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PhD Program

The PhD in Luso-Afro-Brazilian Studies and Theory builds on the success and potential of existing undergraduate and graduate Portuguese programs at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

The unique demographics of Southeastern Massachusetts, with its large proportion of Portuguese speakers of Portuguese, Brazilian and Cape Verdean descent, has long been an important factor in supporting the growth and development of the field of Luso-Afro-Brazilian studies at UMass Dartmouth.

The PhD program draws on the wide range of multidisciplinary scholarly competence represented by the faculty working on our campus. With four tenured faculty, all of whom teach graduate courses in the MA and PhD programs, the Department of Portuguese is among the largest Portuguese program in the nation.

Additionally, there are several faculty members in the departments of Sociology/Anthropology, History, and Political Science whose scholarly expertise falls largely or primarily in the area of Portuguese, Brazilian, or Lusophone African studies and who are affiliated with the graduate programs in Portuguese, serving as thesis/dissertation committee members and cross-listing their relevant courses at the graduate level.

Moreover, one graduate seminar per academic year is taught by the occupant of the Hélio and Amélia Pedroso/Luso-American Foundation Endowed Chair in Portuguese Studies, which brings to UMass Dartmouth renowned senior scholars in the field for semester-long periods of teaching and research. For additional information, including a listing of Hélio and Amélia Pedroso/Luso-American Foundation Visiting Professors since 2005, see Faculty.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of literary and cultural practices in the Portuguese-speaking world;
  • Develop broad knowledge of critical and theoretical approaches relevant to the Portuguese language and Luso-Afro-Brazilian cultures;
  • Develop and apply advanced research skills relevant to the chosen field of study;
  • Contribute to existing scholarly discourses in the chosen field of study;
  • Present research findings effectively in written and spoken communications.

Program Structure


The PhD in Luso-Afro-Brazilian Studies and Theory requires a minimum of 54 graduate course credits and 12 dissertation credits. Successful applicants to the program who hold an MA degree from UMass Dartmouth or another institution may be allowed to apply up to a maximum of 24 credits from the MA level toward their doctoral degree coursework.

Candidates who apply to and are admitted directly to the PhD program, and who do not already hold a relevant MA degree, are evaluated by the Graduate Studies Committee at the end of their second semester of coursework. Contingent on the results of the evaluation, the Committee may authorize continuation of PhD candidacy or recommend that the candidate pursue an MA degree and be reevaluated for admission to PhD candidacy upon its completion.

Required Coursework

Required coursework comprises a minimum of 6 courses (18 credits) in 600- and 700-level seminars, including a minimum of 2 courses (6 credits) at the 700 level, one of which must be POR 710, Topics in Literary and Cultural Analysis. The remaining 6 credits may be taken at the 500 level, either in the Department of Portuguese or from an approved list of courses in other departments.

PhD General Examination

The General Examination takes place in the candidate's last semester of coursework and consists of an eight-hour (2 x 4hr.) written exam and an oral exam. The oral exam is to be taken within a week of the written examination and serves the purpose of clarifying and expanding upon the candidate's answers to the written exam's questions.

The General Examination is based on a reading list of 50 works prepared by the candidate in consultation with his or her advisor and subject to approval by the Graduate Studies Committee. The reading list and the written examination encompasses four areas, typically defined as follows: period ( e.g., Romanticism), genre (e.g., lyric poetry), area (Brazil, Portugal, or Lusophone Africa), and problematics (e.g., representation of the city in literature and the arts).

As a more specific example, a candidate who intends to write his or her doctoral thesis on the novelist Paulina Chiziane's questioning of gender relations in postcolonial Mozambique will most likely be examined in the following four areas: 1) postcolonialism, particularly in the African context; 2) theory and history of the novel, with special emphasis on the development of the genre in African literatures; 3) literary and cultural history of Lusophone Africa; and 4) gender theory and African feminisms.

The organization of reading lists for candidates whose doctoral dissertation projects fall outside the area of literary and cultural studies is defined on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with the candidate's faculty advisor and with the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee.

Candidates who successfully pass the General Examination advance to the presentation of their dissertation proposal. A candidate who fails the examination is allowed to retake it once; failure to pass the General Examination upon the second attempt results in automatic termination of candidacy.

Approval of Dissertation Proposal

A formal oral presentation and defense of the PhD dissertation proposal takes place in the same semester as the General Examination, but at least two weeks later. The candidate submits a 15-page written prospectus of the dissertation, presents it before the Graduate Studies Committee and answers questions and addresses suggestions and concerns raised by the members of the committee.

PhD Dissertation

Each candidate's Dissertation Committee, consisting of at least three faculty members and chaired by the candidate's graduate advisor, monitors the dissertation's timely progress. Presentation and defense of a satisfactory dissertation fulfills the degree requirements. The dissertation defense consists of a public lecture on the dissertation and a subsequent oral examination by the candidate's dissertation committee.

Admission Process and Requirements

The Office of Graduate Studies must receive a completed application form, application fee, three letters of recommendation, official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate records, a personal statement, and reports of required examinations before an application is complete and is sent to the department for consideration. Application materials and instructions are available here or by calling (+1) 508-999-8604.

Applicants must submit the required application materials to the Graduate Office, with the following additional considerations:

  • Applicants who do not hold a BA degree in Portuguese will be considered on the basis of a BA or BS degree in another discipline and demonstrated oral and written competence in Portuguese. Written competence will be demonstrated by submission of a written sample (a 10-page personal essay or a course paper in Portuguese are acceptable examples). Oral competence will be demonstrated in the course of an interview conducted by the Graduate Studies Committee (in person or by phone).

  • The Department of Portuguese does not require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for admission to the MA, but candidates may strengthen their applications by submitting GRE scores. Either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is required from all international students whose native language is not English. The minimum iBT TOEFL score is 72 for admission and 79 for the award of a teaching assistantship. For the IELTS, band 6 is required for admission and 6.5 for the award of an assistantship. The TOEFL/IELTS requirement is waived for candidates who can demonstrate their proficiency through other means.

  • Three confidential letters of recommendation from professors or other senior professionals well acquainted with the candidate's qualifications are required.

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