Culture & Context: Brazil

For this first essay, you should write a 5-page paper (double-spaced, 12pt, standard font and margins) from one of the following prompts. Your paper should be elaborated in an appropriate academic style and call upon either the Chicago or the MLA guidelines for citing sources on an additional page entitled “Works Cited.”

The essay should cite actual evidence from the texts in question as citations and should analyze that evidence by paying careful attention to the actual words used and their implications. Strong essays will give careful consideration of the actual language used in their sources and will develop their discussions according to an analysis of ideas as reflected in these sources.

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1. Compare and contrast Pêro Vaz de Caminha’s “Letter to Manuel I of Portugal” and Nelson Pereira dos Santos’ How Tasty was my Little Frenchman. Be sure to address them as documents and relate them to their respective contexts. How do they complement each other as depictions of a moment and of the Portuguese colonial presence in Brazil? How does Pereira dos Santos’ film serve as a critique of documents like Vaz da Caminha’s “Letter”? Be sure to substantiate your discussion with specific examples from each. Call, as well, upon some of the other sources that we have read to enrich and contextualize your discussion.

2. Consider the varying roles of religion in shaping the early Brazilian colonial encounters. Specifically, return to Sweet’s history of the life and context of Domingos Álvares, in addition to Pêro Vaz da Caminha’s “Letter” or other documents related to Portuguese Christianity, and discuss concrete examples, episodes, or instances, that you find particularly interesting and revealing of some of these roles. Have we read a text that may serve as an example of an Amerindian religious worldview? How may the role of the written word versus the spoken word shape notions of religiosity in each case? Be sure to call upon, as well, some of the other texts read in class to enrich and contextualize your discussion.

3. “Race” in Brazil has had very different implications throughout its history. The attempted enslavement and decimation of Amerindians in addition to the enslavement and forced migration of Africans, while economically motivated, are premised upon ideas about race and ethnicity. The continuing legacy of these events in Brazil provide, as well, opportunities to examine how race continues to shape contemporary life in Brazil despite the relative remoteness of the colonial period. Return to Manoel de Nóbrega’s “Letter to Governor Tomé de Sousa,” Pêro Vaz de Caminha’s “Letter,” Jean de Léry’s History or to Sweet’s history of the life of Domingos Álvares, and find examples or specific evidence that you can then read in the light of Edward Telles’ ideas regarding race and color in contemporary Brazil. Be sure to call upon, as well, some of the other texts read in class to enrich and contextualize your discussion.

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