Sophomore Seminars

2666: A 21st Century Classic


The novel 2666 has been regarded as the first classic of world literature in the 21st century. At the end of this course, you will have read and studied this work in its entirety. Close to 1000 pages long, Roberto Bolaño's opus is both daunting and eminently readablea feast for serious readers and aspiring writers. It is a dark thriller that spans several continents, with memorable characters and unsuspected plot twists throughout. Similar to Anna Karenina or One Hundred Years of Solitude in ambition, it explores the limits of the sayable, and of the novel form. Its protagonists include vivacious young people, a lost German author, an African-American journalist in Mexico, gallivanting academics, and bodily remains. Some of its topics include literary fame and influence, exile, Cartel violence, and the legacies of World War II.

Take this course if you would like to gain solid training in the art of close reading, take your Spanish to the next level, immerse yourself in deep learning, familiarize yourself with current events in Latin America, and participate in a dedicated book salon. The reading pace is very moderate (20 pages every weekday), which allows for careful consideration and readerly enjoyment. The analytical skills you gain in this seminar are also highly portable: they will serve you well in all of your future scholarly pursuits.

The course combines small seminar discussion—a staple of humanities educationwith an approximation to a fresh, contemporary text. You will present on a small section of the book, write short response papers, and engage in various creative activities. Guest speakers and archival work will complement our regular activities.

Course is fully taught in Spanish, but you may consult the English translation of the novel. The sign-up process asks you to indicate your level in Spanishif in doubt sign up anyway.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Hector Hoyos

"I am a literary scholar who specializes in modern Latin American literature (from 1810 onwards). My primary areas of coverage include the Southern Cone, Colombia, and Cuba. I happen to be a Colombian national—I've been working on the subject matter of this course, in a sense, my whole life. After teaching for a number of years at a high school in Bogotá, I embarked on a Ph.D. in Latin American literature at Cornell. The rather harsh upstate New York winter was a sobering experience for someone from the tropics, yet it also allowed me to understand that the slow 'rainfall of yellow flowers' in García Márquez is actually modeled on seeing a snowfall.

"I enjoy teaching and researching at Stanford, where I have held a professorship since 2008. My current work deals with the representation of nature-culture (one word) in contemporary fiction from Guatemala, Bolivia, and Argentina, among other locales. I have a strong connection with Chile, Roberto Bolaño's country of origin, as well as with his experience of living abroad. I have taught at the Stanford overseas campuses of Santiago, Berlin, and Kyoto."