Dr. Victoria Papa

Associate Professor, English

Victoria Papa
(413) 662-5275
60 Porter St. Rm 204


Ph.D., Northeastern University

M.A., University of Albany, SUNY

B.A., Saint Anselm College

Courses Taught

Creativity & Survival

Gender & Global Modernisms

Introduction to Literature

Introduction to Visual Culture

MASS MoCA Immersion

Visions & Voices: American Ethnic Literature & Art

About Me

*Prof. Papa is on sabbatical in 2023-2024​*

My research and teaching examine the intersections of creative expression and the survival of structural traumas in literature and visual culture in the 20th- and 21st-centuries. I am especially interested in how writers and visual artists make use of aesthetic possibilities to enact life-affirming counternarratives of care and kinship while navigating both the challenges and delights of embodied experience. 

In my courses, I encourage students to regard learning as an ongoing process that allows room for risk and reward, vulnerability and achievement, challenge and ease. I prompt students to view the study of literature and other kinds of “texts”—including visual art and new media—as a creative act in and of itself. My syllabi feature 20th- and 21st-century authors and artists from a multitude of subject positions. My courses take an immersive approach to the study of literature and art: field trips to local museums, guest lectures, somatic activities, and collaborative course projects are common. 

Research Interests

I am currently at work on my first book tentatively titled, Survival Aesthetics: Creative Expression & the Critique of Trauma. This book project disrupts a dominant 20th-century model of trauma rooted in one-off events, linear time, and the individual subject in favor of attending to the creative spillage that emerges from within trauma’s cracks. Turning a paradigm of trauma on its head, it considers trauma to be constitutive of (rather than aberrant to) a modern worlding project architected by imperialist and supremacist logics. It asks, when trauma is woven into the very structures of modernity, how do artistic acts and objects rupture the traumatic frame? What survives within, through, and beyond the aesthetic? Approaching creative expression as not simply a reparative gesture but rather a process rife with constraint, this project positions “survival aesthetics” as part tactic, part flight— an errant in-between that refigures the fracture of trauma as a portal to other worlds in-the-making.

My writing has appeared in such places as Modernist Cultures, Women & Performance, Modernism/modernity Print+, Public Books, ASAP/J, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature and Literature and History. My research has been supported by awards from the National Endowment of the Humanities (2023), Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (2022), Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center (2020-2022), Massachusetts Cultural Council (2021), and the NEA-funded Artist Impact Coalition (2021).

I am co-creator of CARE SYLLABUS—a public humanities and arts project developed in collaboration with MASS MoCA

Selected Publications

Permission to Wonder: The Palimpsestic Interplay of H.D. and Freud,” Modernist Cultures (2023)

Interfacing Grief: Haptic Autotheory & Performance as Afterlife in Anne Carson’s Nox,” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory (2022)

Care and the Contingencies of Critique,” ASAP/J (2021)

Clean, Original, Primitive”: Sexual Radicalism, Race Consciousness, and the Case of Harlem’s Queers,” Modernism/modernity Print+ (2021)

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)

selected presentations

"Minoritarian Modernisms Roundtable," Between the Acts: An MSA Digital Conference, April 2022

“Caremaking: Beyond Dynamics of Give and Take,” ASAP/12, Virtual, October 2021

“Care Practices: A Panel Discussion,” The Wattis Institute at California College of the Arts, Virtual, May 2021

“Institutions & the Crisis of Care,” College Art Association, Virtual, February 2020 

“Trauma Studies: A Prognosis, Modern Language Association, Virtual, January, 2020

Features in MCLA News

MCLA Professor Reflects on Fellowship at Yale's Beinecke Library (Fall 2022)

Leading Classes, and National Conversations, on Care and the Therapeutic Arts (Spring 2022)

New MCLA/MASS MoCA Collaboration Explores the Meaning of Care (Fall 2020)

MCLA English Professor to Complete Brandeis University Fellowship (Fall 2020)