Vanessa Holford Diana

Vanessa Diana

Vanessa Holford Diana, Professor

Office: Bates 213
Phone: 413-572-5687

Vanessa Holford Diana’s research focuses on American writers of color and the uses of fiction in cultural identity expression and political reform. Her research also explores the connection between writing instruction and civic engagement. Professor Diana has published essays on 19th, 20th, and 21st century U.S. women writers of color, including Susan Power, Sui Sin Far, Frances Harper, Pauline Hopkins, Gloria Naylor, Zitkala Sa, Paula Gunn Allen, Louise Erdrich, and Leslie Marmon Silko, as well as essays on teaching writing in interdisciplinary, place-based contexts.  Her most recent publications appear in Gale Researcher, Double Helix: A Journal of Critical Thinking and Writing, Studies in American Indian Literature, and the collection Black Women’s Intellectual Traditions: Speaking Their Minds (University  Press of New England), which won the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Prize as the best anthology about African American women’s history. Professor Diana also contributes to Westfield State’s own Massachusetts Historical Journal as book review author, peer reviewer, and proofreader. Her writing courses often immerse students in the local community for civic engagement projects, and her courses in multicultural American literature introduce students to the literature of diverse cultures within the U.S.  Professor Diana’s seminars in the Honors Program and Graduate Program have focused on the City of Westfield as Text, and Black American, Native American, and other multicultural American literatures.  Professor Diana regularly organizes readings and lectures by visiting artists to complement her courses. Professor Diana also serves as Assistant Director to the Honors Program.


  • Ph.D in English, American Literature, Arizona State University, 2000  
  • M.A. in English, summa cum laude, Lehigh University, 1993
  • B.S. in Secondary Education/English, summa cum laude, East Stroudsburg University, 1990        

Courses Taught:

  • English 101 First-Year Composition
  • English 102 Thematic Writing about Native American Texts
  • Ethnic and Gender Studies 102 Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies
  • Learning Community: Writing and Research in Women's Studies (EGST 102 and  ENGL101)
  • ENGL 105: Honors First-Year Composition
  • ENGL 105: Learning Community: Civic Engagement First-Year Experience Honors Course on Downtown Westfield (with GARP105 Introduction to Community Planning)
  • ENGL 215: Introduction to American Literature
  • ENGL 297: Civic Engagement Honors Seminar: Westfield Mayor’s Symposium
  • English 328 Ethnic Literature of the U.S
  • English 328 Black American Literature
  • English 328 Contemporary Native American Literature
  • English 297H Honors Seminar in Contemporary Native American Arts, Music, Literature, Film
  • English 631 Black American Women Writers
  • English 631 Contemporary Multicultural Fiction
  • English 631 Contemporary Native American Literature
  • ENGL 631: Graduate Seminar in Contemporary Black American Literature: the Neo Slave Narrative

Recent Publications:

  • “Sui Sin Far/Edith Maude Eaton” Critical essay for Gale Spring 2016
  • “Keeping it Real and Getting Muddy: Physical Geography meets Composition in the Park.” (Co-authored with Brian Conz) Double Helix: Journal of Creative Writing and Thinking. 3 (2015)
  • Eric Gansworth’s Breathing the Monster Alive (visual and narrative text) submitted for collection on Gansworth’s work. Editor Nikki Dragone.
  • Review of Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins: Black Daughter of the Revolution in the  Massachusetts Historical Journal Spring 2011.
  • “’I am not a fairy tale’:Contextualizing Sioux Spirituality and Story Traditions for Non-Sioux Readers of Susan Power’s The Grass Dancer.  Studies in American Indian Literature (Fall 2009).
  • “The Sketch Collection: Communal Characterization as Resistance Writing Tool in Zitkala-Ša's and Sui Sin Far’s Writings” in Ellen Harrington, ed. Scribbling Women & the Short Story Form: Approaches by American & British Women Writers. NY: Peter Lang, 2008.
  • “Narrative Patternings of Resistance in Frances Harper’s Iola Leroy and Pauline Hopkins’ Contending Forces” in Black Women’s Intellectual Traditions: Speaking Their Minds. University Press of New England, 2007.
  • On-Line Teaching Guide co-authored with Ricki Kantrowitz: “Comfort Women” Sexual Slavery under the Japanese Military during World War II.  V-Day Spotlight Campaign 2006 Seeking Justice for Former “Comfort Women”

Professional Activities:

  • Westfield State University All-College Committee
  • Westfield State University English Department Curriculum Committee
  • Editorial Board Massachusetts Historical Journal
  • Professional Memberships: Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures; Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S., Modern Language Association, Society for the Study of American Women Writers, National Women’s Studies Association