Tribute to Professor Jean Franco

  • Date

    Thu 5 Jan 23

Professor Jean Franco with colleagues

The University of Essex is saddened to learn about the passing of the ground-breaking Professor Jean Franco, 98. In 1968 she was appointed Essex's first female professor and spearheaded the study of Latin American literature. Here Peter Hulme, Emeritus Professor of Literature, pays tribute to his mentor and friend.

Jean Franco (1924-2022) was educated at the universities of Manchester and London.

She taught at London before her appointment at Essex, where she was the university’s first woman professor and the first professor of Latin American literature in the UK. 

She left Essex in 1972 for Stanford and later Columbia University, where she remained professor emerita. Her pioneering works in Latin American literature and culture include The Modern Culture of Latin America (1967), Spanish American Literature Since Independence (1973), César Vallejo: The Dialectics of Poetry and Silence (1976), Plotting Women: Gender and Representation in Mexico (1989), Critical Passions: Selected Essays (1999), The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War (2002), and Cruel Modernity (2013). 

Essex awarded her an honorary degree in 1992.

In 1996 she won a PEN award for her lifetime contribution to the dissemination of Latin American literature in English.

With a great sense of humour and a cackle of a laugh, Jean had no trace of academic pomposity. 

Alongside her colleague Gordon Brotherston, who died just two weeks after her, Jean presided over a period when Essex was the leading centre for the study of Latin American literature in the UK.

The New York Times has paid tribute to her extraordinary life.

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