Afro-Brazil: Ideas of Africa in Brazilian Fiction (MLP3002)

StaffDr Natalia Pinazza - Lecturer
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

In this research-led module, you will be invited to explore key literary representations of race and ethnicity published in Brazil post-1880s. Literary texts (short-stories, films and novels) will be studied in the light of major cultural movements, political events and theoretical approaches to racial thinking in Brazil. We will examine the relationship between race, gender and nation in the context of: Brazil’s abolition of slavery, Gilberto Freyre’s understanding of the Afro-Brazilian legacy; the Brazilian modernist movement; Representation of Afro-Brazilian Identity in Cinema.  We will discuss, for example, how male and female, white and non-white writers have dealt with the concepts of “origins” and “ancestrality,” “authenticity” and “exoticism,” “lusotropicalism” and “utopia,” in their dealings with race and ethnicity, and how their colour-blindness or ethnic particularism has influenced their reception as either “canonical” or “marginal” writers.  Participation in this module does not require any prior knowledge of Portuguese language or culture, although you may progress to it from previous study of 'An Introduction to Portuguese' and/or “Introduction to the Lusophone World.” 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Discuss key aspects of Brazilian literature post-1880s in historical context
  • 2. Demonstrate a gender and race-informed understanding of how empire, colonial violence, slavery and the myth of “racial democracy” are represented by Brazilian writers

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Mount a detailed argument in the appropriate register of English, using quotations from both the primary text and secondary critical sources
  • 4. With some guidance, evaluate and apply a range of critical approaches to the material covered

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

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction. History of Brazil
  • Gilberto Freyre, The Masters and the Slaves
  • Machado de Assis (selection of short-stories)
  • Lima Barreto, “The man who knew Javanese” (short-story)
  • Jorge Amado, Tent of Miracles (novel)
  • Carolina Maria de Jesus, Child of the Dark (testimonial novel)
  • Barravento (Glauber Rocha, 1969)
  • City of God (Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002)
  • Madame Satã (Karim Aïnouz, 2002)
  • Revision

Group oral presentations in twos or threes will be held during seminars. These will be based on the topics covered in the lectures and followed by a discussion in which all students will be expected to participate.

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 Teaching9Lectures (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 Teaching7Seminars (used to give you the opportunity to explore the points raised in the lectures and develop their own ideas through group oral presentations).
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 words3-5In seminars

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 words1-4,6Written 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
EssayEssay1-4,6Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary reading:

  • Alves, Miriam (ed).1995. Enfim Nós: Escritoras Negras Brasileiras Contemporâneas / Finally Us: 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.
  • Amado, Jorge. 1971. Tent of Miracles. Translated by Barbara Shelby. London: Collins Harvill.
  • Assis, Machado. 1987. The Devil’s Church and Other Stories. Translated by Jack Schmitt and Lorie Ishimatsu. London: Grafton.
  • Barreto, Lima. “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.
  • Lins, Paulo. 2006. City of God. Translated by Alison Entrekin. London: Bloomsbury.

Note: Although all texts will be provided in translation, students with knowledge of Portuguese will be encouraged to read primary texts in the original Portuguese as appropriate.

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.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

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