Loyola University Chicago

Department of English


Get to know Dr. Katarzyna Lecky (10/5/2022)

Get to know Dr. Katarzyna Lecky (10/5/2022)

Dr. Katarzyna Lecky is Loyola’s English Department's new Surtz Associate Professor and is bringing years of experience and expertise in Renaissance literature to campus.

With degrees from Notre Dame and Boston College and a PhD from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Dr. Lecky taught at various institutions around the country before ending up at our Lakeshore campus. She says part of what drew her to take a position at Loyola was the advantages of working at a city school.

“As a first-generation college student and a first-generation American who grew up in the center of the city on the East Coast, I just have always loved teaching students who are maybe underrepresented, marginalized, non-traditional,” she says. “And that’s why it’s such a privilege to be back in the classroom where I can really feel like I’m making a difference.”

One of the ways Dr. Lecky makes a difference is by not assuming her students have any prior literary knowledge. Her first class every semester is usually dedicated to reading poetry to introduce students to the joy of reading literature.

“We just read the poetry for enjoyment. We read it aloud. We read it in small groups. As a class, we analyze line by line. Sometimes I ask them just to tell me what catches their fancy or tugs at their heartstrings. I really try to get them engaged as human beings rather than brains in jars, and then I find that we can very quickly progress into the deeper levels of interpretation,” Dr. Lecky says.

Through her teaching, Dr. Lecky is committed to making students feel connected to Renaissance literature, which is, as she knows from experience, initially intimidating. She says that for students who, like herself, come from a lower socioeconomic or immigrant background, this type of literature can seem difficult to tackle. She wants her students to become “comfortable with the language, the culture, the kind of historical contexts…. I find that it also helps them then become more confident as literary scholars more generally.”

Dr. Lecky’s interest in Renaissance literature began when she read The Lord of the Rings and, especially, The Silmarillion, which she’s read around 50 times. But the book that has affected her life the most is John Milton’s Paradise Lost, of which she has multiple annotated and dog-eared copies. She says that it’s her favorite because it’s one of those “books that make you grapple with them and make you think with them, and challenge you to go your own way in your interpretation. Those are the books I have fetishized and I love to teach.”

In her current graduate course, Dr. Lecky is incorporating one of her current research topics: sensory history, which she is developing into the draft of her second book. Sensory history studies the role the senses have played in the past. Dr. Lecky’s book focuses on tracking the emergence of a form of blood and soil nativism in the 17th century, natural history, and natural philosophy, which are the precursors to modern sciences. Her research looks into the emergence of what it meant to be English, while the country was shattering because of political, religious, and cultural divides, and explores how people started really doubling down on who was a native English person and who was a stranger or a foreigner to the English lands.

Dr. Lecky describes a lot of her subject matter, in both her research and her teaching, as dark. But she says that is not the environment she cultivates in her classrooms.

“On the one hand, it's crucial to engage with the darker dimensions…. It's essential, I think, to engage with the seamy underbelly of what I teach, but in my classrooms, my primary purpose and disposition is this commitment to delight,” she says. “I privilege my students having fun in the classroom above all else. There's still writing. There's still interpreting. But it's got to be enjoyable, it's got to be joyful.”