Spanish at Aston

In the heart of the exciting and vibrant city of Birmingham

Our very own Dr Stephanie Panichelli-Batalla’s new book ‘El testimonio en la pentagonía de Reinaldo Arenas’

An in-depth analysis of Cuban author’s Reinaldo Arenas’s Pentagony.


Last month Dr Panichelli-Batalla, Lecturer in Spanish and Latin American Studies and Head of Spanish here at Aston, released her latest book ‘El testimonio en la pentagonía de Reinaldo Arenas’, published by Boydell & Brewer. The book presents an in-depth analysis of Reinaldo Arenas’s Pentagony, which includes the novels Singing from the WellThe Palace of the White SkunksFarewell to the SeaThe Color of Summer, and The Assault. Through the use of fiction, Arenas offers a testimony of the oppression he suffered in Cuba during the sixties and the seventies as a homosexual writer. This book highlights the fact that although his work does not comply with the guidelines of the Cuban documentary novel, it does give a strong voice to those who were silenced by the Revolutionary government. The first two chapters provide an overview of literary genres relevant to this study, such as the autobiography, autobiographical novel and documentary novel, as well as the socio-historical context of the novels. Subsequently, this study looks in detail at each novel separately, offering a comprehensive overview of the Pentagony as a whole.

For further information or if you wish to purchase a copy please click here

Sammy Holyman on life in the Spanish capital

Hola! I’m Sammy, and I spent my year abroad as an English Language Assistant in Spain

I lived in Boadilla del Monte, an affluent suburb of Madrid. I found a house with a lovely Spanish family, which has been great for my Spanish. The house is gorgeous: my bedroom was in the loft space, and I had this, and a bathroom, to myself! Plus, they have two dogs and a cat. I’ve never been allowed pets, but now I have three! I love them so much!

I worked at Colegio Público Federico García Lorca, with years 2, 3 and 4. The school is bilingual, so I had help teach English and Science. I really feel like I’ve found my calling with teaching. As homesick as I got whilst abroad, standing in front of my classes made me forget everything. Obviously there are times when the children are being naughty and are ignoring me when I want to run for the hills, but no job is easy, right?

My mom came out with me to settle me in; she was fantastic. We fell out a lot, but I couldn’t have done any of this without my family’s support. We did a lot of the bureaucratic stuff first, and then we explored the city. Good job the weather was so lovely, although I was concerned as to why we were the only people in shorts and t-shirts in 30 degree heat!

The first month was so scary, so many new things to learn and adapt to. I really found the culture clash overwhelming at first, but I’ve got my own little life now.

No one was dreading the year abroad more than me. Anyone that knows me will tell you how terrified I was before embarking on my journey. That said, but the whole experience has been a massive step towards self-discovery. If someone would have told me at the start of my degree that I would be capable of all this, I would never have believed them. I can travel alone, organize my life and solve problems, all in a foreign language.

To prospective year abroad students, have faith in yourself. You’re stronger than you think and are capable of more than you dare to imagine.

Thanks for reading!

Our Spanish Student Lauren Sharp on her Chilean Experience!

Summarizing the last 4 months is a very hard task! Like every part of life there have been tremendous ups and demoralizing downs (I’d be lying if I said everything was always amazing…nothing is perfect). Aside from the odd set back like the frustrating struggle of “why can I never conjugate this simple verb” and inevitable homesickness, the high points of my time in Chile majorly weigh out all of the bad.
I work in an Insurance company in the HR department in the capital of Chile, Santiago, with THE nicest people you could ever meet. They instantly made me feel at home here and I always have someone to talk to/practice Chilean slang with. I’m nearly always busy learning something new and practicing my Spanish literally every minute of every day (not many people speak English here which is turning out to my advantage).

Out of work hours, there is always an opportunity to do something, socialize in the vibrant city with friends, learn to dance at the local salsoteca, explore somewhere peaceful alone or even take a long weekend to see some of the world’s most amazing places in the longest country on earth that I now call my second home.

In my opinion, Chile is a very underrated place to visit with so many wonderful cultural traditions to experience, and even if you don’t speak Spanish, the locals will do everything they can to make you never want to leave.

Easily the best year of my life!



Summer is around the corner…

Summer is around the corner and the Spanish Section is currently wrapping up the academic year. It has been a year full of activities, hard work and recognition. Although we are very sad to have to say goodbye to our Class of 2016, we are extremely proud of them. They have put up a great effort and all of us –the lecturers– have had the chance to read outstanding pieces of research. It has been an honour to have them around and to have been part of their education. Good luck with everything the future may bring you, and hope you keep in touch. ¡¡¡HASTA MUY PRONTO!!!

We have also had to say “adiós” to five wonderful colleagues: Maritza Carrasco-Marchessi, Manuel Mayoral-Durán, Patricia Moro, Daniel Mourenza-Urbina, and Aurelio Ramos. Their superb teaching skills, their collegiality, and their professionalism will be greatly missed. ¡GRACIAS POR TODO Y MUCHA SUERTE!

Aurelio Ramos Caballero joined Aston in 2007 as Teaching Associate. He has been a key member of the Spanish team, teaching a broad range of modules. Aurelio’s teaching was always praised by students and colleagues, and his ability to engage students with learning Spanish highly recognised. ¡WE WILL MISS YOU, COMPAÑERO!

Last September 2015, the Spanish Section welcomed a new member of staff, Dr Pablo Calderón-Martínez. Pablo’s expertise in contemporary Latin American, Spanish politics, economy and social issues has made possible to incorporate a wide-range of key topics to our modules. We are very pleased to have him on board! Pablo is currently in the United States taking part in the Brown International Advanced Research Institute Conference at Brown University 4-18 June 2016 funded by Santander.

Due to his extensive research on current Spanish politics, Pablo was interviewed by the BBC and also organised a lunch-time discussion on the Spanish general elections (20th December), sharing his ideas about the new left-wing alternative, Podemos.
All in Spanish at Aston have been very active organising cultural and academic events.

Back in October 2015, we had the pleasure of welcoming two great Spanish writers: Kirmen Uribe and Jesús Carrasco. Kirmen Uribe talked about his experience as a writer in the Basque language, as a translator of some of his own work into Spanish, and also his books have been translated into a number of languages. He defines himself as “a poet of wide concerns, politically engaged, with an inclusive, humanist awareness and a direct, distinctive voice”. Jesús Carrasco explained what motivates him as a writer and gave us some hints about the novel he has recently published and Raquel Fernández-Sánchez is already reading (impatiently awaiting her review).

On April 14-16 2016 the First Biennial Conference Spanish Cinema: Gender and Ageing Studies was held at Aston University. Co-organised by Dr Raquel Medina (Aston), Dr Olga Castro (Aston), and Professor Barbara Zecchi (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), this conference gathered academics from around the world, as well as the scriptwriter Alicia Luna, the actress Elvira Minguez, the filmmaker Carla Subirana, and the scriptwriter and president of CIMA Virginia Yagüe. Core issues such as gender discrimination (sexism) and age discrimination (ageism) in Spanish cinema were explored and discussed.

May brought us the visit of the award-winning Spanish writer and social activist Belén Gopegui. Belén Gopegui discussed her notion of literature as social activism.
According to her, “most of my novels are about commonalities between the individual and the group. They try to counteract a widespread attitude in Spanish literature that consists in ‘defending politics while denigrating activism.’ People who are active, not only in political parties but also in groups or joint projects, place politics in a more important space than simply voting every four years.”

Undoubtedly this has been a great year for Spanish at Aston with regards to professional and teaching recognition. Daniel, Manuel, Olga and Stéphanie were all nominated to the Astonishing Aston Awards, and Dr Stéphanie Panichelli-Batalla was the winner of the Most Inspirational Academic Award in LSS. CONGRATULATIONS!

Dr Raquel Medina was the winner of the LSS Staff Poster Competition marking the 50th anniversary of Aston. CONGRATULATIONS!

Finally, the end of the academic year brought to our colleague Dr Raquel Fernández- Sánchez a well-deserved award, Aston Achievement Award for Learning and Teaching.


We wish you all have a great summer… But above all, we wish our colleague Olga Castro a speedy recovery.

Our student Amy Hares shares her time in Valencia during Las Fallas


fallas and blighty


Saludos desde Inglaterra!

It’s been a little while, but I’m back in the glorious South of England with my family for the Easter Holidays. But I realised that I hadn’t quite covered Las Fallas in my last post, so, here goes…



A few weeks ago in Valencia, we celebrated Las Fallas; a wonderfully loud and colourful festival exclusive to VLC that had been building up for about three weeks. There really is nothing like it, and it’s definitely something that you have to see. However, beware that the explosions seemed enough to be in the middle of a war, and the amount of 3 year olds throwing fireworks in the streets was enough to make me quiver in

Isn’t it humiliating when the Falla on the left has better eyebrows than you?

Also, if you haven’t lived in Spain, it’ll serve you well to know (just in case) that a party doesn’t start in Spain until about midnight. The street parties in my barrio during Fallas, right outside my bedroom window meant the DJ Juan and DJ Pedro didn’t turn off the Enrique Iglesias until 4AM. It wouldn’t have been too bad, but I’ve spent the majority of my time in Spain being ill (where are those violins?). Thus, by that time, I really had had enough.

But apart from the early morning fiestas and 3 year olds with fireworks, it really was fabulous. It really would never be allowed in The UK, there are too many killjoys.



For anyone who doesn’t have the slightest inkling of quite what Las Fallas is, I would say it’s similar to England’s Bonfire Night in the sense of setting light to things, but don’t hold me to that. It’s a Valencian tradition that celebrates the arrival of a new season, where past items are burnt in order to welcome the new. Huge Fallas are built, which are like big plastic statues, but artistic ones. These Fallas are put in the middle of the streets all over VLC to be gawped at by both locals and tourists. Roads all around the city are cut off and marching bands erupt in every corner of every district. Once you see how detailed and beautiful some of these Fallas are, you really do wonder why on earth would they be set alight? It’s ok, don’t get an emotional attachment… They build different ones every year.

The Fallas are all so immaculately detailed, it’s an incredible thing to see!

My Dad and Jill also came over for Fallas, which made for a really good weekend, especially for showing them around the city whilst it was at its most vibrant state. We put on our Valencian scarves and went to watch some incredible fireworks over the Turía, and the Fallas.

We found so many new parts of the city (I’ll be popping them on to my next post). We had such a lovely time and I was so happy to see them!

Finally, here’s some burning stuff.. 3 stages of burning!

After a short hop over Northern Spain and a skip over France, I arrived back in The UK for two weeks. I decided to come home during my second semester because I stayed in France for 6 months without coming home to the green, chilly island that will always be home. I missed it a lot.

I made a little impromptu trip to London with Lee for the Ideal Homes Exposition… And looked at all of the swimming pools that I can’t afford for the house that I don’t have. We went for a stroll to Buckingham Palace, Soho and Harrods, too. (I didn’t go for tea with The Queen, sorry to disappoint! )

Seeing as my dog missed the Fallas, I decided to make him become a Fallero for a day with a scarf… He doesn’t look too impressed, but it was for my own amusement… Sorry, Alfred!


I have just loved being at home with my parents and my dogs. I’ve had the loveliest time, and done a horrendous amount of shopping, an equally agonising amount of running, and absolutely no work:-):-):-).


I hope you enjoyed this post, it’s rather on the long side, what with all of the photos!

Gracias por leer, hasta la próxima!

Amy + Louie :-)


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