CLEN W3937: Literature and Oil | J. Wenzel

Wednesdays 4:10 – 6:00; 4 Points
Students from all schools and majors are welcome and encouraged to apply: this course thrives upon interdisciplinary discussion.This course will investigate the connections between literary/cultural production and petroleum as the substance that makes possible the world as we know it, both as an energy source and a component in the manufacture of everything from food to plastic. Our current awareness of oil’s scarcity and its myriad costs (whether environmental, political, or social) provides a lens to read for the presence (or absence) of oil in texts in a variety of genres and national traditions. As we begin to imagine a world “beyond petroleum,” this course will confront the ways in which oil shapes both the world we know and how we know and imagine the world. Oil will feature in this course in questions of theme (texts “about” oil), of literary form (are there common formal conventions of an “oil novel”?), of interpretive method (how to read for oil), of transnational circulation (how does “foreign oil” link US citizens to other spaces?), and of the materiality (or “oiliness”) of literary culture (how does the production and circulation of texts, whether print or digital, rely on oil?).
(in order of appearance on syllabus):
Watts and Kashi, Curse of the Black Gold
Habila, Oil on Water
Hogan, Mean Spirit
Munif, Cities of Salt
Dickinson, The Polymers
Said, Ali and Nino
Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker


Posted in: 2015 Fall Undergraduate, ALL

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