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Language Laboratory

English-Modern Languages

Mary Blackwood Collier
Mary Docter
Leonor Elías

Westmont College
Modern Languages
955 La Paz Road
Santa Barbara, CA 93108

Dr. Mary Docter
Professor of Spanish

Phone: 805.565.7182
Campus Address: Reynolds Hall

I was born and raised in a loving home in the San Fernando Valley, a sprawling suburb of Los Angeles, California. The third of six children, family has always been very important to me. Because of family, each Sunday my husband, son, and I make the long commute to Pasadena to attend the Salvation Army church, the same church I grew up in and which my entire family attends. My family has taught me much about love, about relationships, about commitment--commitment to each other and to God.

I attended UCLA for my entire academic career. A major highlight was my junior year abroad in Mexico City, where I came to love the Spanish language, Hispanic culture, Latin American literature, and the Latino people. Therefore, following graduation, I decided to return to Mexico and teach elementary school, which I did for two years. Since I was a little girl, I have always known I wanted to be a teacher. (I used to make little tests on my father's Underwood typewriter which my younger siblings were forced to suffer through!) To be honest, however, after dealing with 4th-6th graders five days a week, it was clear that God had called me to university teaching! I have been at Westmont since 1992, having taught at Scripps College (Claremont) and UCLA prior to my arrival here. For me, teaching is not just a career; it is a calling and a passion. It invigorates and enriches me daily.

Outside of the classroom, I enjoy traveling (especially throughout Latin America), walking on the beach each morning, reading good novels and poetry, and just relaxing at home with friends. I live in Carpinteria with my husband, Eric, and my five-year-old son, Gabriel. We are currently awaiting the arrival of a daughter, due in November.


1991 U.C.L.A. Ph.D. (with Distinction), Hispanic Languages and Literatures
1984 U.C.L.A. M.A. (with Highest Honors), Spanish
1981 U.C.L.A. B.A. (Summa cum laude), Spanish


 "José Emilio Pacheco: A Poetics of Reciprocity," Hispanic Review (forthcoming).
"Faith Teaching Across Cultures," Word and Deed (forthcoming, November 2000).
"Death and Resurrection in César Vallejo's Late Poetry," Journal of Christianity and Foreign Languages 1:1 (Spring 2000), 59-73."La piedra y la masa: Un análisis comparativo de dos textos de Vallejo," Hispania 72:1 (March 1989), 73-77.

Selected Presentations

"Language at Work: Building a Successful Internship Program." Paper presented at the North American Association of Christian Foreign Language and Literature Faculty (NACFLA) Annual Meeting, 2000.

"Talking Pictures: The Word as Image." NACFLA, 1997.

"A Community of Voices: The Poetry of José Emilio Pacheco." Louisiana Conference on Hispanic Languages and Literatures (LA CHISPA), 1995.
"Dreaming Man: Myth and Archetypes in Jorge Luis Borges's 'Las ruines circulares'." NACFLA, 1994.

"The Committed Poet: Ethics and Aesthetics in José Emilio Pacheco." American Association of Teachers of Spanish & Portuguese (AATSP), 1991.

"El personaje ausente: La visión de la mujer en el Martín Fierro." The Woman in Hispanic Literature Symposium, UCLA, 1989.

"Isabel Fraire: Expanding Poetic Consciousness." AATSP, 1988.

Honors and Awards

The Graves Award in the Humanities (recipient of $10,000 grant), 1998.
Teacher of the Year Award, Westmont College, 1998.
Program on Mexico Grant recipient, UCLA, 1989
Mabel Wilson Richards Scholarship (for graduate work), 1987, 1988, 1989.
Distinguished Teaching Award, UCLA, 1987.
Nancy Wing Award, UCLA (for Outstanding Achievement on an M.A. exam), 1985.
Member Phi Beta Kappa.

Research Interests

My principal research interest is 20th century Latin American literature, especially poetry. I am currently writing on José Emilio Pacheco, one of Mexico's leading poets and thinkers today. I also greatly enjoy Hispanic film and Colonial Latin American literature (especially the writings of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a 17th century Mexican feminist nun).

Hispanic culture is also one of my passions. Over the past several summers, with the help of various grants, I have enjoyed travelling throughout Spain, South America, Central America, and Mexico in order to interview and record (on video) the oral history of a large cross-section of the population. I spoke with individuals from various social classes, ethnicities, occupations, and ages, and specifically targeted those whose voice might not otherwise be heard - the elders, the marginalized, the poor. This experience has greatly enriched me as a teacher, and has allowed me to bring into the classroom unique multi-media materials (which I continue to compile) to supplement and enhance all of my Spanish courses.


At Westmont I teach:

Intermediate Spanish I & II is a review course in which we delve deeper into the finer points of Spanish grammar. We also read short pieces of literature, essays on Hispanic culture, and write brief compositions. My goal is for students to feel comfortable in the classroom in order to communicate effectively in Spanish. I like to involve every student in the class, and try to make learning the grammar as fun as possible through games, role-playing, creative exercises in the lab (using the web and email), and an abundance of lively in-class conversation.

Advanced Spanish is designed to be a "bridge" course between lower and upper-division Spanish. It is an intensive writing course in which we also review and refine the finer points of Spanish syntax, and begin an introduction to literary analysis (learning how to read and analyze a work of literature). Each student builds a portfolio of their writing - revising, editing and polishing their work both individually and with the help of peer editors in class. Through this process, students learn how to read more critically and to write with greater clarity.

Survey of Latin American Literature to 1885 provides an historical overview of the major authors, genres, and developments in Latin America from the conquest to the late 19th century. To enhance our understanding of the texts, we also study the historical and cultural context in which they were written. Students write several short essays, three exams, and give one formal oral presentation.

Survey of Latin American Literature, 1885 to the Present is a continuation of the previous survey course, focusing on the major authors and developments in Latin American literature from the modernista movement to the present. Short selections from several authors are read and analyzed, including works from Rubén Darío, Gabriela Mistral, Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda, Juan Rulfo, Octavio Paz, Gabriel García Márquez, and Isabel Allende.

Hispanic Cultures: Latin America introduces students to the principal aspects of Latin American history and culture, focusing especially on the tension that currently exists between the forces of tradition and those of change. Through literature, film, art, and the web, we explore various topics such as social class, ethnicity, the family, gender roles, education, and religion. Students are encouraged to share their own experiences with Latino culture, and each student (with a partner) will give three oral presentations to the class.

Hispanic Film and Literature is a study of Hispanic film as a narrative and visual medium. The course is neither a history of Hispanic film nor a survey of its greatest works, but is rather designed to provide an introduction to the basic concepts of film analysis. We examine the "literary" components of film (plot, theme, symbols, etc.), the visual and formal elements (lighting, editing, camera angles, sound, etc.), as well as the sociological context (e.g. the way women are represented, the role of violence, etc.). We also study the relationship between film and literature through the analysis of works of fiction and their corresponding film adaptations. Through extensive journal writing, reflection, discussion, and several analytical and response papers, students will develop their "visual literacy" and their analytical abilities in "reading" a film, as well as become more discerning viewers of film in any language.

Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry, Twentieth-Century Latin American Short Story, and Twentieth-Century Latin American Novel are three classes that are similar in that they are more advanced courses taught as a seminar, with greater student input and responsibilities. Each course focuses on the major authors of each genre. In poetry, we examine representative texts from César Vallejo, Pablo Neruda, and Octavio Paz, amongst others. Short story authors include Quiroga, Borges, Rulfo, García Márquez, and recent women writers like Isabel Allende and Luisa Valenzuela. Novelists include Rulfo, Fuentes, García Márquez, Puig, Allende, and others. Students are expected to help teach the class on a regular basis, and write both analytical essays as well as creative response papers, such as original poems and stories to share with the class.

Practicum gives students practical experience outside the university setting in the working world, in which students can use their Spanish in various situations. For example, a student may work in a bilingual school, in a clinic or hospital, in a business, church, or social service agency, to name just a few. A main advantage of this course is that it gives students the opportunity to combine their interest in Spanish language and culture with their other interests or majors like business, communications, medicine, or education. Students keep a journal of their experiences (in which they also reflect upon issues of faith), write essays, and meet weekly with an assigned partner to discuss their progress.

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