Erika M. Sutherland
Chair, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Associate Professor of Spanish
A.B., Bryn Mawr College
M.A., Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Since joining Muhlenberg College's Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures in 1995, I have been teaching courses for the Spanish section in language, composition, translation, and especially Peninsular literature and culture. Like my teaching, my research also deals with the literature and cultures of Spain. I have written extensively on the nineteenth century Spanish novel, focusing primarily on the narrative representation of the female body and incorporating themes of gender-based violence, disease, pleasure, and work, considering always the relation between literature and society. I have a secondary interest in contemporary Gypsy writers in Spain, once again focusing on the relationships between the texts and social change.
As Muhlenberg's Spanish program grows our students' diverse range of needs and gifts has inspired new program offerings. What has been a constant is the intense interest of our students in using their Spanish to concrete ends, with real people, in real situations, in areas that draw upon their other skills and experiences. My service-learning courses Spanish for the Community: Interpreting and Spanish for the Community: Translation offer a solid introduction to local Hispanic/Latino culture and concerns as well as basic theories and methodologies of interpreting and translation. Through these courses I hope to channel the massive energy brought by our students to serve their needs as well as those of the large and growing communities of Spanish-speakers in the Lehigh Valley.
As our mission statement notes, "Muhlenberg College aims to develop independent critical thinkers who are intellectually agile, characterized by a zest for reasoned and civil debate, knowledgeable about the achievements and traditions of diverse civilizations and cultures, able to express ideas with clarity and grace, committed to life-long learning, equipped with ethical and civic values, and prepared for lives of leadership and service." My teaching pedagogy is entirely centered on these concepts and goals: in providing opportunities for students to flex their intellectual and linguistic muscles by using their Spanish in real-life settings and for real-life purposes, students find challenges that they must meet and negotiate at every step. I believe that from the language-level communicative classroom to the upper level literature and service-learning classes, these occasionally intimidating or uncomfortable situations are a necessary teaching tool that, used with care and attention to students' reactions, can be incomparably effective.
Community development work
Under my direction, the Grupo de Apoyo e Integración Hispanoamericano, a support group for Hispanic immigrants, was founded in 1999 to help immigrant professionals set down roots in the area. It has since evolved to address the needs of all Hispanic immigrants seeking our help. Our goal is to foster the skills and dreams of talented individuals and to provide a welcome space for them to share common experiences and interests. The Grupo de Apoyo consists of a network connecting talented and engaged individuals with the immigration, education, medical, or official services they need. We are committed to empowering the immigrant community through education, preparing young people for higher education, partnering with local cultural opportunities, and organizing events around local, regional, and national issues. We also partner with immigrant advocacy groups, working to advance comprehensive, coherent, and humane immigration reform and expanded opportunities for young immigrants. Of particular value to me as professor, the Grupo also provides a ready pool of Spanish-speakers for conversational intercambios and other collaborations with our students. One recent collaboration included work to develop content and translations for a bilingual immigrant web portal for the City of Allentown. WFMZ News (July 22, 2010)
In addition to working with community organizations, I regularly offer my services as a translator and interpreter, working to share information and culture between Spanish and non-Spanish speakers in a variety of settings.
In the news:
The Express Times -Article on Immigration 2013
Courses taught in Spanish by Dr. Erika M. Sutherland
- SPN-307- Spanish for the Community: Interpreting - Fall 2014
- SPN-507 - Capstone in Spanish Literature: The Oldest Profession: Prostitution, Empire, and Historical Memory - Spring 2013
- SPN-414 - Mujeres de letras: Women as Subjects and Creators in Contemporary Spanish Literature - Spring 2012
- SPN-505 - On Love and Other Diseases: The Lovesick Body in Spanish Literature - Spring 2011