21G.820 | Fall 2016 | Undergraduate

The Beat of Brazil: Brazilian Society Through Its Music


Course Meeting Times

Seminar: 2 sessions/week, 1.5 hours/session


Students must have taken 21G.804 Portuguese IV or MIT students must have the permission of the instructor. 


At the end of the course, students should:

  • attain an advanced-mid level of Portuguese in the presentational and interpretive modes of communication.
  • be able to identify and distinguish the Brazilian musical styles included in the course.
  • be familiar with the main historical events in Brazilian history in the 20th century.
  • be able to link the different musical styles to specific periods and events in Brazilian history.
  • gain a basic knowledge of the triple heritage (Indigenous, European, and African) and how it reflects on the notion of being Brazilian.
  • be aware of how globalization has influenced Brazilian music, as well as of the transnational aspects of Brazilian music.
  • be able to use the previous knowledge to discuss current notions of Brazilian identity, as well as recent developments in Brazilian music and society.

 Bibliografia Para Referência

Cambraia-Naves, Santuza. Da Bossa Nova à Tropicália. Jorge Zahar, 2001. ISBN: 9788571105928.

 Severino, Jairo. Uma História da Música Popular Brasileira: Das Origens a Modernidade. Editora 34, 2009. ISBN: 9788573263961. 


 Sound of Rio: Brasileirinho. DVD. Directed by Mika Kaurismäki. Milan Records, 2005.

 Jobim, Antonio Carlos, and Vinicius de Morales. Masters of Bossa Nova. DVD. Video Artists International, 2009. 

  Tropicália. DVD. Directed by Marcelo Machado. Mr. Bongo Films, 2012. 

EmbassyofBrazilDC. A Night in ‘67 (Uma Noite em 67). YouTube. Directed by Renato Terra and Ricardo Calil. 2010. 

 Two Sons of Fransico (2 Filhos de Fransico). DVD. Directed by Breno Silveira. Colmbia Tristar Filmes do Brasil, 2005. 

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is defined by the Center of Academic Integrity as “a commitment, even in the face of adversity to five fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility.”

Learning a foreign language is not something that typically occurss in isolation. Communication and practice are essential. Therefore, working with others is highly encouraged. However, there are cases in which collaboration is tantamount to cheating. There follow some examples of what is allowed and what is not in our class:

  • Having your pronunciation corrected by a native speaker before an oral presentation is perfectly acceptable. They won’t utter the words for you in class.
  • using a spellchecker is valid if you are writing a text, but having a text edited by another person before submission is clearly a different matter. To a certain extent, the editor is the coauthor of the text.
  • likewise, the use of dictionaries is recommended, but no translation program may be used.
  • obtaining help from people or online resources is allowed as a way of enhancing your learning, but should be avoided altogether if as a result of it, the work submitted is not an accurate representation of the student’s progress or capacity. If that’s the case, it will be considered academic dishonesty.

Cell Phone, Text Messaging and Laptop Policy

NO CELL PHONES or other electronic communication devices are to be used during class. No text messaging or e-mailing will be tolerated during class. Cell phones must be turned off or silenced and kept in your backpacks or pockets during class. Laptops may only be used in a case a class activity requires use of the textbook and you have your textbook online and not a physical copy, and only with the consent of the instructor.

Grading is based on frequent relatively small evaluations rather than on one or two major exams.

3 Quizzes 20%

3 Essays, including revision

Essay #1: 10%

Essay #2: 15%

Essay #3: 20%

Oral Presentation & student-led discussion 20%
Attendance and class participation 15%

Class Preparation, Attendance, and Participation

Your presence and active participation are essential in each and every session. This will be the most significant part of your grade since it is through continuous class interaction with other students that your communicative abilities in Portuguese will develop and improve. Your grade will be determined daily by the quality and quantity of your preparation and participation in class discussions, activities, group work, etc. Each assigned reading or song will be followed by class discussion.


Since your progress, and that of the class as a whole, will be impeded by excessive absences, your presence in the classroom is imperative. If you must miss a class, there is NO excuse for not being prepared for the next one. If you have to be absent, please contact the instructor in advance to find out what material you will miss. Each absence without an official excuse will lower your course attendance and participation grade. Since this course will be conducted as a student-centered seminar, it is your responsibility as a student to prepare the material in advance and participate actively in all classes. Each student’s level of preparation and participation will be evaluated on a daily basis. In-­class participation is based on your answers and comments to questions, and interest shown in the subject studied. The key to successful participation is preparation.

Absences without excuse will result in a lower final grade. After 3 unexcused absences, the participation grade will be lowered half a letter grade each time the student misses class. If you have any questions or if you anticipate any problems attending a class, do not hesitate to consult your instructor.

Testes (Quizzes)

There will be 3 take-home exams to be handed in on the days scheduled on the calendar. There will be NO final exam during the official exam week.

Trabalhos Escritos (Essays)

A total of three pieces of writing based on different topics discussed in class that appear to be particularly significant or revealing about representation and identity in the Brazilian society. Each paper should be 2-5 pages long (+ bibliography), typed using font 12, double-­spaced, and written using MLA format. Essays should be turned in on the day assigned.

Note: Students are expected to revise and edit their essays after they are corrected by the instructor and to resubmit them a week later for a final grade. The first draft will count as 70% of the grade and the final version 30%.

Late assignments will be penalized for each late day by subtracting a fraction of the given grade (from A to A-, etc.). After 3 days NO late assignment will be accepted. Do no e-mail essays. It is your responsibility to bring it to class on the day it is due. Even if there is no focus on grammar in the course, the grammar points and the vocabulary in the songs’ lyrics will be presented or reviewed when necessary. You can find a list of the symbols that will be used for essay correction at the course website.

Oral Presentation and Student-Led Discussion (15 Minutes)

Students will present orally in class the results of their research for each previously written essay.

In addition, throughout the semester, each student will give 10-minute presentations on one of the assigned songs and lead a discussion session on the topic covered in class. Students should also bring up at least two questions for class discussion, based on the ideas and themes in the song. Please, try to engage the class in conversation.

As students master the main structures, the quality of both their written work and their oral presentations is supposed to improve. Consequently, the expectations of quality work will be higher as the semester progresses.

Grading Scale

A+ (98–100) B+ (86–89.9) C+ (76–79.9) D+ (66–69.9)
A (94–97.9) B (84–85.9) C (74–75.9) D (63–65.9)
A- (90–93.9) B- (80–83.9) C- (70–73.9) F (62 and below)

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2016