Languages, Literatures and Cultures


Erika M. Sutherland Erika M. Sutherland Email Erika M. Sutherland

Associate Professor of Spanish
Ettinger 104C
Office: 484-664-3518
Fax: 484-664-3722

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 new 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 empower immigrant professionals. It has since evolved to address the needs of all Hispanic immigrants in the area. The Grupo de Apoyo consists of a network connecting talented and engaged individuals with the immigration, education, medical, or official services they need and organizing meetings and excursions to foster a sense of community among the newly arrived. Our goal is to foster the skills and dreams of talented individuals, promoting their abilities among local businesses and professionals and providing a welcome space for them to share common experiences and interests. Of particular value to me as professor, the Grupo also provides a ready pool of Spanish-speakers for conversational intercambios and focus groups for our students.

As a member of the Board of Directors of Congregations United for Neighborhood Action (CUNA) and an active member of the CUNA organizing committee at the Lutheran Churches of St. Paul and San Martín de Porres, I have been pleased to how this organization brings immigrants and long-time neighbors together to work on common goals. Faith-based organizing is a powerful tool for immigrants: the security offered by a church setting is not unimportant to immigrants, some of who may not be documented, and the strengthening of churched or church-ready immigrant communities makes for a positive situation all around. With CUNA, the Grupo de Apoyo brought forth their concerns about police treatment of Hispanics and the language barrier impeding successful communication in emergencies. We led a successful campaign to have the Allentown Police Department Call Center hire Spanish-speaking 9-1-1 operators and train all 9-1-1 operators in the use of interpreting tools. This success has led us to our current work to provide support for the many renters in the community and develop a summer youth program with an emphasis on cuisine and culture. 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.

Courses taught in Spanish by Dr. Sutherland

SPN 507 - Capstone in Spanish Literature: The Oldest Profession: Prostitution, Empire, and Historical Memory - Spring 2013
SPN-507 Capstone in Spanish Literature: The Oldest Profession: Prostitution, Empire, and Historical Memory - Spring 2013

SPN-505 On Love and Other Diseases: The Lovesick Body in Spanish Literature - Spring 2011
SPN-505 On Love and Other Diseases: The Lovesick Body in Spanish Literature - Spring 2011

Muhlenberg College - Languages, Literatures and Cultures