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BA Linguistics and Portuguese / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Reading the Rain Forest: Visions of the Amazon

Unit code SPLA30801
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Spanish, Portuguese and Latin
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world, home to almost half of the world’s living species and hundreds of indigenous cultures. From the time when the first Europeans sailed the waters of the Amazon river, the region has also captivated the imagination of travelers, businessmen, scientists, writers, and artists from other regions. With the independence of Brazil in the 19th century, the Amazon became the subject of frontier disputes, often playing a contradictory role in the new nation’s quest for identity: it was the “savage”, “uncivilized” territory that brought both shame and pride to nationalist discourses of all ideologies, which alternated between calling it an “earthly paradise”, and “green hell”. This course will examine how the Amazon is portrayed in a variety of media and genres: indigenous narratives, travel-writing, literature, and film.


Pre/Co/Antirequisite units

Pre-requisite - SPLA52040 Portuguese Language 4

Co-requisite - SPLA52050 Portuguese Language 5 (or equivalent)

Free choice Yes, as long as the student has adequate knowledge of Portuguese


Knowledge and understanding

Discuss key aspects of discourses about the Brazilian Amazon region.

Intellectual skills

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to:

  • Display cultural analytical skills (literary analysis, film analysis, and analysis of colonial and ecological history).

Practical skills

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a clear enhancement in their Portuguese vocabulary

Transferable skills and personal qualities

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate independent and critical thinking
  • Demonstrate ability to present material and ideas individually and collectively in oral and written form.
  • An ability to participate in group discussions
  • An ability to participate in internet discussions


Employability skills

¿ Improved command of Portuguese ¿ Independent and critical thinking ¿ Ability to express ideas and plans in writing ¿ Knowledge of environmental issues ¿ Ability to read and interpret written and visual works ¿ Team work ¿ Ability to create online presentations ¿ Ability to participate on online discussions ¿ Ability to do oral presentations to a group

Assessment methods

Essay 1 20%
Essay 2 60%
Group presentation 20%
Forum contributions (formative) 0%


Feedback methods

  • written feedback on presentations
  • written feedback on essays (midterm and final)
  • written feedback on participation in discussion group
  • additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)


Recommended reading

  1. Antonelli, Alexandre, et al. Amazonia is the primary source of Neotropical biodiversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. June 2018.
  2. Brando, P.M., et al. The gathering firestorm in southern Amazonia.Science Advances, 10 Jan. 2020.
  3. Fearnside, Philip M. Challenges for sustainable development in Brazilian Amazonia. Sustainable Development. 26 (2). April 2018.
  4. Marengo, J. A.. Extreme Seasonal Droughts in the Amazonia: causes, trends, and impacts. International Journal of Climatology. July 2015. Https://
  5. Moran, Emilio F. 1993. Through Amazonian Eyes. The Human Ecology of Amazonian Populations. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.
  6. Ramos, Alcida.1998. Development does not rhyme with Indian, or does it? In Indigenism: ethnic politics in Brazil. Madison: U. of Wisconsin Press.
  7. Revkin, Andrew. The Burning Season: The Murder of Chico Mendes and the Fight for the Amazon Rain Forest. London: Island Press, 1990.
  8. Ribeiro, Darcy. Diários Índios. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1996.
  9.  —-. Os Índios e a Civilização. Rio: Civilização Brasileira, 1970.
  10. Sá, Lúcia, Rainforest Literatures: Amazonian Texts and Latin American Culture. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2004
  11. —. Voicing Brazilian Imperialism: Euclides da Cunha and the Amazon. In Cunha, Euclides. The Amazon: Land Without History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006.
  12. —-. and Felipe Milanez Pereira. Painting Racism: protest art by contemporary indigenous artists. Brandellero, Sara, et al. Living (il)legalities in Brazil. Routledge, 2020 (in press).
  13. Slater, Candace. Dance of the dolphin : transformation and disenchantment in the Amazonian imagination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
  14. ---. Entangled Edens: visions of the Amazon. Berkeley: UCP, 2002.
  15. Villaça, Aparecida. Praying and preying: Christianity in indigenous Amazonia.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Lucia Sa Unit coordinator

Additional notes




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