Flora Thomson-DeVeaux is a Spanish and Portuguese (SPO) alum who graduated from Princeton in 2013. She defended her Ph.D. dissertation titled "Toward a New Translation of Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas” at Brown University in 2018 and is currently a professional translator and independent researcher in Rio de Janeiro. Flora's translation of Machado's The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas was recently published as part of the Penguin Classics series.
In her responses below, Thomson-DeVeaux shares some insights about her decision to concentrate in SPO and its impact on her career.
Why did you decide to major in Spanish and Portuguese?
While I'd studied Spanish in high school and had an interest in Latin American literature, I didn't intend on concentrating in Spanish and Portuguese when I entered Princeton. I did, however, wander by the SPO open house as a freshman to hear about classes, and was struck by how friendly and accessible the professors were – so friendly that they convinced me to include Portuguese in my fall courses. I took the challenge seriously and decided to include at least one class in each language for the semesters to come, so as to keep both of them in good shape. Language was the gateway; the content of those classes – from Borges, Brazilian cinema, music, and literature to messianic movements and documentary ethics – was what hooked me. The choice to concentrate wasn't so much a strategic decision as a recognition that this program was where my interests lay, and where I was constantly being introduced to new and fascinating ones.
Do you have a favorite memory from your experience as a SPO concentrator?
My favorite memories as a SPO concentrator came from outside the classroom, during my year abroad in Brazil and Argentina. This is no slight to the wonderful courses I took – on the contrary, the experiences I had abroad, from delving into the archives at the Instituto Moreira Salles to exploring the literary landscapes of Buenos Aires, were only so meaningful because of the worlds I'd been introduced to in seminar.
Has your SPO degree helped you in your career?
I'm currently working as an independent scholar, translator, and director of research at Rádio Novelo here in Rio de Janeiro. In all of those pursuits, every day, I draw on the skills and repertoire that I began to develop in SPO.
Do you have any advice for undergraduates considering majoring in SPO?
Apart from generic encouragement, I'd say to potential concentrators that there's great value in a program that isn't bounded by discipline, but rather by language and culture. In the task of translating and writing about my adopted worlds, I'm always grateful to be able to draw on a broad array of references and disciplinary toolboxes, an instinct forged during my undergraduate education.