Nicolau Sevcenko, widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the cultural history of Brazil, was appointed professor of Romance languages and literatures in Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Jan. 1, 2009.
Sevcenko, 55, was previously professor of cultural history at the Universidade de São Paulo, where he had taught modern and cultural history since 1983. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard for three semesters in recent years.
“Professor Sevcenko is a compelling lecturer, a productive and innovative scholar, and a delightful colleague,” said Diana Sorensen, dean of arts and humanities in FAS. “A real-life Renaissance man, his works reflect his extraordinary breadth and his skill in tracing the intersection of theory with cultural context. He brings to the classroom the same command and synthetic brilliance found in his writings, and I am very pleased that our students will continue to reap the benefits of his wide-ranging wisdom.”
Author of nine books, Sevcenko has written authoritatively on a wide range of subjects, from history, linguistics, and music to technology, politics, and urban studies. His first book, “Literatura Como Missão” (Brasiliense, 1983), provided incisive analysis of the social and cultural contradictions in Brazilian literature during Rio de Janeiro’s “Belle Epoque” at the turn of the 20th century. Now in its fourth edition, the book has become a classic text in literary studies.
Sevcenko’s “Orfeu Extático na Metrópole” (Cia das Letras, 1992), an examination of modernity and avant-garde movements in 1920s São Paulo, has been described as the “most ambitious cultural history of São Paulo” in decades.
A productive and highly public scholar, Sevcenko has authored scores of newspaper columns for the weekly Brazilian magazine Carta-Capital, a publication with broad influence in Brazilian politics, economics, and social issues. At the same time, in recent years he has written numerous scholarly articles, book chapters, essays, and prologues.
Sevcenko earned a bachelor’s degree in 1975 and a Ph.D. in 1981, both from the Universidade de São Paulo. In addition to teaching at São Paulo, he has taught at Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo and Universidade Estadual de Campinas, and has been a visiting professor at Georgetown University, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the University of London.