Scholarspiel: I’m a feminist scholar of the Enlightenment and Romanticism. It’s a thrilling, uncomfortable, difficult balance.

Skillsetspiel: I’m also an experienced technical writer and document designer with a love for free digital media tools that don’t require coding time or knowledge (because real DH isn’t exclusionary).

Personalspiel: Meatloaf disturbs me on a conceptual level. I’m living with autoimmunity, so I try really hard not to be self-sabotaging externally. When I was a kid, I struggled to read analog clocks, but I told my mom I didn’t understand the meaning of time—I think that’s why I’m here.

Lieblingsspiel: Euchre. Balderdash a close second.


Ph.D., with distinction, Indiana University, 2017.


“Bearing/Barren Life: Wollstonecraft’s Conditions of Morbid Maternity,” European Romantic Review, 2017.

Blog Posts


    The Law’s Spine | A book-length study that reconsiders cultures of Enlightenment in the British empire through the literatures and material history of medical jurisprudence. Includes a rather invasive inquiry into Locke’s medical bag; sympathy pains with Eve’s rebellious metabolism; a cross-examination of the case of Mary Toft and her birthing seventeenth rabbits; investigations into state experimental treatments of London’s foundlings; temporary insanity, sleepwalking murderers, and the Gothic’s fundamental challenge to mens rea; medical anthropology, racist spectacle and the codification of slavery, criminal biography, human-skinned books and the making of disciplinary romanticism. This project will feature an online archive of the cases examined throughout the book, as well as data visualizations, digital media and pedagogical resources for readers.


    Relics of Enlightenment | As much a curio cabinet as it is cultural history, this manuscript explores how cultures in the eighteenth century developed what you might call a consecrating process through which remains and objects of scientific study became relics of “Enlightenment” itself. The book is particularly invested in (1) outlining the media and legal, proprietary histories of these objects, and (2) unpacking contemporary debates on the ethical and international concerns these scientific relics present. A prime example from the book: I work from recent negotiations in the 2010s back to late eighteenth-century media when examining the case of Saartie Baartman and French colonialism. The refusal of the French government and its Musee de l’Homme to return Baartman’s remains to the KhoiKhoi people to be buried respectfully is entrenched within a long and brutal history of spectacularizing the black (female) body and its remains in the name of scientific history and institutional prestige. Baartman is so crucial a case because it demands our critique of a type of relicization (as I’m calling the process) that preserves and perpetuates not the formation of knowledge, but the acts of violence. This book will include a digital curio cabinet that accompanies each chapter–albeit with a critical eye and sensitivity toward the choice of objects to represent and remediate for contemporary readers.

    Upcoming Talks and Conferences

    I’m chairing the ASECS Innovative Teaching Awards in St. Louis, March 2020. I hope to see you there!



    Rachel Seiler Smith

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