For Spanish professor Linda Metzler, the best moments in a Spanish language or literature class are when the discussion catches fire and the students simply won't stop talking. It can be tough to keep ideas flowing in a foreign language, but Metzler's students learn to shed their inhibitions and plunge ahead.
They take their cue from Metzler herself, who conveys boundless enthusiasm for Spanish culture, and who seems always to be returning from another trip to Spain with a fresh armload of books, magazines, newspapers, films, festival programs, and art objects to share. She teaches all levels of Spanish and periodically develops new courses—one, for example, examines films of the Franco and post-Franco era.
But her first love is poetry, and the musicality of poetry. "I'm fascinated," she said, "by how sound takes you places in poems." Her students learn to read closely, to enter fully into a poem, often by way of rhythms, phrasing, dialogue, the oral (and aural) contours of language. The text opens outward, from phrases and lines toward meanings, thematic trends, and historical context.
In her film course, she takes the opposite tack, working from broad to narrow. The day after a film showing, class begins with a free-for-all discussion (in Spanish, naturally). Later, the students explore specific questions, eventually scrutinizing individual scenes.
Metzler's own research includes work on the Spanish poet Angel Crespo, whom she actually got to know before his death in 1995. "Crespo's poems resist closure," she said. "He's always questioning our ability to plumb what he sees as the world's mysteries."