BA Spanish and Portuguese / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

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

  • Have a better understanding of the history of the Amazon region
  • Have a better knowledge about the Amazonian environment
  • Have a better understanding of social conflicts in the Amazonian region
  • Have a better understanding of how different discourses about the Amazon have been constructed

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 50%
Group presentation 10%
Active contribution to internet forum on current Amazonian topics 10%
Class participation 10%

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

  • Hecht, Susana, and Alexander Cockburn. The Fate of the Forest. Developers, Destroyers, and Defenders of the Amazon. Chicago. University of Chicago Press, 2011.
  • Slater, Candace. Entangled Edens: Visions of the Amazon. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

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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