feature image Photo Credit: from Max Ernst, illustration for 'Une Semaine de Bonté'
Phillip R. Polefrone bio photo

Phillip R. Polefrone

PhD candidate at Columbia University's Department of English and Comparative Literature.

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I’m Phil Polefrone, a PhD Candidate in Columbia University’s Department of English and Comparative Literature. I work in three broad fields: 20th-century American fiction, the environmental humanities, and the digital humanities.

My research is currently somewhat bifurcated. On one hand, I read for what I call the ecotopian imagination in American literature: instances of speculative social ecologies in fiction, when narration of communal and physical structures can also be considered a form of environmentalism. My work on this topic is heavily informed by Marxist-inflected environmentalisms (think Paul Burkett, John Bellamy Foster, and Jason W. Moore) and environmental justice. I write about works like Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland and Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House and Death Comes for the Archbishop whose descriptions of physical space have major ramifications on the social commentary they provide. This often leads me into work on speculative and utopian fiction, from Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. The articles I am currently developing discuss the ecosocialist economy of Herland as it is determined by the image of the garden and housekeeping and queer construction of new social structures in Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House.

In addition to this more traditional written work, in my work on the digital humanities I use natural language processing in Python to use and develop distant reading techniques in American fiction before 1923 (and beyond, where copyright restrictions allow). My most recent work has been focused on improving automated location extraction and geolocation, which will allow me to bring data extracted from literature into closer contact with environmental datasets revolving around emissions, climate change, and environmental health. My digital projects to date have been more focused on natural language processing of literature in general, but this foundation is now allowing me to focus on space and setting more exclusively.

This site hosts my DH projects and other professional resources, such as my CV and list of publications. See below for updates and information about works in progress. My CV can be found on the “CV” tag above, and projects are hosted on the “Projects” tab and represented among the posts.

Recent Posts

Introduction to Technical Writing

Cooper Union, STEM, 2016

Location Extraction and Georeferencing with Python and QGIS

Semi-Automatic Location Referencing for Literary Study

Hate Speech and Online Activism

Semantic, historical, and legal analysis of online hate speech

The Space of Things: Global Circulation, Materiality, and Environment in *Through the Arc of the Rain Forest*

An essay on globalization, commodity logic, and environmental crisis Karen Tei Yamashita's *Through the Arc of the Rainforest*

Automatic Web Layout for Manuscripts

Using Jekyll and CSS, Columbia's Group for Experimental Methods was playing with ways to mimick monks' notes in the margins of manuscripts in online manuscript transcriptions.