My name is Liz Polcha (she/her/they/them). I received my PhD in English from Northeastern University in 2019 and I’m currently an Assistant Professor of English and Digital Humanities at Drexel University. My research interests include literature of the colonial Americas, the history of science, feminist and postcolonial theory, environmental studies, and visual & material culture. My research has been supported by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the American Council of Learned Societies, the John Carter Brown library, and the American Antiquarian Society. At Drexel, I teach classes such as Science and Literature, Eco-Feminist Literature, Introduction to Digital Humanities, and First Year Writing classes devoted to science fiction, gender, and sexuality studies.

Between 2021-2022, I was an Assistant Professor in the School of Humanities at the University of Southern Mississippi and helped launch their Center for Digital Humanities. I have worked for multiple digital archives and electronic text encoding projects, such as the Early Caribbean Digital Archive,  the Women Writers Project, and Our Marathon: the Boston Bombing Digital Archive. I also served as a NULab Fellow for Texts, Maps, and Networks. I also co-founded Insurrect! Radical Thinking in Early American Studies, an open access digital publication run by early career scholars that centers Black and Indigenous liberation frameworks in early American Studies.

My book project, Venus in Transit: Gendered Violence and the Production of Natural History a cross-disciplinary study of gender and the natural sciences in the eighteenth-century Atlantic World. The book argues that natural history became an institutionalized discipline in the eighteenth century through a culture of sexual exploitation and domination in the Atlantic World. While the study of the natural world and violence against free and enslaved African and Indigenous women were both ubiquitous in eighteenth-century transatlantic print culture, my research asks, how did the accumulative capital and prestige of scientific knowledge marshal gendered violence? I employ the interpretative methods of literary analysis to demonstrate that the epistemological processes of capturing nature were articulated through systemic gendered violence. The book intervenes into interdisciplinary scholarship on Enlightenment-era science by uncovering how the domination of women was tied to the domination of the natural world, in both imperialist expansion as well as within the visual and rhetorical modes of naturalist history.

Broad in scope, Venus in Transit considers print, visual, and material culture from Suriname, Barbados, Virginia, North Carolina, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, and Tahiti in the long eighteenth century—such as Richard Ligon’s Barbados narrative, Maria Sibylla Merian’s entomological Suriname study, diaries by enslaver and serial rapist Thomas Thistlewood, writings and visual culture from the Endeavour voyage, and William Bartram’s North and South Carolina narrative.

You can read my work in the online magazine Lady Science, in an essay titled “Breeding Insects and Reproducing White Supremacy” on Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. My article “Voyeur in the Torrid Zone” on John Gabriel Stedman’s travel narrative was published in 2019 in Early American Literature. I wrote about my collaborative work for Insurrect! in ASAP/J in a co-authored conversational post, “Care and the Contingencies of Critique.” I have also written review essays for Reviews in Digital Humanities and Digital Humanities Quarterly.

Contact me via email at <liz.polcha@drexel.edu>