Carnegie Mellon University

Susan Polansky

Susan Polansky

Department Head and Teaching Professor of Hispanic Studies, Modern Languages Department


My teaching and research activities in Hispanic Studies, service learning, and the development of curricular materials have always been closely connected and have invigorated each other. Over the years, I have taught courses at all levels of the Hispanic Studies program, and more recently I have led the Department's Tutoring for Community Outreach service-learning course, and taught the Modern Languages Senior Capstone Seminar, as well as special topics courses focusing on Hispanic Studies.

Tutoring for Community Outreach is built on a longstanding collaboration between the Department of Modern Languages and the Pittsburgh Public Schools. This opportunity for community-based learning reflects the growing trend of universities and local partners building productive linkages for learning and growth. Undergraduate students of Modern Languages with a wide variety of academic and career interests and MA students in the Department’s Applied Second Language Acquisition program work with pupils and teachers of Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and English as a Second Language in grades one through twelve. My colleagues, students, and I have given presentations and published works to share the history and activities of this flexible curriculum-based model.

My research in Peninsular Spanish literature and Hispanic cultural studies focuses primarily on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Spanish writers and on cross-cultural currents between Spain and the Americas beginning with the arrival of Spaniards in the Americas. The Poet as Hero: Pedro Salinas and His Theater is a study of the senior member of the Spanish Generation of 1927 and his turn to writing plays in exile from Spain. My books Tristana by Benito Pérez Galdós and Abel Sánchez by Miguel de Unamuno are unabridged, student-friendly editions of these novels. With an introduction, notes, and glossary, these editions are designed to promote students’ reading and critical thinking abilities in Spanish. Tristana explores attitudes and societal norms related to the convention of marriage in nineteenth-century Spain. Abel Sánchez offers an incisive treatment of the passion of envy set in the context of Spanish history. Another area of my research focuses on cacao in Europe and the Americas. Cacao was first introduced into Europe through Spain early in the sixteenth century, both as a food and a medicine. My work examines documents that trace the evolution of its reception and the growth of its popularity.

My teaching has also informed the development of Spanish textbooks for intermediate and advanced level students as well as a work text for elementary level students. I have coauthored with Gene S. Kupferschmid Eso es, with activities for grammar review through independent study and group work, and Exploraciones: Campos y culturas profesionales, designed to offer students a vehicle for learning about a variety of fields and career paths via their study of Spanish.