BA Film Studies and Russian / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Empire and its Aftermath: The Making of Modern Portugal in Literature, Art and Film

Course unit fact file
Unit code SPLA20141
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course explores a range of literary, artistic and cinematic works that chart the evolution of modern Portugal from 1870 to the present day.  The course begins with the empire in crisis in the late-nineteenth century, moves through the fascist dictatorship of the Estado Novo, and ends with the post-revolutionary years of “modernisation”, EU membership and the financial crisis.  It charts the shifts in Portuguese history and culture that have shaped the nation as we know it today, analysing themes such as the relationship between the family, nation and empire, the role of gender and sexuality in forging ideas about national identity, the critique of empire and dictatorship from Marxist, feminist, and postcolonial perspectives, and the pressures of globalisation felt in Portugal as it has renegotiated its place in the world.  The course is also an opportunity to become acquainted with the major artistic movements that have influenced Portugal over the past 150 years, from Naturalism and the nineteenth-century novel to modernism and post-modernism.  It also engages with a broad range of material and genres from the canon and beyond, spanning literature, film, painting, and street art from Lisbon today. 


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Portuguese Language 1 SPLA52010 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Portuguese Language 3 SPLA52030 Co-Requisite Compulsory

Available on programmes: Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies single honours; Joint honours with Portuguese; Minor in Portuguese 

Medium of Language: English and Portuguese

Pre-requisite SPLA52010 or SPLA52030


•  To understand key authors, cultural movements, artistic and cinematic representations of Portugal since 1870, with a view to mapping the nation’s shifting identity through decolonisation and entry into the European Union

•  To enhance the necessary skills for close, contextual and comparative analysis of key literary texts and film images and relevant critical material on these works

•  To work effectively in collaboration with other students, and to sustain written and oral arguments coherently

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate knowledge of key themes and developments in Portuguese political and cultural history since 1870
  • Significantly develop and expand intercultural understanding and perspectives
  • Understand the importance of empire and decolonisation in Portugal’s past and present
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of Portuguese history and cultural expression in relation to broader European contexts and the European Union
  • Understand the concept of a literary “canon” and its relation to national politics and socio-economic forces
  • Demonstrate familiarity with key principles of theoretical approaches to gender and sexuality and their contribution to a different understanding of Portugal’s past and present

Intellectual skills

  • Develop close reading skills alongside a clear ability to contextualise historically
  • Demonstrate the ability and skills to analyse a broad range of media, from literature to film and visual art
  • Compare texts across history with a view to thinking thematically and theoretically
  • Research, organise and deploy relevant bibliographical materials
  • Read, appraise and evaluate a wide range of specific critical materials in English and Portuguese

Practical skills

  • Communicate coherently and effectively in writing
  • Organise time efficiently and prepare work in advance
  • Analyse and write about film and cinematic production deploying appropriate critical frames of reference
  • Present work clearly and use referencing systems correctly and efficiently

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Work effectively in a team
  • Show enhanced intercultural understanding
  • Evaluate material critically and comparatively
  • Work to deadlines

Employability skills

- Communicate, debate and write complex ideas in a clear and concise manner - Demonstrate a sound understanding of Portuguese culture and a broad knowledge of its past and national identity. - Develop a high level of reading in Portuguese - Evaluate material critically and comparatively - Work as part of a group - Independent research skills, including managing a range of resources

Assessment methods

Assessment taskFormative or SummativeWeighting within unit (if Summative)
CommentaryFormative and Summative30%

Resit Assessment:





Feedback methods

Feedback MethodFormative or Summative
Written feedback on commentary and coursework essay Formative and Summative
One-to-one feedback session during office hours or by appointment Formative 

Recommended reading

Maria Manuel Lisboa, Paula Rego's Map of Memory: National and Sexual Politics (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 1998).

Maria Manuel Lisboa,Madwomen, Whores and Torga: Desecrating the Canon?”, Portuguese Studies, Vol. 7 (1991), pp. 170-183.

David J. Bailey, “Com o odioso guarda-chuva entre os joelhos: Queer Male Desire, Weak Paternity and Kinship Trouble in the Novels of Eça de Queirós”, Modern Language Review, 111 (2016), 413-33.

Alexandro Severino,“Fernando Pessoa: A Modern Lusiad”, Hispania, Vol. 67, No. 1 (1984), pp. 52-60.

Ellen Sapega, “Mining Memory's Archive: Two Recent Portuguese Documentaries about the Second World War”. Unpublished manuscript for consultation only (blackboard).

Engels, The Condition of the Working Classes in England, chapter 1 (available online).

Michel de Certeau, “Walking in the city”, from The Practice of Everyday Life, translated by Steven Rendall (London: University of California Press, 1984), pp. 91-111.

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Bailey Unit coordinator

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