In Conversation with Paulo Moreira, Professor of Portuguese

Monday, March 2, 2015

Paulo Moreira, Associate Professor of Portuguese, focuses on American, Brazilian, and Mexican 20th century literatures, cinema, poetry, short story, modernism, regionalism, and translation studies. In 2013, Moreira published Modernismo Localista das Americas: Os contos de Faulkner, Guimarães Rosa e Rulfo  and Literary Relations Between Mexico and Brazil – Deep Undercurrents. This semester he is teaching a freshman seminar on Latin American short stories and the course “Latin American Film: Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina,” which allows him to share his various interests with undergraduates across Yale’s departments.

Your course “Latin American Film: Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina” provides an overview of the best cinema recently produced in the three countries. Why did you choose to explore and compare these countries in particular?
Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico are three major economies where there has been, for quite some time, a consistent domestic market and industry for cinema in Latin America. I am interested in the way these three cinematic traditions dialogue with each other now, as they discuss similar issues and face similar challenges in an increasingly globalized world.

Recommend one movie from each country that is currently on your syllabus.
It’s hard to recommend only three, but here we go. There’s Eduardo Coutinho’s documentary “Edificio Master,” a snapshot of Brazil in the form of a mosaic of dozens of ordinary citizens of Rio de Janeiro who live in the enormous apartment complex that gives the film its title. Lucrecia Martel’s “The Swamp” is a great film from the acting down to the sound and the photography and shows that there is much more to Argentina than just Buenos Aires. Juan Carlos Rulfo’s “Those Who Remain” is a sensitive and intelligent portrait of immigration from the perspective of those who remain in Mexico.

What are your research interests/current projects?
I’m currently working on a book project tentatively called “A Journey into Latin American Imagination.” I am looking at essays written by Latin Americans since the nineteenth century about who we are and the meaning of Latin America in the world. It’s a project borne out of the introduction of my second book, Cultural and Literary Relations Between Brazil and Mexico – Deep Undercurrents. After that project, I really would like to write a book about contemporary Latin American cinema. This course has already led me to write some forty pages on the subject among conference papers and articles.    

What’s your favorite place on campus?
There is no doubt that my favorite place on campus is Sterling Memorial Library, especially the stacks. Spending an afternoon finding books, reading or writing in Sterling is as good as my job gets. When I want peace and quiet, that’s where I go. It’s also the best place to look for inspiration when I need to recharge the batteries.

What’s one piece of advice you want to give to students?
If you cannot get a major in the humanities, at least try to take a few classes we offer. The humanities will teach you to frame issues, look for relevant information, process this information, and then organize the processed information in new and compelling ways. I can’t think of more relevant skills in the world today.