31178 - Portuguese and Brazilian Literature 2

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Reduced inequalities Partnerships for the goals

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The aim of the course is to provide basic and well structured competencies in Portuguese and Brazilian cultural and literary history, with an ample repertoire of texts, contexts and concepts about the historical period at stake.

Course contents

The course, entitled "Empires of the past, Nations of the future: eccentric modernities in Portuguese and Brazilian contemporary cultures" is structured in two sections, inscribed in the same historic period but concentrated on two specific contexts, Portugal and Brazil.
The first part reconstructs the dominant, modernization lines of the national culture, in correspondence with the so-called "Third Portuguese Empire" (Africa). The most long and anachronistic European colonial empire in Africa is developed between the end of XIX century for a wide range of twentieth century, until the final destruction as a consquence of the Carnations Revolution of 1974 and the subsequent decolonization. Configuring - since Romanticism until late twentieth century- a dialectic between metropolis and colonies, the Portuguese culture had stages of modernization and alterne semiperipheral delays . Between a melancholic work and the obsession of identity, the "fin-de-siècle" Portuguese literature obsessively deals with past and future. In this context, strong writer voices are distinct and recognizable: José Saramago and Antonio Lobo Antunes.

The second part aims to approach the dynamics of Brazilian Modernism that, even if it had as epiphenomenon the celebrated "Semana de Arte Moderna de São Paulo" in 1922, today it has to be rethinked in a less canonical key. As a matter of fact, in this perspective, different kinds of modernity must be discussed, such as the so-called "pre-Modernism" and the radical modernity of the post-modernism, with important writers such as Guimarães Rosa and Clarice Lispector, up to the problems of contemporary literature, always keeping in mind the historical background of Brazil in the twentieth century. A specific focus will be devoted to the so-called "romance nordestino" in the decade of 30's which corresponds to a more radical ideological and aesthetic experience of the Modernism of the previous decade. In this perspective, Graciliano Ramos' important novel, Vidas secas, could provide us with a wide range of critical problematizations on the Brazilian complex link among modernity, modernism and modernization in the twentieth century.

Specific parts are directed to the students of the 2nd and 3th year, in paticular dedicated to text reading.


Portuguese Section

-Valeria Tocco, Breve storia della letteratura portoghese, Roma Carocci, 2011 (capp. 6-8)

-Roberto Vecchi e Vincenzo Russo (a cura di), La letteratura portoghese. I testi e le idee. Milano: Le Monnier Università, 2017 (Parte terza "Lo splendore del Portogallo ed il suo oltre", pp.355-621)

-Álvaro Garrido e Fernando Rosas, Il Portogallo di Salazar. Politica, società, economia. Bologna BUP: 2020; oppure Fernando Pimenta, Storia politica del Portogallo contemporaneo.

-Boaventura de Sousa Santos et alii, Atlantico periferico. Il postcolonialismo portoghese. Reggio Emilia: Diabasis, 2008.

-José Saramago, Levantado do chão (ou António Lobo Antunes, O esplendor de Portugal)

Brazilian Section

-Luciana Stegagno Picchio, Storia della letteratura Brasiliana (Einaudi) la formazione della nazione (capp 11-16)

-Angelo Trento, Un terra tra tradizione e progresso (il '900) o PaoloLingua Storia del Brasile o Boris Fausto Storia del Brasile

-G Ricciardi Scrittori brasiliani Tullio Pironti 2003 (il '900) In sostituzione la dispensa messa a disposizione.

-Graciliano Ramos, Vidas secas (oppure J. Guimarães Rosa, Primeiras estórias)

Teaching methods

The lessons (partly in Portuguese), based on the connection between concepts and contexts, will be followed by a seminar discussion on a selected bibliography. Individual readings on the main primary resources introduced during the course supported by a tutor during the preparation of the final test.

Assessment methods

The final exam is the result of partial tests. At the end of each module, it will be proposed two test structured through questions on the main conceptual, contextual and textual issues of the section in exam. The final grade will therefore be made up of the results of the tests of the partial exams. These trials will test the capacity of understanding the main concepts exposed during the course, connected to a descriptive knowledge of the analyzed contexts and the ability to navigate among the assigned readings, enhancing the capacity of synthesis and precision of expression especially about the conceptual keys. In terms of evaluation, an accurate knowledge of concepts, contexts and texts, combined with an effective capacity of argument, will be judged with the top score. A general knowledge of the historical and literary context and the main sources used but lacking a precise conceptual framework will be evaluated favorably even with intermediate results, while a purely manualistic or fragmentary knowledge of the structure of the course, although sufficient for the purpose of reporting the general framework of the course, it will get only a sufficient feedback. In this context, the capacity of synthesis, combined with a proper conceptual and terminological precision, contributes to improve the overall outcome of the exam.

Teaching tools

The course defines a strict dialogue between literatures and cultures for the period in exam. For this reason, beside literary texts, to which a specific workshop (reading and commenting) will pay special attention, other multemedia and internet contents will be introduced, in a hybrid format, in order to build an organic and clear framework of the historical context in discussion. Materials and lessons are made available to students for a better prepration of the course.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Roberto Vecchi