I've never written a culpa review in my four years at Columbia, but this professor deserves one. Please, please, take this course with any other professor but Maite Conde. I've taken many literature courses in the Spanish department with professors--like Jaime Hanneken or Helene de Aguilar, incidentally both also teachers of Lat Hum--who challenge and inspire their students to understand their course material from both a well-informed and a unique perspective. In contrast, Maite encourages neither quality in this gut course. Here are a few points to consider:
--Even when Lat Hum is mainly limited to Spanish-language texts (read in translation, of course), the treatment of the material can feel cursory because you're covering an entire century of "humanities" materials from a wide range of nations with particular political and social histories, all important to understanding their literatures/films/art/etc. But because Maite's particular specialization is Brazilian lit and film, she adds a ton of Brazilian material into the course, which only increases the utterly scattered feeling of the syllabus. You never get a sense that you know a country's history, whether literary or political, nearly well enough to understand its art more than superficially.
--Maite is just not a good discussion facilitator. It's obvious that she arrives at class with certain questions and expected answers prepared, which is perhaps natural. But the problem is that she is nearly incapable of commenting intelligently on (or, in some cases, even acknowledging) student comments that don't match her expected answers to a T. As a result, almost every student in the class commented at one point or another during the semester that they felt as though the only way to gain Maite's approval was to figure out what she wanted to hear and then regurgitate it back at her. This might seem fine for those of you who want a mindless "List A" experience, but for anyone who likes to think creatively about literature, film or art--and especially for anyone who has prior knowledge of Latin American humanities and might have more advanced analyses to offer--it's going to be a problem. Just one example: Maite commented to me early on that my idea about a piece "was deep--but she's a simpler person, and was looking for a simpler answer". As the semester progressed, the atmosphere became one of increasingly condescending anti-intellectualism... a BAD combination.
--Maite simply assigns too much reading for an introductory-level course. The problem, as the last reviewer mentioned, is that you never get a sense of what reading is most important, and the consequence in terms of the classroom dynamic is that no one reads and everyone bullshits 90% of the time--which, considering that the class is 2 hours long, gets pretty old pretty fast.
--Ahh, Maite's paper-grading. Again, I concur with the previous reviewer: as one of the few students who got above a 90 on both papers she assigned, I saw that the only way to win her approval grade-wise is to approach her before the due date, discuss your topic with her, find out exactly which sources she thinks are important and which details of your thesis she finds most interesting, and then write the paper SHE wants to see instead of the paper YOU want to compose. There is, as in discussion sessions, zero tolerance of perspectives (even if well-developed and well-supported by the works in question) that don't match her own.
--And finally, if I may quote one of my classmates, who broke down and started ranting about Maite during evaluation time--"If I hear the word 'identity' one more time, I'm going to shoot somebody". I think one of the bi-products of a learning environment in which nobody reads and nobody is allowed to introduce ideas in class or on paper that don't exactly match the teacher's is that tritely superficial, often unsubstantiated analyses become the norm. You're rewarded for throwing around the same PC buzzwords with reference to every text, repeating yourself over and over again and boiling an entire canon of artistic production down to cliches like "identity is a social construct"--with barely any regard for the details of the texts themselves or the perspectival differences between them.
If we're honest with each other, we'll admit that this is the way the core is in a lot of cases--but if you want to put in the effort, you can still seek out an environment where genuine scholarship is attainable. Maite's classroom is not the place, which may be the reason why there were only 10 people in our class while all the other spring sections of Lat Hum were full or over-booked. So do yourself a favor, and go where you can learn something.