Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

Pilar Barrera

Signum Clubs PreceptorSPACE PreceptorSPACE Team

Passionate about Art History, Fairy tales and the Japanese language

Pilar loves languages and literature. She's interested in fairy tales, especially Andersen's, Wilde's, and Japanese traditional tales. She's also passionate about Art Histoy, the Japanese language and culture. [see full bio...]

All Modules

A Brief Exploration of Japanese Poetry

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Medium intensity
Over the course of this module we will read and explore the work of a few major pre-modern Japanese poets in translation, putting them in their historical, cultural, and religious contexts along the way, but always focusing on the poetry itself. Group discussion is strongly encouraged. Poetry and poets covered will include that of the Manyōshū, Saigyō, Princess Shikishi, and Bashō. Time permitting, we can add to the list.

Art History – A Thousand Stories (Series)

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
Whenever we see a painting or a sculpture we might think many different things; we might wonder why we like or dislike it; what is its meaning; and why the artist created it in that way.

In this series we will explore different art periods, movements, and artists. We will discuss the context, symbolism, style, and what each of these periods/ movement/ artists tells us today.

Some of the questions we will ask during these modules are: what is art? How is art different from arts and crafts? What is the purpose of art? Why are some art pieces famous? What are some of the most prominent styles? Why are some artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh, so popular today but not during their own time? How and why do we relate to different pieces in different ways and with different emotional responses?

Each module stands on its own and no previous knowledge of Art History is required. The idea is to engage with the different topics from different lenses and to share different ideas and opinions about them.

Book Club: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Ha! Ha! You’re Mine!

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Medium intensity
Considered the first sci-fi novel, Frankenstein is much more than the famous monster who has entered pop culture. From philosophy to science, this novel deals with many issues, confuses the reader, and makes us wonder who the real hero is. We will discuss the themes, imagery, character development, and the many different allusions to other texts mentioned in the book in a relaxed and interactive way.

Children's Literature Modules: Exploring the Magic, Depth, and Adventures in Children's Books

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Medium intensity
This is the parent page for our Children's Literature modules which introduce students to the breadth and depth of texts available for study. Each month, our preceptors survey the group to see which text students are most interested in exploring next.

Children's books are full of unforgettabel characters, settings, and adventures. They take us to magic, often dangerous lands, and they also evoke beautiful imagery and deep feelings. In these modules we will explore from the gentleness of Japanese children's books to the wild Pippi Longstocking. We'll talk about their themes, setting, worldbuilding, and imagery.

Each module stands on it own, and no previous knowledge is required. Some of the texts we could explore in a given month include:
Nordic Madness: Exploring Children's Literature in Three Nordic Authors
Japanese Fairy Tales and Children's Literature

Note: Please refer to the Required Texts section on a month's iteration page to see which texts the group has decided upon for a given month.

Fairy Tales: An Adventure from the Writer's Perspective

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Medium intensity
Come explore Fairy Tales from the inside! In the first meeting each week Pilar Barrera will lift up a Fairy Tale technique, character archetype, or trope. We'll discuss the story at hand and how that story technique makes meaning. Then, students try their own hands at that technique! What do we learn when we push these ideas to their logical extremes? In the second meeting, Sparrow Alden will facilitate a workshop-style discussion of our original tale-telling work; we'll encourage one another as writers and appreciate one another as readers! Our goal is to complete the month with a deeper appreciation for the tales we all love and a folder with one to four good drafts of original tales.

Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Fairy Tales: From Apples to Bears

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
In this module, we will answer questions such as: what is a fairy tale? Why do we tell stories? What is the function of fairy tales? What are some recurring themes? Stories to be discussed include Snow White (with and without dwarfs), Little Red Riding-hood, the Little Match Girl, Thumbelina, and East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

Fairy Tales: Rats, Mice, and Birds

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
In this module, we will continue to explore fairy tales and discuss questions such as: what is the role of nature in fairy tales? What is the role of animals? What are some recurring themes in these tales? Stories to be discussed include “Cinderella”, “The Turnip”, “The Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage”, “The Forest Bride”, “The Daisy”, and “Five out of a Pod”.

Fairy Tales Studies: Exploring Fairy Tales from Around the World and from Different Authors

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
Sudying fairy tales takes us back to a time when stories where passed from culture to culture. These stories, replicated around the world, deal with fears and axieties, but they also give us hope as it is the smallest and most vulnerable the one who usually triumphs.

In these modules, we will explore different authors and fairy tales from around the world. Students will have the opportunity to read and re-read the Grimm brothers, Hans Christian Andersen, Andrew Lang, Oscar Wilde and fairy tales from differnet cultures such as Russia, and Japan. Each month, our preceptors will survey the group using to see which text students are most interested in exploring next.

We offer the following Fairy Tales Studies modules:
Fairy Tales: An Adventure from the Writer's Perspective
Fairy Tales: From Apples to Bears
Fairy Tales: Rats, Mice, and Birds
Fairy Tales: Tricksters, Fools, and Villains
Introduction to Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales
Introduction to Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tales: A House of Pomegranates
Introduction to Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tales: The Happy Prince and Other Tales
Japanese Fairy Tales and Children's Literature
Russian Fairy Tales: Journeys, Quests, and Chicken Legs
Yōkai and Legends: Exploring the Weird in Japanese and Latin American Cultures
Encountering the Japanese Weird through Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan
Exploring Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham
Fairy Tales: Beauty and the Beast

Note: Each module stands on its own and no previous knowledge is required. The idea is to read and discuss these stories, their themes, imagery, and see how we respond to them.

Fairy Tales: Tricksters, Fools, and Villains

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
In this module, we will examine fairy tales about tricksters and villains. We will discuss questions such as: why are tricksters important? What is the role of villains? What are some recurring themes in these tales? Stories to be discussed include “Hansel and Gretel”, “Bluebeard”, “Hans in Luck”, “Momotaro, the Peach Boy”, “The Bremen Musicians”, “The Old Woman and the Tramp”, and “The Tinder Box”.

Introduction to Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
In this module, we will read and discuss some of Andersen’s fairy tales. We will talk about their plot, characters, and specific imagery. We will also discuss Andersen’s influence on subsequent authors and expressions in different media.

Introduction to Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tales: A House of Pomegranates

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
Poignant, hilarious, ironic, sad, beautiful, Oscar Wilde’s literary fairy tales evoke vivid and intense imagery and discuss topics such as social status, wealth, and Christianity. In these modules, we will read and discuss Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales. We will talk about the plot, characters, specific nuances of the language, use of irony, and symbolism. We will also discuss stories that influenced some of the tales, especially Andersen’s tales such as “The Little Mermaid,” “The Shadow,” “The Darning Needle,” and others.

This module is part of a two-module series, but each one stands alone and is independent from the other. In the first module, we will talk about the fairy tales from The Happy Prince and Other Tales, and in the second module we will discuss A House of Pomegranates.

Introduction to Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tales: The Happy Prince and Other Tales

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
Poignant, hilarious, ironic, sad, beautiful, Oscar Wilde’s literary fairy tales evoke vivid and intense imagery and discuss topics such as social status, wealth, and Christianity. In these modules, we will read and discuss Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales. We will talk about the plot, characters, specific nuances of the language, use of irony, and symbolism. We will also discuss stories that influenced some of the tales, especially Andersen’s tales such as “The Little Mermaid,” “The Shadow,” “The Darning Needle,” and others.

This module is part of a two-module series, but each one stands alone and is independent from the other. In the first module, we will talk about the fairy tales from The Happy Prince and Other Tales, and in the second module we will discuss A House of Pomegranates.

Japanese Fairy Tales and Children's Literature

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
In this module we will talk about Japanese children’s literature and fairy tales and their connection to specific Japanese cultural aspects and values such as the acceptance of death and the imperfection of the world.

Japanese for Advanced Beginners

Discussion-based • Low intensity
In this series, we will continue to explore the beauty of the Japanese language and culture. We will read tales, learn more complex structures, widen general vocabulary, and we will also start reading and writing kanji. みなさん、これからも一緒に日本語を勉強したい!楽しみにしています!

Japanese for Beginners Series

Discussion-based • Low intensity
In this series of modules, you will get familiarized with basic Japanese vocabulary and structures. Using a communicative approach, you’ll learn basic expressions, start to learn the hiragana script, and recognize katakana and kanji in a fun and interactive way. We will also explore Japanese culture in general. いっしょに日本語を学びましょう!

Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT): N5 Test Prep

Mixed Lecture/Discussion •
This module is offered for those Japanese language students who wish to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, level N5. We will not be learning new language skills in this module. Instead we will be reviewing and repetitively practicing the precise set of skills tested on the JLPT N5 test, as well as covering various test-taking strategies. We'll cover all the sections in the exam and, apart from working in class, we'll have some homework assignments to further develop test-related skills. Upon passing the test, participants will receive an official certification of language skill level from the Japanese government.

Nordic Madness: Exploring Children's Literature in Three Nordic Authors

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Medium intensity
In this module we will join the madness, adventure and melancholy of three famous Nordic authors: Hans Christian Andersen, Astrid Lindgren, and Tove Jansson. From the tragic unrequited love of a snowman to the crazy adventures of Pippi Longstocking and the Moomins, this module is a rollercoaster of emotions and beautiful imagery. You will need two books: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren and Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson.

Russian Fairy Tales: Journeys, Quests, and Chicken Legs

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
In this module we will explore some of the most important Russian fairy tales, their archetypal characters, and beautiful imagery. We will travel to magical lands and meet incredible characters, even a talking pancake!

Spanish for Beginners Series

Discussion-based • Low intensity
This series is designed for beginners of Spanish who have had very little or no previous contact with the language. The purpose of the course is to build up communication skills through interactive and dynamic sessions. The modules overview essential vocabulary, expressions, and grammar, but we’ll also take a look at cultural aspects such as celebrations, artists, music, and food. This is a progressive course: each module builds on the concepts studied in the previous one, so that, as the modules advance, other students with prior knowledge may join. Vamos a aprender español!

Yōkai and Legends: Exploring the Weird in Japanese and Latin American Cultures

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
Ghost stories are an important element from all cultures, but in weird and, of course, mysterious ways, there seem to be similar legends and stories of Yōkai in Japanese and Latin American Cultures. From the similarities of Obon with Día de los Muertos to different legends such as Kuchisake onna and La Llorona, we will discuss these legends within their cultural context and have fun with these weird and fantastic beings.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].