Gisela Heffes

Gisela Heffes

Research Professor of Latin American Literature and Culture
Head of the Spanish and Portuguese Subdivision
Director of Graduate Studies, Spanish and Portuguese

Program: Spanish and Portuguese
Gilman 414

Education: PhD, Yale University

Gisela Heffes is a writer, ecocritic, and public intellectual with a particular focus on literature, media, and the environment in Latin America. Her highly reviewed book Políticas de la destrucción / Poéticas de la preservación (2013), received the 2015 First Honorable Mention in the Humanities of the LASA Southern Cone section, and has recently been published in a revised, expanded and updated English translation with Palgrave (marking its tenth anniversary) as Visualizing Loss in Latin America: Biopolitics, Waste, and the Urban Environment (2023). Although informed by current concerns that originated in recent debates within American and English environmental humanities, Visualizing Loss argues that the aesthetic productions analyzed in the book operate at the intersections of biopolitics and ecocriticism, placing Latin American figurations within a bioecocritical paradigm that defines the material conditions of human and nonhuman relational networks while constituting different meanings and enabling new forms of understanding. Her previous book, Las ciudades imaginarias en la literatura latinoamericana (2008), is a detailed study of the literary representations of non-existent urban spaces and their significance in the wider political and cultural framework of Latin America, oscillating between utopian promise and dystopian warning. Since the early 2010s, she has widened her research on environmental and biopolitical issues in Latin America, for instance, with regard to the cultural significance of trash, habits of consumption, and toxic bodies. Together with Jennifer French, Heffes edited The Latin American Ecocultural Reader (2020), the most comprehensive anthology of literary and cultural texts about the natural world across Latin America from the early colonial period to the present. The following year, Heffes published with Carolyn Fornoff (Cornell University) Pushing Past the Human in Latin American Cinema. This essay collection represents the first endeavor to bring into sustained conversation Latin American cinema with the theoretical discussions in the nascent field of the environmental humanities, with particular attention to posthumanism and postanthropocentrism.


Heffes is currently completing several research projects. Material Dissonances: Toxic Matters and Matters of Toxicity in Latin America is a book-length study that examines narratives, the visual arts, and digital media at the turn of the twenty-first century that catalyze an aesthetics of toxicity grounded in discourses of exposure, environmental (in)justice, bodily experiences, and material entanglements. In dialogue with this scholarly manuscript, Heffes is preparing a co-edited volume with Arndt Niebisch (University of Vienna), Uncontained Toxicity: The Dialectics of Loss and Control, a collection of essays that explores the counteracting dynamic of toxicity from a perspective that focuses on environmental, political and social processes and their aesthetic manifestations in literary, cinematic and other artistic media and artifacts that deal with the dialectics of containment and intractability.


In addition to her scholarly work, Gisela Heffes is an active fiction writer, having published the novels Ischia (2000), Praga (2001), and Ischia, Praga & Bruselas (2005). This was followed by Glossa Urbana (2012), a collection of short stories, Aldea Lounge (2014), a series of poetic chronicles, the novella Sophie La Belle and the Miniature Cities, which appeared in both Spanish and English in 2016. In 2020, she published El cero móvil de su boca/The Mobile Zero of Its Mouth, a bilingual book of poetry, the novel Cocodrilos en la noche –which was reprinted with Tusquets (Grupo Editorial Planeta – Colombia / Ecuador) in 2023 and will be released in English with Deep Vellum Press in 2024 as Crocodiles at Night. Also in 2023 Heffes published with Miami-based Suburbano Ediciones the book Aquí no hubo ni una estrella, which combines poetry with essays, dialogic explorations with stories, and memory with poetic interventions, plotting a collage that is linked through a sequence of aphorisms. Some of her most recent collaborative works are Un gabinete para el futuro (2022), a volume co-edited with Latin American graduate students from Northwestern University (Christian Vázquez), Rutgers University (Carolina Sánchez) and the University of California, Davis (Alejandro Ponce de León), as well as Turbar la quietud. Gestos subversivos entre fronteras (2023), with Mexican writer Cristina Rivera Garza.

Research and Teaching

  • Ecocriticism and Environmental Humanities
  • Latin American Literature, Film, and Culture
  • Theories of Space and Urban Imaginaries
  • Jewish Literature and Culture
  • Creative Writing

Selected Publications

  • Visualizing Loss in Latin America: Biopolitics, Waste, and the Urban Environment (Palgrave, 2023).
  • Ed. with Cristina Rivera Garza Tubar la quietud. Gestos subversivos entre fronteras (Katakana, 2023).
  • Guest co-editor with Lisa Blackmore, Treading Lightly on the Earth: New Directions in Latin American Environmental Research and Practice, special issue for the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies (2022). Translated to Spanish for Tabula Rasa (2023) and to Portuguese for Revista Rosa (forthcoming 2023).
  • with Alejandro Ponce de León, Carolina Sánchez, and Christian Vásquez, Un gabinete para el futuro (urdimbres, 2022).
  • Ed. with Carolyn Fornoff, Pushing Past the Human in Latin American Cinema (SUNY Press, 2021).
  • Ed. with Jennifer French, The Latin American Eco-Cultural Reader (Northwestern University Press, 2021).
  • Guest Editor, Ecocrítica en Latinoamérica, special issue of Revista de Crítica Literaria Latinoamericanano 79 (2014).
  • Políticas de la destrucción/Poéticas de la preservación: Apuntes para una lectura (eco)crítica del medioambiente en América Latina (Beatriz Viterbo, 2013).
  • Ed., Utopías urbanas: geopolíticas del deseo en América Latina (Iberoamericana-Vervuert, 2013).
  • Ed., Poéticas de los (dis)locamientos (Literal Publishing, 2012).
  • Las ciudades imaginarias en la literatura latinoamericana (Beatriz Viterbo, 2008).
  • Ed., Judíos/Argentinos/Escritores (Atril, 1999).