New degree program in Portuguese Studies begins in September

Come September, York’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics will begin offering an undergraduate degree program in Portuguese Studies – one of only two degrees of its kind in the country.

"Our program is Portuguese Studies and it aims at being an interdisciplinary degree. We offer not only all levels of language but also culture, literature and film courses," says Professor Maria Joao Dodman of York’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics (DLLL), in the Faculty of Arts.

Students will be able to work toward a BA degree or an honours minor BA degree in Portuguese Studies. Although courses in Portuguese have been offered at York for over two decades, this will be the first time students can earn a degree in the discipline. The degree also combines courses from other departments at York, such as the Department of History.

Portuguese language courses were first introduced at York in the early 1980s at the elementary level, followed by the intermediate level as demand for the courses increased. The Portuguese student community has continually shown strong support for the courses. Because of this, York teamed up with the Instituto Camões in Lisbon, which provided financial assistance for a lecturer’s position for 15 years. In the last four years, the DLLL has increased the number of Portuguese courses offered to six each year. Implementing a degree program in Portuguese Studies seemed like a natural progression.

Left: The Padrão dos Descubrimentos monument in Lisbon, a celebration of the Portuguese maritime world expansion initiated by Henry the Navigator, who is holding a small caravel in the photo

Portuguese Studies will cover not only the Portuguese language, but the culture, history and literature associated with the language, which is spoken by 230 million people worldwide. Portuguese is spoken in Portugal and its autonomous Atlantic regions of the Azores and Madeira as well as in Brazil, the Lusophone African nations and certain regions of Asia, such as Goa, India, and Macau.

"Our program has two very unique features. We are the only university in Canada that offers a course solely dedicated to the region of the Azores, titled ‘The Culture and Literature of the Azores’. It was introduced two years ago and it was a big hit," says Dodman. "I am Azorean myself and I noticed that a huge component of our Lusophone students are decedents of Azoreans, yet they know very little of this neglected, yet rich in culture and literary production, region of Portugal."

The intent is to gradually expand the program so that it touches on all aspects of the Lusophone world., says Dodman. Some of the other courses to be offered, include: Discovery and Conquest: The Age of Camões; Aspects of Contemporary Portugal: Culture and Cinema; Aspects of Modern Brazil; The Works of José Saramago; From Camões to Pessoa; and Music of World Cultures.

The program is expected to appeal to students in the Latin American & Caribbean Studies Program, the African Studies Program, the European Studies Program, the Division of Humanities, the Department of History, the Department of Political Science, the International Studies Program, the Department of Environmental Studies, the Schulich School of Business, the Faculty of Fine Arts as well as to students enrolled in other Romance languages in the DLLL and to Lusophone students. In addition, Portuguese Studies may be of interest to many international business students at York.

Enrolment in Portuguese courses over the years has been strong and that is expected to continue and even increase with the advent of a degree program. York already has strong programs in Italian, Spanish and French Studies.

Instituto Camões will continue to help support the program financially .

The official launch of the program is being planned for September and will include a series of scholarly and cultural events.

For more information, visit the Portuguese Studies Degree Program Web site or contact Maria Joao Dodman at or at ext. 88728.