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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Dr Victoria Baena

Dr Victoria Baena
Research Fellow
Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages & Linguistics
Contact details: 

Gonville & Caius College
Trinity Street
United Kingdom


Dr Victoria Baena is Research Fellow at Gonville & Caius College, University of Cambridge. Her work focuses on the history and theory of the novel in a comparative context, with a particular eye to the politics of aesthetics, critical geographies, and Marxist and feminist theories. As a comparatist, she is broadly interested not only in working across national traditions but in investigating how narrative itself experiments with scale: how literature relates, without equating, distinct but interconnected histories.

Victoria is currently at work on her first book, Provinces of the Mind: Cartographies of the Modern Novel, which traces a comparative literary history of the province-capital divide across nineteenth-century narratives in English and French, especially in the context of overseas imperialism. The project makes a case for the “provincial”– from countryside to region to colony – as a conceptual tool for mapping migration and mobility across multiple scales. Along the way, it shows how representing this unstable provincial scale became a crucial problem for the modern novel.  

Victoria is also pursuing related research into questions of gender and mobility in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature in the French, British, and Latin American traditions. Current projects in this vein focus on the ethics and politics of metaphor and include a critical essay on the “return of the native” trope between literary history and anthropology; as well as an article on the gendered dimensions of shipwreck narratives in the longue durée, from Cabeza de Vaca to Maryse Condé. She is also at work on a book-length archival project, uncovering the literary and intellectual biography of a mid-nineteenth-century novelist, socialist-feminist activist (and Flaubert correspondent) named Amélie Bosquet.

Before obtaining her PhD in comparative literature from Yale, Victoria completed a BA in History and Literature at Harvard, followed by a year as an international fellow at Paris’s École Normale Supérieure. As 2022 Diamonstein-Spielvogel fellow at the New York Public Library, she brought her research to a broader audience through public conversations and publications related to her work on literature and cartography. Her involvement in the public humanities extends to regular literary essays and reviews published in venues like The New York Review of Books, The Baffler, and Dissent; her translation of Marie Ndiaye’s short story, “Step of a Feral Cat,” was recently published with Two Lines Press. She is also committed to adult education beyond university campuses, and has written on the politics of pedagogy for Boston Review.

Teaching interests: 
  • Literature and revolution
  • Translation in theory and practice
  • Travel narratives
  • Writing the self
  • Gender and mobility
Published works: 

Selected Publications

“History’s Borrowed Languages: Emily Brontë, Karl Marx, and the Novel of 1848,” ​ELH: English Literary History [forthcoming, 2023]


“Romanesque Commitments: Amélie Bosquet’s Narrative Theory and Popular Aesthetics,” Nineteenth-Century French Studies (vol. 50, nos. 1–2), 2021


​“The Classroom in Crisis” (review essay), Boston Review, September 2021


“Labor, Thought, and the Work of Authorship: Virginia Woolf and Hannah Arendt,” ​Diacritics (vol. 48, no. 1), 2020


Translator, Marie NDiaye, “Step of a Feral Cat,” in Visible: Text + Image, Two Lines Press (Calico Series), 2022