As the world is approaching the end of the fossil fuel economy it is worthwhile reflecting on the cultural and literary work dedicated to that topic. We will examine one bestselling novel from the early period of oil extraction (Oil, by the muckraking writer Upton Sinclair, recently adapted for the movie There Will be Blood) and then concentrate on more recent literary treatments of the human, economic, and environmental effects of the fossil fuel industry – including John Sayles' acclaimed novel on the Dakota pipeline conflict and a novel by an Indigenous female writer that promises to shed a fundamentally different perspective on the problem (Hogan). Our approach will be guided by questions about the potential and limits of literary discourse to deal with the topic of fossil fuel extraction – one of the most destructive, yet economically essential and culturally formative, activities of global modernity.
Students are required to purchase a Reader (Copy&Paste), as well as the following texts:
- Upton Sinclair (1929/2007) Oil. Penguin. ISBN-10: 9780143112266
- Linda Hogan (1990) Mean Spirit. Ballantine. ISBN-10: 0804108633
- Jennifer Haigh (2016) Heat & Light. Harper Collins. ISBN-10: 0061763497.
- John Sayles, Yellow Earth (Haymarket, ISBN-10: 1642590215) is brand new and not yet available as paperback. An ebook version will be ready for download.