Jennifer L. French

Photo of Jennifer L. French

Rosenburg Professor of Environmental Studies and Spanish

Hollander Hall Rm 354
At Williams since 2001


B.A. College of William and Mary
M.A. Rutgers University, Comparative Literature
Ph.D. Rutgers University, Comparative Literature

Areas of Expertise

  • Latin American literature
  • Eco-criticism, Latin American cultural studies
  • 19th century Latin America
  • Colonialism and post-colonialism


RLSP 214 / ENVI 218 SEM

"Ecologismo": Literature, Culture and the Environment in Latin America (not offered 2024/25)

RLSP 216 / ENVI 233 SEM

Latin American Environmental Literature and Cultural Production (not offered 2024/25)

RLSP 223 / ENVI 223 TUT

Colonial Landscapes: Latin America's Contemporary Environmental Literature (not offered 2024/25)


Subalternity, Dictatorship, and the Dream of Emancipation: Paraguay, 1811-Present (not offered 2024/25)


Outcasts of the Lettered City: Nation-Building and the Margins in 19th Century Latin America (not offered 2024/25)

RLSP 401 / ENVI 301 SEM

Climate Changes (Latin America): Aesthetics, Politics, Science (not offered 2024/25)

Scholarship/Creative Work

I am a literary critic whose research explores the ways that colonialism and neocolonialism have influenced relations among human groups and between humans and nonhuman nature in Latin America.  My first book, Nature, Neocolonialism and the Spanish-American Regional Writers, methodologically informed by green Marxism and Edward Said’s contrapuntal mode of comparativism, examines Spanish-American regional literature of the early 20th century, specifically the subgenre known as the novela de la tierra or “novel of the land,” as a response to labor abuses and environmental degradation associated with British informal imperialism over the long 19th century.  The Spanish-American writers I examine, Horacio Quiroga, José Eustasio Rivera, and Benito Lynch, engaged in a dialogue with British colonial authors including Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling that left them seeking noncapitalist, noncolonialist modes of representing the resource-rich expanses of the South American interior.

Since the publication of Nature, Neocolonialism and the Spanish-American Regional Writers in 2005, I have maintained an active research agenda in the area of Latin American eco-criticism.  With Professor Gisela Heffes of Rice University, I am currently at work on The Latin American Eco-Cultural Reader,  an anthology of primary sources that bring into focus the relationships between human societies and the more-than-human world in Latin America, from the earliest colonial period to the present.  We include works by Horacio Quiroga and Rigoberta Menchú, two cornerstones of Latin America’s emergent environmental canon, as well as Christopher Columbus, Domingo F. Sarmiento, José Martí, and other influential figures whose classic texts are dramatically recontextualized.  Our selections will feature poetry, prose narrative, essays, and a small selection of visual representations that complement and enrich the written texts. The Reader will present an ample selection of works from the Colonial Period and the 19th century; and we are particularly interested in works that convey the heterogeneity of Latin America’s environmental traditions as well as the complex ways in which relations of economic, political, epistemological and cultural power manifest themselves in representations of nature and the non-human world.  The Reader will also include a joint-authored introductory essay and briefer chapter prefaces that provide a theoretical and methodological orientation for the selections.

My other work in progress is a book entitled Letras terribles: Augusto Roa Bastos and the Triple Alliance War.  I examine a number of late works by the novelist Augusto Roa Bastos, specifically the narrative cycle thematically focused on the catastrophic Triple Alliance War of 1864-1870 – “El ojo de la luna,” El sonámbulo, El fiscal, and Los conjurados del quilombo del Gran Chaco – in the context of other Paraguayan writers’ representations of the war and its intensely-contested place in national memory.  The first half of Letras terribles thus examines a fascinating set of texts by authors who remain largely unknown outside of Paraguay: Rafael Barrett, Juan Crisóstomo Centurión, Teresa Lamas, Juan Emiliano O’Leary, and J. Natalicio González.  All of these writers were active in the first half of the 20th century, before the Morínigo and Stroessner dictatorships imposed a monolithic account of the war and its meaning, and their work suggests the delicate, often volatile relationship between politics and the collective unconscious, including the transference of affects and “unthought knowledge” (Christopher Bollas) across generations and communities.  I am committed to the possibility of “repatriating” Roa Bastos, who famously declared that “there is no Paraguayan literature,” as well as exploring intergenerational trauma as an ongoing and largely unresolved ideological, aesthetic and ethical problem in his work.  My readings of the primary texts draw on classic and contemporary works of psychoanalytic theory, including essays by Freud, Lacan, Klein, Abraham and Torok, Deleuze and Guattari, Dominick LaCapra and Eve Sedgwick.

More information about my publications and other scholarly activities is available on my cv, posted above.


Current Committees

  • Environmental Studies Program