Introduction to Brazilian Literature (in English)

Cross-listed with PORT 392

This course explores the genealogy of the myth of ‘racial democracy’ through Brazilian literature.

Since its independence in 1822, Brazil has engaged in carving an original national identity in counter distinction to the history of its colonizers, drafting a narrative based on what is now well-known as the ‘fable of the three races’, in which European, Black and Indigenous populations were the legitimate protagonists of the history of the new tropical nation and the hallmark of its Brazilianness. This later sedimented in the notion of ‘racial democracy’. The celebration of Brazilian plurality –presented through multiple artistic expressions and certain nationalist rituals– was and is, however, accompanied by constant policies of production of invisibility and social exclusion.

The objective of this course is to explore key texts of Brazilian literature while disassembling the trope of ‘racial democracy’.

We will analyze narratives about the idea of ​​’Brazil’ from 1500 onwards, but a special emphasis will be given to literary production of the 19th century, since this period was central to the invention of the ideas of what a nation is. We will then address Brazilian modernism and tropicalism during the 20th century, as well as contemporary popular/subaltern literary expressions –such as cordel literature and Carnival samba-enredo– as integrals to this trajectory.

Focusing on the meticulous reading of the proposed texts, students are expected to reflect on history as something complex (and not linear), developing critical thinking tools necessary to understand culturally embedded processes of racism and exclusion that take place in Brazil as well as everywhere.

Weekly readings will be complemented by visual materials (paintings, videos, films, etc.). English translations of the Brazilian texts will be available on Canvas.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Language of instruction: English

Note: This course fulfills the Faculty of Arts Literature Requirement.