Dr. Victoria Papa

Assistant Professor, English & Communications

Victoria Papa
(413) 662-5275
Mark Hopkins Hall Rm 108A


Ph.D., Northeastern University

M.A., University of Albany, SUNY

B.A., Saint Anselm College

About Me

My teaching and research examines the intersection of cultural trauma and experimental aesthetics in American literature and visual culture from the modernist period to the present. I am especially interested in how writers and artists make use of aesthetic possibilities to enact life-affirming counternarratives of recognition and resiliency. In 2020-2021, I am a Visiting Scholar at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center.

teaching areas

I teach courses in 20th- and 21st-century American literature and visual culture, critical theory, ethnic studies, and gender & sexuality studies. In my courses, such as Creativity & Survival and Visions & Voices: American Ethnic Literature & Art, I view the study of literature as well as other kinds of “texts”—visual art, new media, music—as a creative act in and of itself. I engage students in a dynamic dialogue with a wide range of storytellers and critics: speaking to, with, and back at them. I assure my students that because we all have unique and ever-evolving lives, perspectives, and voices, each and every interaction with a text holds the potential for new and powerful insights.

Research Interests

I am currently at work on my first book, Aesthetics of Survival: Modernist Literature and Minoritarian World-Making. This book argues that modernists—who wrote about race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability from the periphery of a literary movement—provide a counternarrative to existing accounts of modernity and trauma. By decentering the major trauma of the World Wars in their literature, these authors reveal that the aesthetic challenge of representing experience—so fundamental to modernism’s literary and critical consciousness—is as strongly linked to the quotidian violence of systemic oppression as it is to mass catastrophe.


“Interfacing Grief: Haptic Autotheory & Performance as Afterlife in Anne Carson’s Nox.” (in preparation)

“Clean, Original, Primitive”: Sexual Radicalism, Race Consciousness, and the Case of Harlem’s Queers,” Modernism/modernity Print+(forthcoming)

“The Art of Care: Susannah Cahalan on Madness, Diagnosis, and COVID-19,” Public Books (2020)

"Embodied Haunting: Aesthetics and the Archive in Toni Morrison's Beloved" in Madness in Black Women's Fictions: Aesthetics of Resistance and the Practice of Diaspora. Ed. Caroline Brown and Johanna Garvey. London: Palgrave Macmillan. (2017)

Other Projects

Since 2018, I have directed The Mind’s Eye—a research and praxis initiative of MCLA in close collaboration with our neighboring institution MASS MoCA. The Mind's Eye's current project, Care Syllabus, is a free, multimodal public education and community outreach resource that features original text, visual media, recordings, and virtual live events by activists, artists, and academics. Care Syllabus aims to generate civic discourse about intersecting topics of our moment—such as COVID-19, racial justice, and environmental stewardship— through a lens of care.