What is Brazil? Reading Brazilian Popular Culture (MLP3003)

StaffDr Ana Martins - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

In this module, students will be invited to explore major cultural movements, political events and artistic approaches to race, gender and class in twentieth-century Brazil in the light of Gilberto Freyre's controversial thinking.  We will read a selection of texts authored by Freyre, proposing the idea of "cultural exceptionalism" and the doctrine of "lusotropicalism". We will then address the legacy of Freyre's controversial thinking by drawing on art produced at turning points in the history of Brazil, such as the modernist movement, Getulio Vargas' New State regime, and the black movement of the 1970s/80s.  We will discuss, for example, how male and female, white and non-white artists (musicians, visual artists, film directors and writers) have dealt with the concepts of "origins", "exceptionality", "lusotropicalism" and "mesticagem", and how their colour-blindness or ethnic particularism has influenced their reception as either "canonical" or "marginal" artists.  Participation in this module does not require any prior knowledge of Portuguese language or culture, although students may progress to it from previous study of "Introduction to the Lusophone World".

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Discuss key aspects of twentieth-century Brazilian history, politics and art in the light of Freyre's theoretical legacy
  • 2. Demonstrate an understanding of how Brazilian artists engage with prevailing myths of “racial democracy”, "lusotropicalism" and "cultural exceptionality"

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Demonstrate the competence to analyse texts (several genres) in conjunction with key essays of Anglophone and Lusophone postcolonialism, race and gender theory
  • 4. Demonstrate an understanding of how Brazilian artists engage with prevailing myths of “racial democracy”, "lusotropicalism" and "cultural exceptionality"

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. Work effectively with other students in groups and to sustain written and oral arguments coherently
  • 6. Think critically and independently

Syllabus plan

 The module will cover the following topics:

Selection of Gilberto Freyre's writing

Race, gender, class and national identity on screen (selection of film)

Race, gender, class and national identity on the page (selection of novels, poetry,


Brazilian national identity and artistic avant-guarde in the context of São Paulo's 1922

Week of Modern Art

1960s musical movement "Tropicália"

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities10Lectures - used to provide a framework within which key ideas, theories and historical events will be studied, and to outline the main themes and techniques employed by the writers/artists discussed
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities5Seminars - used to give students the opportunity to explore the points raised in the lectures and develop their own ideas through group oral presentations
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities5Oral presentations in twos or threes - held during the seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities1Tutorial
Guided independent study134private viewing of films, private reading of books; reading, planning and writing essays and presentations; revising

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay750 words3, 4, 6written and oral (in seminars)
Oral presentations7-10 minutes3, 5, 6Oral feedback (in seminars). Presentations are based on the topics covered in the lectures. These will be followed by a discussion in which all students will be expected to participate

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1003000 wordsall except 5written feedback sheet and personal appointment

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssayAll except 5Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary reading:

Amado, Jorge. 2006. Gabriela Clove and Cinnamon. Translated by James Taylor. New York: Random House Inc.

Assis, Machado. 1987. The Devil’s Church and Other Stories. Translated by Jack Schmitt and Lorie Ishimatsu. London: Grafton.

Barreto, Lima. 2015. The Sad End of Policarpo Quaresma. London: Penguin.

___. 1999. “The man who knew Javanese.” The Oxford Book of Latin-American Short-Stories. Edited by R. Echevarria. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Freyre, Gilberto. 1938. The Masters and the Slaves: a Study in the Development of Brazilian Civilisation. Translated by Samuel Putnam. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Jesus, Carolina Maria de. 1962. Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus. Translated by David St. Clair. New York: New American Library.

Alves, Miriam (ed). 1995. Enfim Nós: Escritoras Negras Brasileiras Contemporâneas / FinallyUs: Contemporary Black Brazilian Women Writers. Translated by Carolyn Richardson Durham. Colorado Springs, CO: Three Continents Press.

Alves, Miriam and Maria Helena Lima (eds). 2005. Women Righting: Afro-Brazilian Women’s Short-Fiction. London: Mango Pub.

Veloso, Caetano. Tropical Truth: A story of Music and Revolution in Brazil. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

Primary viewing:

City of God [Cidade de Deus]. Dir. Fernando Meirelles. 2002. Film.

Tent of Miracles [Tenda dos Milagres]. Dir. Nelson Pereira dos Santos. 1977. Film

Black Orpheus [Orfeu Negro]. Dir. Marcel Camus. 1959. Film

Tropicália. Dir. Marcelo Machado. 2012. Film

Primary hearing:

Tropicália: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound. 2006. Compilation.

Note: Although all texts will be provided in translation, students with knowledge of Portuguese

will be encouraged to read/view/listen to primary texts in the original Portuguese as appropriate.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Afolabi, Niyi. 2009. Afro-Brazilians: Cultural Production in a Racial Democracy. Rochester:

University of Rochester Press.

Aidoo, Lamonte and Daniel Silva. 2013. Lima Barreto: New Critical Perspectives. Plymouth:

Lexington Books.

Almeida, Miguel Vale de. 2004. An Earth-Colored Sea: “Race”, Culture and the Politics of Identity in the Portuguese-Speaking World. New York: Berghahn Books.

_____. ‘Portugal’s colonial complex: from Colonial Lusotropicalism to Postcolonial Lusophony’.

Queen’s Postcolonial Research Forum. http://site.miguelvaledealmeida.net/wpcontent/uploads/portugals-colonial-complex.pdf

Butler, Kim D. 1998. Freedoms Given, Freedoms Won: Afro-Brazilians in Post-Abilition São Paulo and Salvador. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Crook, Larry and Randal Johnson (eds). 2000. Black Brazil: Culture, Identity and Social Mobilization. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center.

Dávila, Jerry. 2010. Hotel Trópico: Brazil and the Challenge of African Decolonisation, 1950-1980. Durham, N. C.: Duke University Press.

Fanon, Frantz. 2006. 'The man of colour and the white woman'. The Fanon Reader. Edited by Azzedine Haddour. London: Pluto Press. 46-58

Ferreira. Ana Paula. 2012. 'Caliban's Travels'. The Lusotropical Tempest: Postcolonial Debates in Portuguese. Ed. Sheila Khan, Ana Margarida Dias Martins, Hilary Owen and Carmen Villar. Lusophone Studies Series 7. Bristol University Press, Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies. 29-42.

Hall, Stuart. 1996. “When was the Post-Colonial? Thinking at the Limit’. The Postcolonial Question. Edited by Ian Chambers and Lidia Curti. London and New York: Routledge. 242-59.

Hanchard, Michael George. 1998. Orpheus and Power: The Movimento Negro of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil, 1945-1988. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Jackson, K. David (ed). 2006. Oxford Anthology of the Brazilian Short-Story. Oxford: New York: Oxford University Press.

Sansone, Livio. 2003. Blackness without Ethnicity: Constructing Race in Brazil. New York; Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Santos, Boaventura de Sousa. 2002. ‘Between Prospero and Caliban: Colonialism, Postcolonialism and Inter-Identity’. Luso-Brazilian Review. 39:2. 9-43.

Schor, Patricia and Emanuelle Santos (eds). 2012. Brazilian Postcolonialities. Portuguese Cultural Studies, n.

4. http://www2.let.uu.nl/solis/psc/p/PVOLUMEFOUR/PVOLUMEFOURPAPERS/P4COM


Skidmore, Thomas. 1993. Black into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Szoka, Elzbieta (ed). 2002. Fourteen Female Voices from Brazil: Interviews and works. Austin:Host Publication.

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Brazil, postcolonial theory, feminism, gender, race, ethnicity, literature, Portuguese, slavery, afro-Brazilian culture, lusotropicalism, history, film, music