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Handbook of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Welcome to the Handbook of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese!

We hope this handbook will give you all the information you'll need about the Department and the courses we offer. Of course not all of the information here will be of use to you straight away, but during your course you should find that many of your questions are answered somewhere in this handbook, so familiarise yourself with its contents. However, don't be afraid to ask the Departmental Secretary, or any member of the Department, if there is anything you would like to know that you can't find the answer to in these pages.

At various stages during your time here we will hold information meetings to let you know about the options available to you in your course, and you should visit the web version of this Handbook frequently, because this is where updates and other useful information will be posted. You will also find links to various on-line teaching resources on the site.

To save paper and speed up communication, the Department makes extensive use of e-mail. Your College should have told you your e-mail number. Please use e-mail whenever possible and check for messages daily. The e-mail addresses of members of the Department are to be found on here, and this is usually a more convenient way to contact us than by telephone. During your Year Abroad, too, you will be expected to use e-mail to contact your dissertation supervisor. For important information about how to use your e-mail account from abroad, see under Year Abroad.

Above all, enjoy your time here, and make the most of what we have to offer you!


Who we are and what we do


The Department is one of the largest in the country, recently ranked as one of the most outstanding departments for Spanish and Portuguese in the UK for teaching and research. In addition to language classes for students who come up to Cambridge with a good A-Level in Spanish, we provide an elementary course for beginners, and another at intermediate level for those with a knowledge below A-level standard. The language courses are supported by work with a native speaker, sessions in the Language Centre, and College supervisions. Beginners and near beginners are very welcome. At present, of some seventy who come up each year to read Spanish, about one-third may be beginners or below A-level standard. In Part IA, which is predominantly linguistic, there is one literary paper, introducing Hispanic texts from different periods and countries. Candidates may also study the structure and varieties of the modern Spanish language as an alternative to a literary paper. In Part IB and Part II the range of options is wide: literary periods (with study of historical and general cultural themes) include the medieval, Golden Age, and modern (Peninsular) times; there are papers on Cervantes and on Spanish-American literature, Catalan culture and literature, and the history of the Spanish language.

Students spending a Year Abroad as English language assistants or in other ways should note that there are opportunities not only in Spain, but also in some Latin-American countries. If advice on courses in Spain is required, please contact the Departmental Secretary.

Besides the obvious language-learning benefits, our courses provide a number of "transferable skills", such as training in associative thought, advanced communication skills (both in English and in Spanish/Portuguese), the ability to think well and coherently under pressure, and the use of computer technology in the areas of communications, word-processing, and language-learning.

The research interests of members of the Department are strong and varied. Among recent publications there is work on the verb in the Romance languages, gender studies, Golden Age theatre, Cervantes, eighteenth-century trade in the Empire, the nineteenth-century novel, twentieth-century poetry and cinema, the modern Spanish-American novel and cinema, and Catalan poetry. The undergraduate Anglo-Hispanic Society meets regularly in term.



Cambridge was one of the first universities in this country to offer an Honours degree in Portuguese. Portuguese here may be combined with Spanish (or with any other language taught in the Faculty) in Part IA of the Tripos, and Portuguese papers may be offered in combination with papers in any other language(s) in Part IB and Part II. If you are considering taking up Portuguese here, or even changing to Portuguese from another language, you should see our prospectus.

Portuguese may be studied at Part IA both by beginners and by students with either an A-level in the language or some knowledge of it. . In Part IA of the course there are, in addition to language papers and an oral examination, a choice between a literature option exploring the three cultural perspectives of Portugal, Brazil, and Portuguese-speaking Africa, and a linguistics option in which the structure and varieties of the modern Portuguese language are studied. In Part IB and Part II your options include papers in Portuguese language, on Portuguese, Brazilian, and African literature, history, and thought over some six centuries, and the history of the Portuguese language (in optional combination with the history of Spanish and/or Catalan).

Year Abroad opportunities include Portugal, Brazil and some African Lusophone countries.

We have a well-stocked Lusophone section in the Faculty Library, and the University Library also contains a good collection of Portuguese, Brazilian, and African works. The Language Centre has language courses on tape for both European and Brazilian Portuguese. In addition to the usual provision for seminars, lectures, and supervisions, the Department benefits from the presence of a native speaker funded by the Portuguese government, who is primarily responsible for language-teaching at all levels.

Research interests in this section of the Department include Portuguese and Brazilian literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, gender studies, and, more recently, post-colonial theory.

The undergraduate Portuguese Society regularly organises events of both an academic and a social nature.