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Phillip R. Polefrone is a Lecturer in Columbia University’s Core Curriculum, where he teaches Contemporary Civilization in the West. His PhD is from Columbia’s Department of English and Comparative Literature, and his research focuses on twentieth-century American fiction from an environmental humanities perspective, with particular focuses on American Literary Naturalism and speculative fiction. His dissertation, “Literary Naturalism and the Anthropocene,” considers the philosophical, historical, and scientific resonances between American Literary Naturalism and the deep history of the Anthropocene as a concept. Covering authors such as Frank Norris, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Jack London, this dissertation discusses the central problems of ecocriticism in the Anthropocene as they appear in naturalist fiction: among them the “species” concept as it relates to human history, the place of human guidance in natural systems, and the role of capitalism (especially finance) in determining the scale and character of humanity’s influence on the planet. Using these issues as the basis for a reading of naturalist novels expands the range of texts that are read as “Anthropocene fiction,” but it also presents a new reading of an important moment in American literary history, recasting many of the well known features of the naturalist genre in terms set by an urgent contemporary discourse.

In addition to his work in the environmental humanities, Phillip’s work in the digital humanities uses natural language processing in Python to develop and employ distant reading methods. Most recently, he has been focused on improving automated location extraction and geolocation, which makes it possible to bring data extracted from literature into closer contact with environmental datasets revolving around emissions, climate change, and environmental justice.

This site hosts my published writing, documents related to academic and educational talks, DH projects. 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.


Phillip R. Polefrone

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