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John Walsh

  • Chair, Dept. of French & Italian
  • Associate Professor of French


  • PhD, Romance Languages & Literatures, Harvard University (2005)
  • MA, Romance Languages & Literatures, Harvard University (1999)
  • BA, Amherst College (1993)

Research Interests & Fields of Study

Professor Walsh’s research and teaching take shape at the intersection of Caribbean Studies, especially the literature and history of Haiti, Francophone Postcolonial Studies more broadly, and the Environmental Humanities. He works on contemporary literature, as well as the texts and media of earlier periods of the French Atlantic and Caribbean. He also focuses on theories of transnationalism and globalization.

His first book, Free and French in the Caribbean: Toussaint Louverture, Aimé Césaire and Narratives of Loyal Opposition (Indiana UP, 2013), is a work of literary and historical analysis of the texts of Toussaint Louverture and Aimé Césaire and the two events that defined them, the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and the transformation of Martinique from French colony to overseas department (1946). Free and French in the Caribbean makes two central claims: the revolution and departmentalization share a deep connection, despite a narrative that long opposed Haitian independence to the assimilation of Martinique into France; and the writings of both statesmen-authors reveal the colonial origins of French republicanism. The book proposes a narrative filiation between Toussaint and Césaire in order to problematize the apparent union of universal rights and sovereignty that supports the republican principle of “Free and French,” a phrase pronounced in the first French abolition of slavery in 1794 and reiterated in Toussaint’s 1801 Constitution.

His second book, Migration and Refuge: An Eco-Archive of Haitian Literature, 1982-2017 (Liverpool UP, 2019), argues that contemporary Haitian literature historicizes the political and environmental problems brought to the surface by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti by building on texts of earlier generations, especially at the end of the Duvalier era (1957-1986) and its aftermath. Informed by Haitian studies and models of postcolonial ecocriticism, the book conceives of literature as an “eco-archive,” or a body of texts that depicts ecological change over time and its impact on social and environmental justice. Focusing equally on established and less well-known authors, the book contends that the eco-archive challenges future-oriented, universalizing narratives of the Anthropocene and the global refugee crisis with portrayals of different forms and paths of migration and refuge within Haiti and around the Americas.

Professor Walsh has advised graduate dissertations and undergraduate honors theses in interdisciplinary projects on many forms of cultural production and on a range of topics, including, among others, migration, transnational identity, humanitarianism, and environmental justice. He enjoys collaborating with colleagues and students in the department and across the Humanities to organize lectures and conferences that bring distinguished scholars, writers, and artists to Pitt.


  • Speaking French
  • The French Atlantic
  • Global French
  • Contemporary Haitian Literature
  • Global Fictions of Climate Change (in English)
  • The Environmental Imaginary of the Francophone Caribbean Novel (Graduate)
  • Mapping Afropea (Graduate)
  • Caribbean Literature in the Anthropocene (Graduate)
  • Theories of the Global (Graduate)
  • Metropoles and Megacities (Graduate)
  • Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory (Graduate)

Selected Publications

- “The Marvelous Life of a Haitian Refugee: James Noël’s Belle merveille.” In “Refugees between Aesthetics and Politics.” Special Issue of Crossings: A Journal of Culture and Migration (summer 2021).

- “A Haitian Chronicler of the Blues: Travel and Migration in Jean-Claude Charles’s Baskets.” Blues Writing: Jean-Claude Charles and Modern Caribbean Literature. Eds. Martin Munro and Eliana Vagalau (Liverpool UP, 2020)

- “Haïti, le pays du Quattro? L’Imaginaire de l’environnement urbain de Douces déroutes, ou Yanick Lahens et le spectacle de l’inégalité.” Cahiers d’Outre-mer 279 (fall 2020).

- “From Buchenwald to Port-au-Prince: Becoming Haitian in the Holocaust.” French Forum 44.1, “The Holocaust in French and Francophone Studies.” Helena Duffy, ed. (Spring 2019)

Migration and Refuge: An Eco-Archive of Haitian Literature, 1982-2017 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019) 264 pp.

- “Haiti, mon amour.” Raoul Peck: Power, Politics, and the Cinematic Imagination, Toni Pressley-Sanon and Sophie Saint-Just, eds. Lexington Books, Fall 2015, 195-216.

- “The Cooper and the Painter: The Topography of the Atelier in L’Exil et le royaume.” A Writer’s Topography: Space and Place in the Life and Works of Albert Camus, Vincent Gregoire and Jason Herbeck, eds. Brill / Rodopi, September 2015, 102-116.

- “The Global Frame of Haiti in Yanick Lahens’ Failles.” Contemporary French and Francophone Studies: SITES 19.3 (Summer 2015): 293-302.

- “Mapping Afropea: The Translation of Black Paris in the Fiction of Alain Mabanckou.” Francophone Afropean Literatures, Nicki Hitchcott and Dominic Thomas, eds. Liverpool University Press, 2014, 95-109.

- “Reading (In the) Ruins: Kettly Mars’ Saisons sauvages.” Journal of Haitian Studies 20.1 (Spring 2014): 66-83.

Free and French in the Caribbean: Toussaint Louverture, Aimé Césaire and Narratives of Loyal Opposition (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013) 193 pp.

Walsh has published additional articles and book reviews in a number of journals, including Small AxeThe French ReviewResearch in African LiteraturesTransition, and American Historical Review.

Honors and Awards

University of Pittsburgh (2013-present):

  • Humanities Center, Faculty Fellow, spring 2023
  • Global Studies, Migrations Initiative Travel Grant
  • Dietrich School, Type I Research Grant
  • Humanities Center Collaborative Research Grant
  • CLAS Faculty Research Grant
  • European Studies Center, Faculty Research Grant
  • Hewlett International Travel Grant
  • Dietrich School, Faculty Scholarship and Research Program Grant

Professional Affiliations

MLA, HSA, NeMLA, ASLE, Camus Studies

Research Interests

Haitian Studies; Caribbean Literature and History; Postcolonial Ecocriticism/Climate Change; Francophone Afro-Diasporic Literature