Claudia Castro ’18 with Dr. Javier Fernández Urenda, associate professor of Spanish
Claudia Castro ’18 with Dr. Javier Fernández Urenda, associate professor of Spanish

Claudia Castro ’18 is spending a lot of time this summer looking at pictures in a magazine, but she’s not idly thumbing through the pages of Vanity Fair. She’s doing research related to a 19th-century Spanish journal.

The Spanish and criminal justice major is categorizing, dating and recording the captions for images from Comic World, a weekly satirical journal published in Madrid from 1872-76. Another part of her work also involves creating a catalog of images from the journal.

“I enjoy seeing the hidden messages in some of these images,” said Castro, who grew up bilingual thanks to her Spanish-born parents. “I’ve been surprised by how cleverly they used their words. They never said, for example, ‘This is a prostitute,’ but you could tell. Sometimes, though, I have been challenged by having to translate slang or outdated words.”

Castro’s project in the Summer Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (SURI) program is part of an ongoing research effort by Dr. Javier Fernández Urenda, associate professor of Spanish, who has twice presented on the journal at conferences and is working on a long article.

“It’s important to study popular literature like this, which tells us more about everyday life than the canonical literature that scholars and college students often read,” said Fernández Urenda. “This journal was focused on women but touched on a variety of other topics, including education, science and traditions.”

The other half of Castro’s SURI project, “Women and Modernity in 19th Century Spanish Literature and Mass Media,” combines her two majors. She is doing research for an article she will write on women and crime related to women in 19th century Spain. 

“There is some overlap between the two projects. I’ve been gathering images for my article while uploading and cataloging images for Dr. Fernández Urenda,” said Castro, from Centreville, who will study at the University of Valencia in Spain this fall.

Fernández Urenda called Claudia’s idea to combine these two ideas “really clever. She is the only student I know of who is capable of tackling this task.”

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