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Jungle Fever
Exploring Madness and Medicine in Twentieth-Century Tropical Narratives

Author(s): Charlotte Rogers

The sinister "jungle"—that ill-defined and amorphous place where civilization has no foothold and survival is always in doubt—is the terrifying setting for countless works of the imagination. Films like Apocalypse Now, television shows like Lost, and of course stories like Heart of Darkness all pursue the essential question of why the unknown world terrifies adventurer and spectator alike. In Jungle Fever, Charlotte Rogers goes deep into five books that first defined the jungle as a violent and maddening place. The reader finds urban explorers venturing into the wilderness, encountering and living among the "native" inhabitants, and eventually losing their minds.

The canonical works of authors such as Joseph Conrad, Andre Malraux, Jose Eustasio Rivera, and others present jungles and wildernesses as fundamentally corrupting and dangerous. Rogers explores how the methods these authors use to communicate the physical and psychological maladies that afflict their characters evolved symbiotically with modern medicine. While the wilderness challenges Conrad's and Malraux's European travelers to question their civility and mental stability, Latin American authors such as Alejo Carpentier deftly turn pseudoscientific theories into their greatest asset, as their characters transform madness into an essential creative spark.

Ultimately, Jungle Fever suggests that the greatest horror of the jungle is the unknown regions of the character's own mind.

Biography of Author(s)

: Charlotte Rogers is Assistant Professor of Spanish at George Mason University.


  • "Jungle Fever takes us on a fascinating excursion into the colonial and postcolonial tropics where we find Conrad and Malraux in the company of Alejo Carpentier, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jorge Luis Borges, and Wilson Harris—with many surprises lurking along the way."
    Vera Kutzinski, author of Against the American Grain
  • ". . . a stunningly erudite and insightful critical and historical interdisciplinary analysis."
  • "Jungle Fever isolates, in the novelistic subgenre of the jungle book, a deep strand involving disease, which is at the source of its creative impulse, and where these adventure novels carry out a compelling critique of modern imperialism. Cutting across the English, Latin American, and French traditions this book is a model of the comparative approach."
    Roberto González Echevarría, Sterling Professor of Hispanic and Comparative Literature, Yale University, and author of Myth and Archive