Jeanne-Marie Jackson

Assistant Professor

Gilman 30A
Personal Website


Jeanne-Marie Jackson received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University in 2012. Her first book, South African Literature’s Russian Soul: Narrative Forms of Global Isolation, was published by Bloomsbury/Continuum in 2015 (paperback 2017). It is immediately concerned with how Russia’s nineteenth-century Golden Age of literature and ideas provides a model for South African writers during and after apartheid, but advances a broader argument for realism’s maturation through deep social and historical remove. This affinity between two periods in which narrative forms internalize a widespread sense of being cut off from the world – an “inverted” world literature – in turn suggests the limits of the current global turn in literary studies. The book’s model of comparative isolationisms, furthermore, upholds comparative literature as a timely interlocutor for the more fashionable field of global Anglophone writing.

She is now at work on a second book project, The African Novel of Ideas: Intellection in the Age of Global Writing (under contract with Princeton University Press). It tells the story of the often-fraught relationship between the novel and philosophy at key, under-studied junctures of African intellectual life, from the early 20th century to the present day. It is a story, specifically, of how the novel negotiates between liberal selfhood and collective consciousness, unseating false dichotomies between humanistic and liberationist modes of reading and writing. Starting with Fante anticolonial statesmanship in pre-nationalist Ghana; moving through Stanlake Samkange’s efforts at philosophical systematization in pre-independence Zimbabwe; charting recent eastern African experiments with incorporating indigenous belief systems into narrative through the figure of the social outcast; and arriving, finally, at treatments of “philosophical suicide” by contemporary southern African writers, the book constructs a far-reaching account of the relationship between reflective solitude and aggregating structures.

Jackson has work published or forthcoming in NOVEL; Research in African Literatures; JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory; Comparative Literature Studies; Safundi; The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry; Studies in the Novel; and English Studies in Africa. She also writes for venues including Public Books; n+1; The Conversation; 3:AM Magazine; Bookslut; Africa in Words; and The Literary Review.

Professor Jackson’s teaching covers a wide range of texts and locales from across sub-Saharan Africa and the greater Anglophone world, as well as, on occasion, her first love of nineteenth-century Russia. She teaches topics that are closely related to her own work (such as post-2000 novels from Africa and the theory of the novel), as well as the broader fields of world and postcolonial literature in which this research is contextualized. A partial list of her current and recent courses can be found below:

The Novel & Globalization

The Contemporary Novel of Ideas

Writing Africa Now

Russian Classics & Their Afterlives

World Literature in Theory & Practice

Law & Justice in Postcolonial Writing

Gordimer & Coetzee: Politics and Form

Mapping the Global Metropolis

Fictions of Empire


Selected Publications

"Reading for the Region in New African Novels: Flight, Form, and the Metonymic Ideal." Forthcoming in Research in African Literatures special issue on the post-nation.

"Plurality in Question: Zimbabwe and the Agonistic African Novel." Forthcoming in Novel: A Forum in Fiction.

“African Languages, Writ Small.”

“Retreating Reality: Chekhov’s South African Afterlives.” JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory 45.1 (2015): 46-78.

“You Are Where You Aren’t: Mark Behr and the Not-Quite-Global Novel.” Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies 14.2 (2013): 175-190.

“Singular Exceptions: Animal Instrumentality in Tolstoy and Coetzee.” English Studies in Africa 55.2 (2012): 29-42.

“Going to the Dogs: Enduring Isolation in Marlene van Niekerk’s Triomf.” Studies in the Novel 43.3 (2011): 343-362.