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Juan Carlos González Espitia

Juan Carlos González Espitia

Graduate Advisor for Spanish
Bowman & Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor
Chair of the Publications Advisory Committee
Dey Hall 328

Accepting graduate students 


Ph.D., Cornell University, 2002

BA, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 1995

BA, Universidad Externado de Colombia, 1994

About Professor González Espitia

Juan Carlos González Espitia is Professor of Spanish and affiliated faculty in Comparative Literature. From a literary and historical perspective, his work is a diachronic approach to Latin American and Spanish literary production in dialogue with critical medical humanities and questions of public health from the eighteenth century to the present, with a strong focus on the associations between the discourses of disease, literature, and public policy. He is the editor of the established North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures book series .

González Espitia teaches courses and guides doctoral candidates in multiple periods and through an array of disciplinary perspectives, from Spanish American and Peninsular literature of the Enlightenment to Avant-Garde literary production, to Latinx literature, and from seminars on cultural representations of disease and (dis)ability to courses on the theory of poiesis or literary creation. His research focuses on non-canonical, heterodox, or otherwise hidden literatures, ideas and authors that, although oftentimes absent from the canons, reveal profound trends in culture and society. More pointedly, his work deals with representations of disease, forms of writing that challenge the status quo, and nation building, including the complex dynamics from a colonial condition to one of budding independence.

Publications, Articles, & Presentations

His Sifilografía: A History of the Writerly Pox in the Eighteenth-Century Hispanic World (2019) was published by University of Virginia Press. It traces the written consequences of syphilis in the Hispanic world through the long eighteenth century (1700-1810). Sifilografía charts the connections of literary texts, art, medical literature, and governmental documents. The authors and texts include in the study—a combination of canonical and lesser-known names from both sides of the Atlantic—subvert the idea of a homogeneous cultural production and push for an approach to literature as an organic construction that escapes classifications of literary and regional movements or historical progress. This understanding of literature as permeated by other disciplines is at the core of González Espitia’s methodological approach and the teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

His On the Dark Side of the Archive: Nation and Literature in Spanish America at the Turn of the Century, was published with Bucknell University Press. With the goal of exploring new avenues of approach, and the collaboration with internationally known scholars, he has edited and co-edited volumes published by university presses and renowned journals.

His other avenue of research is also related to “troublesome” writing. He has done extensive work and publication on the production of José María Vargas Vila, a Colombian author whose novels dealing with problematic sexualities, anti-imperialism, and anti-clericalism were extremely popular in the Spanish-speaking world at the turn of the nineteenth century, but which collapsed when confronted with the idealized purposes later invested in literature by critics. In conjunction with the Rare Book Collection at UNC, he developed the first comprehensive digital repository of Vargas Vila’s literary production, available at no cost to readers around the world. He has published two of Vargas Vila’s unknown novels, one of them an early yet bold approach to lesbianism in Latin America and the other the story of Ítalo Fontana, a heterodox Latin American artist educated in the United States who has a tragic incestuous relationship with his sister. He is presently curating the edition of two other unedited works by Vargas Vila.


Natalie Love. (PhD – Romance Studies). “The Hysterical Mirror: Staged Masturbatory Fantasy and Gender Transgression in Late Nineteenth Century Male Authored Literature of the Hispanic World.” (2020). Presently at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Rhi Johnson. (PhD – Romance Studies. Co-directed with Irene Gómez-Castellano). “Water Women: Reclaiming Erotic Agency through Image in the Transatlantic Nineteenth Century.” (2020). Presently at the University of Indiana, Bloomington.

Rebecca R. Garonzik (PhD – Comparative Literature). “Neoliberalism, Politics, Erotics, and Contemporary Latin American and Latina/o Literature.” (2019). Presently at the College of Wooster.

Typical Courses

Illness and Literature in the Hispanic World.

Politics, Language, Love, Race and other 19th Century Spanish American Diseases.

Spanish American Literature (SPAN 373).

Contemporary Latin America: Caribbean and Southern Cone (SPAN 345).

Poiesis in Spanish America.

Masterpieces of Spanish and Spanish American Poetry. (La muerte viva de la poesía hispánica).