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Doctor of Philosophy in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies

The Ph.D. Program in Portuguese and Brazilian is advanced graduate study in the language, literatures and cultures of the Portuguese-Speaking World, with concentration on one or more the following areas: Continental and Insular Portugal, Brazil, Lusophone Africa, and Luso-America. Students enrolled in this program are able to take advantage of the diverse expertise of the Department's faculty, which embraces specializations in Literature, Language, Philosophy, Comparative Literature, History, Ethnic and Cross-Cultural Studies, Anthropology, Judaic Studies, and Bilingual Education. It is the Department's philosophy that all students should grasp the global nature of the Portuguese-Speaking World and study its language, literatures, and cultures as well as apply the tools of research and scholarship to their individual programs of study. While this doctoral program will allow for an interdisciplinary component, the emphasis of the core program will be in the Portuguese language and Luso-Brazilian literature and culture. The program has an outstanding placement record for its graduates.

The standard route to the Ph.D. is the successful completion of sixteen courses, a general examination (second year), a preliminary examination (third year), a pre-dissertation colloquium, and a dissertation.


Specific Requirements for the Doctoral Program


The Department recognizes that doctoral students in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies have varied interests and therefore it encourages each student to construct his or her individualized program in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. Nevertheless, the Department also finds it necessary to provide students with guidance regarding our overall expectations for course load and distribution across the various regions of the Portuguese-speaking world and different historical periods.

1. Students will complete a minimum of sixteen courses, two of which may be independent studies.

2. First-year students who are the recipients of fellowships must enroll in four courses each semester. Second-year students should normally enroll in three courses each semester. In consultation with the DGS, third-year students will choose the pattern of courses that best suits their completion of the department's course requirements together with their preparation for preliminary examinations.

3. Students will complete a minimum of six graduate seminars in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies (POBS 2000 courses). These seminars may not be replaced by independent studies.

4. At least fourteen of the minimum sixteen courses should be taught by members of the Portuguese and Brazilian Studies faculty, including courses with primary listings in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies as well as in related department such as Africana Studies, Comparative Literature, History, etc.

5. Although students will specialize in a particular area or period, courses should be distributed across the various regions of the Portuguese-speaking world and different historical periods.

6. In addition to courses on modernist and contemporary Brazilian and Portuguese literature, students will complete a minimum of two courses focusing entirely or in part on Brazilian literature before 1900, a minimum of two courses focusing entirely or in part on Portuguese literature before 1900, a minimum of one course focusing on Lusophone African literature, a minimum of one course on Brazilian History/Culture and a minimum of one course on Portuguese History/Culture.1

7. Students should understand that sixteen is only the minimum REQUIRED number of courses. Students are free to take or audit additional courses and to enroll in additional independent studies both in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies and in other departments beyond the sixteen-course minimum.

8. Deviations from these guidelines should be requested in writing and require approval by the Department's Executive Committee.

1 Brazilian and Portuguese History/Culture is understood here in a broad sense. In addition to the courses offered by the two historians in the department, such courses as “Portuguese Culture and National Identity” (Almeida), “Afro-Brazilians and the Brazilian Polity” (Dzidzienyo) and “The Brazilian Puzzle: Confronting the Postcolonial Legacy” (Valente), among others, would satisfy this requirement.

General Examination:
A four-hour written examination (half of it in English and half of it in Portuguese) covering a reading list of twenty basic works in the field. Students are expected to take this examination during their third semester in residence. Sample questions are available from the Director of Graduate Studies.

Preliminary Examination:
A two-day (three hours per day) written, in-depth examination on two broadly defined areas, developed by the student in consultation with a committee made up of at least three faculty members. The committee should include faculty members who are not only familiar with the candidate’s work but whose research expertise and teaching interests most closely match the topics presented by the candidate.

The preliminary examination is normally held at the conclusion of the student's coursework (third year). In consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, students should form their prelim committees and start developing their prelim areas by the end of their second year. During the preparation period for their prelims, students should meet regularly with all committee members to discuss their chosen areas, review reading lists, and plan the details of the exam.

Proposals for the preliminary examination include three-page narratives conceptualizing each area and a bibliography of primary and secondary materials. Final copies of the proposals must be filed with the committee at least two weeks before the scheduled date for the examination. Students are encouraged to examine copies of previously submitted proposals, which are available from the Director of Graduate Studies and are also kept in a folder in the graduate students’ lounge (third floor).

The content of the preliminary examination will vary, depending on each student's program, with the stipulation that half of the exam will be written in Portuguese and half in English. The exam will be prepared and evaluated by each student’s committee. A decision on the candidate's performance on the exam must be given within two weeks.

Upon completion of the preliminary examination, students are officially advanced to candidacy (ABD) and qualify for a Master of Arts degree in course (see below).

Pre-Dissertation Colloquium:
A public oral presentation and discussion of the student’s dissertation proposal, open to all faculty and graduate students in the Department, normally to be given within the semester following the preliminary examination. The colloquium consists of a twenty-to-thirty-minute presentation by the candidate followed by a discussion with the members of the dissertation committee (see below under “Dissertation”). Copies of the proposal will be made available to interested faculty members and graduate students at least one week before the scheduled date for the colloquium. Please, contact the department manager, Ms. Armanda Silva.

The dissertation proposal consists of the following components:

(1) Introduction: Overview of main ideas, hypotheses, objectives, and themes.

(2) Contexts: (a) Theoretical considerations; (b) Comparative or historical/literary treatments of this theme/topic in the context of the Portuguese-speaking world; (c) Research sites and/or archives if applicable.

(3). Narrative (10-15 pages): Specifics about the development of the dissertation with a tentative outline of chapters and conclusion; contents of the thesis regarding authors, corpus of texts, materials, and other relevant items; main arguments and relation of these to overall objective.

(4). Working Bibliography (approximately 10 pages): Primary and secondary materials, including theory and relevant criticism on specific author, texts, movements, etc.

Students are encouraged to consult copies of previously accepted dissertation proposals, which are available from the Director of Graduate Studies and kept in a folder in the graduate students’ lounge (third floor).


Language Requirement:
Ph.D. candidates will be expected to have achieved native or near-native fluency in Portuguese. In addition, candidates should demonstrate reading ability in a second foreign language, which normally will be French, Spanish, Italian or German.

Teaching Requirement:
Ph.D. candidates are expected to acquire sound pedagogical skills by participating in the department’s teaching-mentoring program (see below).

Participation in the scholarly life of the department: The department sponsors a lively program of lectures, symposia, conferences and occasional concerts, designed to enrich the experience of our students and to complement our classes and seminars. Doctoral students are expected to participate actively in the scholarly life of the department by attending and, whenever applicable, participating in the organization of such events.

Dissertation: The dissertation is expected to make an original contribution to the field of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, consistent with the high research and scholarship standards of the Department. The dissertation may be written in English or in Portuguese. The final copy of the dissertation must strictly follow the guidelines issued by the Graduate School. For complete information about the rules for the preparation and submission of the final copy of the dissertation, please visit the following site:

Click here for Dissertation Guidelines

The dissertation committee consists of three or more faculty members, at least two of whom must hold appointments in the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, to be chosen by the student in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. The chair of the dissertation committee is usually a faculty member in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies with particular expertise in the area of the dissertation.

The dissertation defense, scheduled at the convenience of the readers, is open to all members of the university community. The department’s faculty and graduate students in residence are expected to attend. It consists of a twenty-to-thirty-minute presentation by the candidate, followed by a discussion with the members of the candidate’s dissertation committee. A final draft of the dissertation, except for minor corrections and revisions, must be submitted to the full committee at least two weeks before the scheduled date for the defense.

For students who intend to receive their degrees at Commencement, the deadline for the submission of the Ph.D. dissertation to the Department is April 15, thereby allowing enough time for the defense and the filing of the final version with the Graduate School by the first business day in May.

Click here for titles of the PhD Dissertations in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies since 1995

Click here for information on PhD dissertations defended at Brown in all fields related to Portuguese and Brazilian Studies.


Based on the requirements described above, the expected route toward the Ph.D. normally follows this pattern of landmarks:

  • 1st year landmarks: Eight courses and preparation for the general examination based on a set list of books on Luso-Afro-Brazilian literature, history and culture.
  • 2nd year landmarks: Completion of the general examination at the beginning of the academic year, six courses, and assignment as teaching assistant or proctor.
  • 3rd year landmarks: Final two courses, completion of preliminary examination, and assignment as teaching assistant, teaching fellow or proctor.
  • 4th year landmarks: Presentation of the pre-dissertation colloquium, application for a dissertation fellowship, research for dissertation, and assignment as teaching assistant, teaching fellow or proctor.
  • 5th and 6th year landmarks: Completion and defense of the dissertation. During the fifth year students will normally hold a dissertation fellowship. Support for the sixth year isn’t guaranteed, but will normally be in the form of a teaching assistantship or fellowship. (See below under “Financial Assistance and Assignments of Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows and Proctors).



Our Department is a community of individuals committed to the highest standards in teaching and scholarship in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. Doctoral students are an integral part of this community. Working closely with supportive faculty members as mentors, doctoral students are encouraged to develop research and pedagogical skills that will prepare them for careers as outstanding teachers and scholars. Besides regular meetings with the Director of Graduate Studies, doctoral students are urged to meet with other departmental faculty to discuss their research and pedagogical interests.

In addition to advice on the research and preparation of term papers, from early on in their graduate studies our doctoral students receive guidance on how to convert their course papers into conference presentations and/or journal articles. Doctoral students are also offered the opportunity to partner with faculty members in research projects, the design of undergraduate courses, the planning of academic conferences and symposia, and the publication of our two scholarly journals, Gávea-Brown and Brasil/Brazil.

It is the Department’s philosophy that teaching and research go hand in hand and are mutually enriching. Our commitment to teaching is reflected in the multiple educational programs of instruction and teacher training supported by the Department and included as part of its curricular offerings and as a service to the surrounding community. The Master’s program in Cross-Cultural Education, co-sponsored by the Education Alliance, is a testimony to this pedagogical position and may serve as a methodological and material resource for our students. Furthermore, the emphasis on language in both our undergraduate and graduate programs rests on our belief that the acquisition of a foreign/second language contributes to what Pierre Bourdieu calls the expansion of one's cultural capital in a material, cultural, and symbolic sense. The conviction that language and culture are facets of the same process and cannot be separated permeates all aspects of our graduate program –– courses, research, examinations, and extra-curricular activities. Doctoral students emerge from our program with linguistic expertise as well as mastery of foreign language pedagogy, in addition to sound research skills. Such combination has proven to be highly attractive to universities seeking junior faculty to fill positions in foreign language, literature and cultural studies, as attested by our very successful record in placing the graduates from our Ph.D. program.

Our doctoral students participate in a mentoring program designed to pass the Department’s pedagogical legacy in foreign language, literature and culture on to them while enhancing their teaching skills. According to our longstanding practice, from the very beginning we impart to our doctoral students the belief that immersion in and constant use of Portuguese as the target language, following the principles of a communicative and natural approach, represent crucial steps in the acquisition of a second/foreign language. Furthermore, through both orientation and hands-on experience, our doctoral students quickly learn that foreign/second languages are to be used as media of instruction and not as ends in themselves (such as the traditional objective of solely mastering grammar skills).

The teaching mentoring program consists of a series of steps designed to acquaint our students with various pedagogical approaches and methodologies, while also exposing them to different instructional experiences and course formats:

1. Intensive group orientation before the start of each academic year, consisting of a packet of readings in methodology and applied linguistics as well as an in-house seminar with members of the Department’s faculty, culminating in a mock practice teaching session.

2. For each new course that a graduate student will teach or co-teach, an orientation session specific to the goals of each course will be offered prior to the beginning of each semester.

3. In addition to this basic preparation, there will be group and/or individual meetings throughout the semester between teaching assistants/fellows and the faculty member(s) in charge of teacher training, as well as class visitations followed by a discussion between the graduate student and the evaluator. Doctoral students will receive guidance on how to plan lessons, develop a course syllabus, design and grade exams and assignments, etc.

The following courses have been earmarked for the teaching-mentoring program:

POBS 100-200: Elementary Portuguese – A yearlong course for students with little or no preparation in the Portuguese language. Stress upon fundamental language skills: understanding, speaking, reading, and writing. Aspects of Portuguese and Brazilian culture are also presented. Method: situational/natural approach.

POBS 110: Intensive Portuguese – Designed for students with little or no preparation in the Portuguese language, it covers the same amount of material as PB10-20 in just one semester. Stress upon fundamental language skills: understanding, speaking, reading, and writing. Aspects of Portuguese and Brazilian culture are also presented. Method: situational/natural approach.

POBS 400: Writing and Speaking Portuguese - Designed to improve the student's ability in contemporary spoken and written Portuguese, using such cultural items as short stories, plays, films, videos, newspaper and magazine articles, and popular music. Method: situational/natural approach.

POBS 610/620: Mapping Portuguese-Speaking Cultures - Selected literary and cultural texts that serve as vehicles for a deeper understanding of Portuguese-speaking societies. Literary materials are taken from several genres and periods with special attention to contemporary writings. Other media such as film and music are also included. Considerable emphasis on strengthening speaking and writing skills.

Graduate students will normally progress from co-teaching with a regular faculty member (generally in POBS 110 and/or POBS 400) to teaching their own courses (generally POBS 100-200 and/or POBS 400) under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Whenever possible graduate students will be given the opportunity to teach a module of one of the introduction to literature courses (POBS 610 and/or POBS 620) and, in some cases, to teach such courses on their own.

In addition to the training they receive in the department, students are encouraged to enroll in the Sheridan Center’s teaching certificate program, which provides pedagogical and professional training in the form of methodologies, approaches and techniques. The Center also offers invaluable help in the preparation of CVs, narrative profiles on teaching philosophy and teaching portfolios. Students should check the Sheridan Center website for more details.

Depending upon the research and pedagogical interests of individual students, there are also opportunities to teach and conduct research in local public schools as well as to serve as an intern with the Educational Alliance, a Brown unit charged to conduct applied research on educational reform and cultural diversity.

Assessment of Student Performance

When doctoral students first arrive on campus, they meet with the Director of Graduate Studies, who explains the doctoral program to them in detail and guides them in their initial selection of courses. At the end of the first semester, each student’s academic performance during the preceding semester and progress towards the completion of the degree are assessed by the Department’s faculty. This evaluation is transmitted to students at individual meetings with the DGS. This process occurs every semester of the student's graduate experience at Brown. In addition, students will receive a written assessment of their performance and progress towards the degree at the close of each academic year in accordance with Graduate School regulations.

Financial ASSISTANCE and Assignment of Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows and Proctors

The Graduate School guarantees five years of financial support for doctoral students in good academic standing, who, in the judgment of the department's faculty, are making the expected progress towards the completion of their degree. Continued support is contingent upon the timely completion of such landmarks as the general examination (third semester), the preliminary examination (no later than the end of the sixth semester) and the colloquium (no later than the end of the seventh semester). Though not guaranteed, sixth-year support it generally available to students who are making steady progress towards the completion of their degrees, and have submitted chapters of their dissertations during the fifth year. Sixth-year support is normally in the form of a teaching assistantship.

For the first year financial aid is generally in the form of a university fellowship, covering tuition for eight courses, a monthly stipend and the health fee. Support for the second, third and fourth years are usually in the form of a teaching assistantship, teaching fellowship or a proctorship, covering tuition, a monthly stipend and the health fee. When students serve as Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows or Proctors, they are allowed to enroll in only three courses per semester.

Students serving as teaching assistants and teaching fellows are required to participate in orientation programs sponsored by the Center for Language Studies and the Department beginning about a week before the start of fall semester classes. They are also required to participate in an organizational meeting with the department's language coordinator before the start of the spring semester. As such, they should plan their return from summer and winter breaks accordingly.

Teaching fellows, teaching assistants and proctors must seek advance permission from their supervisors for extended absences from campus while classes are in session and during the exam period. In planning their summer travel, students should bear in mind that such appointments cover the academic year through May.

Although we are committed to providing different types of teaching and research opportunities for all students, the assignment of teaching assistants, teaching fellows and proctors must also take into account the needs of the Department in a given semester.

Since financial support for the fifth year normally consists of a dissertation fellowship, it is essential that students submit their dissertation proposals no later than the end of their seventh semester.

If needed, the Department will also assist students who are making steady progress towards the completion of their PhD in securing support for the sixth year.

In addition to academic year fellowships, assistantships and proctorships, the Graduate School guarantees support for a minimum of three summers during each doctoral student’s career at Brown. Students choose the three summers during which they would like to be supported by the Graduate School.

The Department encourages and provides guidance for students to apply for outside fellowships either for academic year or summer support.


Thanks to the continued generosity of the Belda Family, the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies is now able to offer fellowships to support research trips to Brazil by our doctoral candidates. Priority is given to students who have completed their preliminary examination and been advanced to candidacy.

Interested students should submit a proposal consisting of a two-page narrative, the dates when they plan to use their fellowship and a budget by April 1. Awards are based upon the significance and soundness of the project and its relevancy to the student's research. Click here for past recipients of the Belda Family Research Fellowship.

Transfer Credit for Doctoral Degree

Graduate work completed at other institutions and not used in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy elsewhere may, on the recommendation of the Department, be counted towards the fulfillment of the three-year residence requirement (reducing the number of years of full tuition). A student who desires credit for work done elsewhere should file an application after completing one semester at Brown. Forms are available in the Office of the Registrar. No more than the equivalent of one full year of graduate study may be counted towards the three-year residence requirement.

Students who enter our doctoral program in possession of a master’s degree in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies or a related field are urged to request a reduction of the three-year residence (tuition) requirement to two years. Reduction of the residence requirement does not affect the number of courses students may take for credit.


A key measure of the national and international standing of a doctoral program is the placement of its graduates, The Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies has an outstanding placement record for our PhDs. Below is a list of our graduates, their first jobs, and their current positions:



Marguerite I. Harrison
Naomi Paker
Christopher J. Dunn
Patricia Sobral
Zélia M. Bora

Katia M. Mota

Mark A. Lokensgard
Marcus V. Freitas

Robert H. Moser
Isabel L. Ferreira
Pedro S. Pereira
Alexandra Montague
Marilia S. Ribeiro
Yamil Samalot-Rivera, OP
Robert P. Newcomb
Yi Liu
Sophia F. Beal
Rex P. Nielson
Oscar Pérez

Ana C. Teixeira

Maria D. Villanua

Sandra Sousa
Stephen Bocskay
Lamonte Aidoo






Harvard University
Rhode Island College
Tulane University
Harvard University
Universidade Federal da Paraiba (Brazil)
Universidade Federal da
Bahial (Brazil)
St. Mary's University
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil)
University of Georgia
U. of Notre Dame
U. of Chicago
Smith College
Michigan St. University
Central U of Bayamón
U. of California at Davis
U. of Beijing (China)
Tulane University
Brigham Young U.
Harvard University

U. of North Carolina-Asheville
U. of Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras
U. of Iowa
Harvard University
Duke University


Smith College*
Tulane University*
Brown University
University Federal da
Paraíba (Brazil)*
Universidade Estadual da Bahia (Brazil)*
St. Mary's University*
Universidade Federal de
Minas Gerais (Brazil)*
University of Georgia*
U. of Notre Dame
Ohio State University
Independent Scholar
Michigan St. University
Central U of Baymón
U. of California at Davis
U. of Beijing (China)
University of Minnesota
Brigham Young University
Mount Madonna Center and Oyurveda Institute
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
U. of Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras
U. of Iowa
Harvard University
Duke University



Graduate students pursuing a doctorate in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies may apply to receive a master's degree upon completion of the preliminary examination and advancement to Ph.D. candidacy. Students selecting this option will not be required to write a Master's Project.