Committee on Environment, Geography and Urbanization

Division of Social Sciences, The University of Chicago

portrait of Victoria Saramago
portrait of Neil Brenner

Victoria Saramago

Associate Professor, Department of Romance Languages & Literatures, the College, and Committee on Environment, Geography and Urbanization (CEGU)

PhD, Stanford University, 2015

I hold a PhD degree in Iberian and Latin American Cultures from Stanford University, as well as BA and MA degrees in Luso-Brazilian Literature and Portuguese Language from the State University of Rio de Janeiro. My research covers twentieth- and twenty-first century Latin American literature with a focus on Brazil. I work in the intersection of ecocriticism and fiction theory. I am interested in theoretical approaches to the representation of forest and rural areas in Latin America, Luso-Hispanic dialogues, Environmental Humanities, Energy Humanities, studies of mimesis, theoretical approaches to fictional, autobiographical, and autofictional writings, and transatlantic uses of the term sertão (commonly translated as backlands) in lusophone cultures.

My most recent book, Fictional Environments: Mimesis, Deforestation, and Development in Latin America (Northwestern University Press, 2020) explores how novels can help us make sense of environmental change. It investigates the dynamic relationship between fictional images and real places, as the lasting representations of forests, rural areas, and deserts in novels clash with collective perceptions of changes like deforestation and urbanization. From the backlands of Brazil to a developing Rio de Janeiro, and from the rainforests of Venezuela and Peru to the Mexican countryside, the second half of the twentieth century saw rapid deforestation in Latin America. How do fictional works and other cultural objects dramatize, resist, and intervene in these ecological transformations? Through analyses of work by João Guimarães Rosa, Alejo Carpentier, Juan Rulfo, Clarice Lispector, and Mario Vargas Llosa, Fictional Environments shows how novels have inspired conservationist initiatives and offered counterpoints to developmentalist policies, and how environmental concerns have informed the agendas of novelists as essayists, politicians, and public intellectuals. This book seeks to understand the role of literary representation, or mimesis, in shaping, sustaining, and negotiating environmental imaginaries during the deep, ongoing transformations that have taken place from the 1950s to the present. 

I am also the author of O duplo do pai: O filho e a ficção de Cristovão Tezza (São Paulo: É Realizações, 2013), which investigates the autofictional writings of contemporary Brazilian author Cristovão Tezza. My articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Novel: A Forum on FictionLuso-Brazilian ReviewEcozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture, and EnvironmentLetterature d’AmericaPortuguese Literary and Cultural StudiesNuevo Texto Crítico, and others. 

I currently serve as a faculty sponsor for the University of Chicago’s Environmental Studies Workshop. I am also a member of the executive committee of the Modern Language Association’s Luso-Brazilian Forum, and a member of the Brazilian Studies Association executive committee.




Fictional Environments: Mimesis and Deforestation in Latin America. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2020. 

O Duplo do Pai: O filho e a ficção de Cristovão Tezza. São Paulo: É Realizações, 2013. 

Articles and Book Chapters

“The Rights of Nature, the Rights of Fiction: Mario Vargas Llosa and the Amazon.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction, v. 54, n. 1, 2021 (Forthcoming). 

“Birds, Rivers, Book: Material Mimesis in João Guimarães Rosa’s Grande sertão: veredas.” Luso-Brazilian Review, v. 57, n. 1, 2020. pp. 125-149. 

“Juan Rulfo leído por escritores y críticos latinoamericanos fuera de México.” Juan Rulfo: Guía crítica. Edited by Víctor Jiménez and Jorge Zepeda. México, D.F.: RM. 2018. 

“TransatlanticSertões: the Backlands of Ruy Duarte de Carvalho and Mia Couto.” Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment, v. 8, n. 1, University of Alcalá, Madrid, 2017. pp. 79-97. 

“The Sailor and the Migrant: Discourses of the Capibaribe River in João Cabral de Melo Neto’s O Rio.” Letterature D’America, Anno XXXVI, n. 160, University of Rome “La Sapienza,” Rome, 2016. pp. 41-69.