The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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José N. Ornelas

Professor Emeritus

José N. Ornelas is a specialist in contemporary Portuguese narrative, and his areas of research include gender identity, national identity and construction, post-colonial studies, film studies, and cultural politics within a multicultural and transnational framework. His scholarly work, two co-editions and around 50 book chapters and articles that have appeared in various journals, focused on a wide range of issues and writers from Portugal, Lusophone Africa and Brazil, including Camões, Eça de Queirós, the Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, José Cardoso Pires, Teolinda Gersão, Maria Velho da Costa, Mia Couto, José Luandino Vieira and Pepetela.

Born in Madeira Island, Portugal, he emigrated to the United States in 1961. He received his Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of City University of New York in 1976, and joined the faculty  at the University of Massachusetts in 1974. From 1999-2007, he was both Chair and then Director of Spanish and Portuguese, and from 1997-2008 he was the Director of the BDIC Program, the largest interdisciplinary program at the University. Throughout his academic career, Professor Ornelas taught a variety of courses at the University, many in the areas of his research interests. As a result of his research interests on questions of nation formation, empire, post-coloniality and gender identity, he was a guest Visiting Professor at the Universidade Pontifícia Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, in three different years. In Brazil, he was also invited to give several lectures, to read papers at conferences, and to participate in television and radio programs. 

Research Areas

  • Spaces of Identity
  • National Construction and Empire
  • Gender Identity
  • Colonialism and Post-Coloniality
  • Film Studies
  • Women Writers
  • Cultural Politics



  • Da possibilidade do impossível: Leituras de Saramago.  Co-edition with Paulo de Medeiros. Utrecht:  Portuguese Studies Center, University of Utrecht, 2007.


  • “A intersecção entre o imaginário do fascismo, do império e da política colonial em Paisagem com mulher e mar ao fundo de Teolinda Gersão,” Letras de Hoje 49.4 (2014): 477-486.
  • “Pepetela (Artur Carlos Maurício Pestana dos Santos).” Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volume 367 (African Lusophone Writers). San Francisco: Gale Group, 2012. 131-148.
  • “José Luandino Vieira (José Vieira Mateus da Graça).” Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volume 367 (African Lusophone Writers). San Francisco: Gale Group, 2012. 197-208.
  • “José Saramago—Apresentação Geral da Obra.” Ciências Humanas e Sociais em Revista 33.2 (2011): 185-252
  • “Negation of the Narrative Framework or the Failure of Narrative Memory: The case os Os cus de Judas.” Portuguese Literary & Cultural Studies 19-20 (2011): 321-339.

Awards and Accolades

  • Outstanding Academic Advisor of the Year (1995), University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • National Outstanding Advisor (1995), Award of the National Academic Advising Association