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Elizabeth Polcha

Elizabeth Polcha, PhD

Assistant Professor of English and Digital Humanities
Department of English and Philosophy
Center for Science, Technology and Society
Office: 5016 MacAlister

Additional Sites:

Personal Website
Google Scholar


  • PhD, English, Northeastern University, 2019
  • MA, English, Florida State University, 2012
  • BA, English, University of Tulsa, 2010

Curriculum Vitae:

Download (PDF)

Research Interests:

  • Black Atlantic Literature
  • Digital Humanities
  • Early American Studies
  • Postcolonial and Settler Colonial Studies
  • Gender Sexuality Studies
  • Environmental Studies
  • History of Science
  • History of the Book


Liz Polcha (she/her) is an assistant professor of English and Digital Humanities. Her research examines race, gender, and sexuality in print and visual culture from the eighteenth-century Atlantic World. Her book project, Venus in Transit: Gendered Violence and the Production of Natural History, argues that natural history became a discipline in the eighteenth century through a culture of sexual exploitation. Each chapter untangles the genres of natural history as intelligence gathering for empire, from woodcut engravings typologizing women’s bodies to Linnaean taxonomy and racial classification schemes circulated in print culture. Through this analysis of form and genre, Venus in Transit centers the fragmented narratives of women and girls in the margins of naturalist record keeping, from the Caribbean, West Africa, the South Pacific archipelago, and North and South America. Liz’s 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.

Liz's commitment to confronting the colonial archives of literature and science stems from her digital humanities scholarship. She has contributed to the Early Caribbean Digital Archive, the Women Writers Project, and Our Marathon: the Boston Bombing Digital Archive. Liz 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. Before joining Drexel, Liz was an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern Mississippi. At USM, she helped launch the Center for Digital Humanities and taught foundational graduate courses, including "Introduction to Digital Humanities and a DH practicum, "Digital Archival Power." In partnership with the CDH, she also collaborated with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History on a digital exhibit on Black photography and the history of slavery in Mound Bayou, Mississippi.

Selected Publications:

  • "New Methodologies in the Study of Natural History." Early American Literature 26.2 (2021).
  • "Care and the Contingencies of Critique: A Textual Roundtable," ASAP Journal. March 2021.
  • "Maria Sibylla Merian's Ecology of Dispossession," Lady Science: a magazine of the history and popular culture of science. 21 June 2019.
  • "Voyeur in the Torrid Zone: John Gabriel Stedman's Narrative of Five Years Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, 1773-1838" Early American Literature 54.3 (2019)
  • "Learning from the Past: The Woman Writers Project and Thirty Years of Humanities Text Encoding," Magnificat Cultura i Literatura Medievals. Co-authored with Sarah Connell, Julia Flanders, Nicole Keller, William Quinn. Vol. 4 (2017)