignified burial. Issues of history and memory are very much alive - and very controversial - in Spain today.

In this seminar, we will explore some of the major historical issues and debates concerning the Spanish Civil War. They include its origins, the participation of women, the 40,000 or so volunteers who joined the International Brigades to fight Franco on Spanish battlefields, and the role of the Catholic Church. Readings will include novels (including, in translation, by Spanish authors), books, and articles. The approach will be interdisciplinary, and the readings, discussions, and assignments will be linked with the other course described below, "Crisis, Controversy, and Representation: Performing the Spanish Civil War. For those students enrolled in SPAN/PORT 328, there will be corresponding readings in Spanish.

Crisis, Controversy and Representation: Performing the Spanish Civil War

HONORS 394, 5 credits. (International Studies or Drama credits also available)

In this course we will continue to examine, interrogate and theorize relationships between ethics and representation through the practice of documentary theatre-making. The documentary theatre maker uses primary source material (diaries, newspapers, interviews, etc) to create a dramatic piece. In the collection, curation and storytelling, she or he necessarily must critically and intimately consider personal, historical and public biases, must negotiate "fact," and must think carefully about what gets left out, what gets preserved, what stories get told - for whom, by whom, when and why.

Documentary theatre takes many shapes and forms, employing multiple narrative structures and communicative strategies. The form, and its social and political responsibilities, remains hotly contested. We will discuss key contemporary and historical scripts as well as scholarship on documentary theatre to debate the form's strengths and weaknesses, utility and ethics.

We will also practice playwriting and devising techniques in cumulative assignments that will build towards a final performance piece for public presentation and discussion. Our source material for these projects will come form research in this class and its companion class - "Lives, History, Memory" - as well as our excursions and individual research. No previous theatre experience is necessary.

Spanish Language

SPAN/PORT 199, 299 or 393 (3 credits). These credits will also count toward the Honors Core.

Students will be placed in Spanish-language courses according to their knowledge of Spanish. The UW Spanish Language and Literature advisor will assist with placement level (beginning, intermediate, advanced).

Independent Research

HONORS 499, 2 credits. These credits will count toward the Honors Core. Credits may also count toward International Studies, History or Drama.


Students will conduct independent research connected to the themes of the program in libraries and archives (such as the library of the University of León and the municipal archive of the city of León). The purpose of the research will be to fulfill the writing and performance assignments for "Lives, History, and Memory" and for "Crisis, Controversy, and Representation: Performing the Spanish Civil War." Students who read Spanish will be required to do their research in Spanish. Other students will be able to work in English-language sources, or, possibly, will be able to consult sources in languages they do read (e.g., French, German, and/or Russian.)

Program Leaders

Glennys Young, History and International Studies

Lisa Jackson-Schebetta, Theatre Arts, University of Pittsburgh



$6,625 This does not include IPE Fee ($275), airfare, food (about $31/day), Study Abroad Insurance ($37/month) and personal spending money.

Most forms of financial aid can be applied to study abroad. You can verify that your financial aid award will apply to your program costs by contacting the Financial Aid Office. Financial aid or scholarships awarded as tuition waivers or tuition exemptions may not apply so you will need to verify that these funds are eligible for use with study abroad by contacting the funding office.

Please visit the Finances section of the IP&E website to learn more about disbursement, revising your aid package, short-term loans and scholarships.

Average Airplane Ticket Price

$1,250* roundtrip *Subject to when & where you buy your ticket

Payment Schedule

Program fees will be posted to your MyUW student account and can be paid the same way that you pay tuition and other fees. A $350 non-refundable program deposit and $275 non-refundable IPE Fee will be charged to your MyUW Account once your signed contract has been received by the Study Abroad Office.

Payment Type Payment Amount Payment Due Date
Non-Refundable Program Deposit $350 Charged Upon Receipt of Contract
Non-Refundable IPE Fee $275 4/13/2012
Program Fee Balance $6,275 4/13/2012


To be eligible to study abroad, all program participants must attend an in-person pre-departure orientation facilitated by the Study Abroad office as well as your program-specific orientations, offered by your program director.

You must register for orientation through your online study abroad account in order to attend scheduled orientations. You can visit the Orientation section of the IP&E website to view the current orientation schedule.

Orientation must be completed prior to the enrollment deadline for the quarter that you are studying abroad.

Application Process

The application includes a Personal Statement, 3 short answer questions, 2 Faculty recommendations and electronic signature documents related to University policies and expectations for study abroad. Following the on-line application process students may be contacted by the Program Director for an in-person interview. Once admissions decisions have been regarding your application, you will be notified by the study abroad system via email.

Due: January 13, 2012



The $350 program deposit and $275 IPE Fee are non-refundable. Students withdrawing from a program will be responsible for paying a percentage of the program fee depending on the date of withdrawal. More details about the withdrawal policy will be included in your payment contract. No part of the program fee is refundable once the program has begun. The date of withdrawal is considered the date (business day) a withdrawal form is received by the Study Abroad Office. Notice of withdrawal from the program must be made in writing, completing the following steps:

  • Provide notice in writing to the program director that you will no longer be participating in the program for which you have signed a contract and accepted a slot.
  • Submit a signed withdrawal form to the Study Abroad Office, 459 Schmitz Hall.

Please visit the Withdrawals section of the IP&E website for more information.

Please contact Glennys Young (glennys@uw.edu) or Julie Villegas (villegas@uw.edu) for more information specific to the program components and credit options.