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Syllabus 2019/20


Please note - the main reading is the primary text for each week. With the exception of weeks 1 & 2, you are not expected to read all the supplementary material to prepare for class (though of course it helps!). We will occasionally refer to it during class, with handouts.



Weeks One and Two: Introduction: Petrofiction and the Energy Humanities

Preparation for Module: Watch Film: A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash, Basil Gelpke, Ray McCormack, Reto Caduff, Switzerland, 2006

Week One: Petroculture and the Energy Humanities

Imre Szeman, Adam Carlson and Sheena Wilson, 'Introduction: On Petrocultures, Or, Why we need to understand oil to understand everything else', in Petrocultures: Oil, Politics, Culture, McGill-Queens University Press (2017), 3-20

'Editors' Column: Literature in the Ages of Wood, Tallow, Coal, Whale Oil, Gasoline, Atomic Power and Other Energy Sources' : PMLA Special Issue 126: 2, 2011.

Dominic Boyer and Imre Szeman, "Introduction: On the Energy Humanities", Energy Humanities: An Anthology (2017)

Ross Barrett & Daniel Worden, 'Introduction' in Barrett & Worden (eds) Oil Culture (Minnesota UP, 2014) xvii-xxxiii (inc. Alan Stoekl, 'Foreword',xi-xiv)

Stefanie LeMenager, 'Introduction: Ultradeep', Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century (Oxford, 2014), 1-33.

(See also Cultures of Energy Podcasts by CENHS, Rice University, by Szeman (Ep. 6) and Lemenager (Ep. 7)

Week Two: Petropolis and Petrofiction

In Class, we will watch, interpret, and discuss Peter Mettler's film Petropolis (Greenpeace Canada, 2009)

Italo Calvino, "The Petrol Pump" (1974)

Ghosh, Amitav, "Petrofiction: The Oil Encounter and the Novel." The New Republic, 2 March, 1992, 29-34.

Franco Moretti, 'Conjectures on World Literature', New Left Review 1 (2000) 54-68

Lucia Boldrini, 'Comparative Literature in the 21st Century: A View from Europe and the UK', Comparative Critical Studies 3.1-2 (2006) 13-23

Michael K Walonen, “‘The Black and Cruel Demon’ and its Transformations of Space: Toward a Comparative Study of World Literature and Space,” Interdisciplinary Literary Studies 14, No. 1 (2012), 59.

Imre Szeman, Introduction to Special "Petrofictions" Issue of American Book Review, Volume 33, Number 3, March/April 2012, p. 3

Graeme Macdonald, 'Oil and World Literature,' in Special "Petrofictions" Issue of American Book Review, Volume 33, Number 3, March/April 2012, p. 3

Supplementary Readings on Oil/Environment, Week 2:

Vaclav Smil, Chapter One from Oil: A Beginner's Guide, Oxford: One World, 2008

Sonia Shah, Intro Chapters from Crude: The Story of Oil, NYC: Seven Stories, 2004

Lawrence Buell, 'Ecoglobalist Affects: The Emergence of U.S. Environmental Imaginaton on a Planetary Scale', in Dimock, Wai Chee and Lawrence Buell, eds. Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2007, pp. 227-248

Greg Garrard, selections from Ecocriticsm, London: Routledge, 2004

Richard Heinberg, selections from The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, East Sussex: Clearview, 2003

Leonardo Maugeri, selections from The Age of Oil: The Mythology, History, and Future of The World's Most Controversial Resource, Connecticut: Lyons Press

Lawrence Buell, selected chapters from The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and the Literary Imagination, Oxford: Blackwell, 2005

Week Three: ‘Drainage!’ American Naturalism, American Oil: Upton Sinclair, Oil!, USA, 1927

Ross Barrett and Daniel Worden, “Oil Culture: Guest Editors’ Introduction,” Journal of American Studies 46, Special Issue 2 (2012): 269-72; 269.

Stephanie LeMenager, 'The Aesthetics of Petroleum, after Oil!' American Literary History, Volume 24, Number 1, Spring 2012, pp. 59-86

Frederick Buell, “A Short History of Oil Cultures: Or, the Marriage of Catastrophe and Exuberance,” Journal of American Studies 46, Special Issue 2 (2012): 273-93; 274.

Joshua Shuster, "Where is the Oil in Modernism?", in Szeman, Carlson and Wilson (eds.) Petrocultures (details above).

Michael K Walonen, "The Black and Cruel Demon..." (see above, Week Two)

Peter Hitchcock, “Oil in an American Imaginary”, New Formations 69: 4 (2010): 81-97, 81-82.

Floyd Dell, 'Oil!', Upton Sinclair: A Study in Social Protest, NYC: AMC Press, 1970 (1927)

There Will Be Blood (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)

Anthony Arthur, "Blood and Oil", NYT, 2008

David Harvey, 'All About Oil' and 'How America's Power Grew, from The New Imperialism, Oxford: OUP, 2003

Gail McDonald, Chs 1 & 2 from American Literature and Culture 1900-1960: Oxford: Blackwell, 2007

Week Four: ‘It’s (Not and Never Was) Scotland’s Oil!’ The UK Oil Shock in Realism and Myth: John McGrath, The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil Scotland, 1974

Christopher Harvie, selections from Fool's Gold: The Story of North Sea Oil, Penguin, 1995

Cheviot Supplements (from Daniel Yergin and Terry Brotherstone)

Critical Excerpts on McGrath: (Word Document)

McGrath/Cheviot Bibliography : (Word Document)

Mel Evans, Selections from Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts

Week Five: Shell Shocks and Ogoni Resistance: Ken Saro-Wiwa, Selections from stories and essays, A Forest of Flowers, Nigeria, 1985- (PDF Document)


Ken Saro-Wiwa, selections from Genocide in Nigeria: The Ogoni Tragedy, Lagos: Saros, 1992

Ken Saro-Wiwa, selections from A Month and a Day: a detention diary, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1996


Class Handout: (PDF Document)

(Selections from Naomi Klein's No Logo, Andrew Apter, Michael Watts and Ed Kashi)

Rob Nixon, "Pipedream: Ken Saro-Wiwa, Environmental Justice and Micro-Minority Rights", Ch.3 of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Harvard UP, 2011)

Wenzel, Jennifer. “Petro-Magic Realism: Toward a Political Ecology of Nigerian Literature.” Postcolonial Studies 9 (2006): 449–64. (See also 'Petro-Magic Realism Revisited: Unimagining and Reimagining the Niger Delta', Chapter in Barrett and Worden's Oil Culture.

Michael Watts, 'Oil Frontiers: The Niger Delta and the Gulf of Mexico', Chapter in Oil Culture.


Susan Comfort, 'Struggle in Ogoniland: Ken saro-Wiwa and the Cultural Politics of Environmental Justice', in Adamson, Evans and Stein (eds), The Environmental Justice Reader, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2002, pp. 229-246

John Ghazvinian, 'Introduction', Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil, London: Harvest, 2007

Andrew Apter, 'Death and the King's Henchmen: For Ken Saro-Wiwa, 1941-1995. In memoriam, The Pan African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005, pp. 258-277

Michael L. Ross, 'The Beginning and End of the Oil Curse?', Words Without Borders: Special Issue on Oil, October 2012:

Joan Martinez, '"Environmental Justice" (Local and Global)', in Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi, eds., The Cultures of Globalization, Durham: Duke University Press, 1998, 312-326

Week Six (3-hour class):

Film and Documentary Showing and Discussion:

In class: Lessons Of Darkness, (Germany/Kuwait, Werner Herzog, 1992)

Watch at home: Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) (have a look through the website in preparation for The Pipe)

Fury Road Articles in Library

McKenzie Wark, Fury Road, Public Seminar

Mark Simpson, 'Attackability', Canadian Review of American Studies 39, no. 3, 2009, pp. 299-319

Paul Cronin, selection from Herzog on Herzog, London: Faber and Faber, 2002

Retort, ''Blood for Oil?', from Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War, London: Verso, 2005, pp. 38-77

Imre Szeman, "Crude Aesthetics: The Politics of Oil Documentaries", Journal of American Studies / Volume 46 / Special Issue 02 / May 2012, pp 423 ­ 439

Week Seven: Oil is Our Desert God: Abdalrahman Munif, Cities of Salt (vol 1.), Saudi Arabia, 1985 (PDF Document)


Sabry Hafez, 'An Arabian Master', New Left Review 37 Jan/Feb 2006

Rob Nixon, 'Fast Forward Fossil: petro-despotism and the resource curse', Ch.2 of Slow Violence: The Environmentalism of the Poor (Harvard UP, 2011)

Jairus Banaji, 'The Subversive Universe of Saudi Exile: Abdelrahman Munif's Cities of Salt', The Wire, July 2020

Stefan G Meyer, 'Recovering the Past: The "Arabization" of the Novel', The Experimental Arab Novel: Postcolonial Literary Modernism in the Levant, SUNY: NYC, 2001

Rebecca McLarney, "'Empire of the Machine': Oil in the Arabic Novel", boundary 2 36:2 (2009), 177-98.

Peter Theroux, 'Abdelrahman Munif and the Uses of Oil', Words Without Borders: Special Issue on Oil, October 2012:


Michael T Walonen, “‘The Black and Cruel Demon’ and its Transformations of Space: Toward a Comparative Study of World Literature and Space,” Interdisciplinary Literary Studies 14, No. 1 (2012), 59.

Rachel Bronson, Intro and Ch1 from Thicker Than Oil: America's Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia, Oxford: OUP, 2006

Peter Hitchcock, “Oil in an American Imaginary”, New Formations 69: 4 (2010): 81-97, 81-82.

Chad Parker, 'Aramco's Frontier Story: The Arabian American Oil Company and Creative .Mapping in Postwar Saudi Arabia', in Barrett and Worden

Ilana Xenos, 'Petro-capitalism, petrofiction, and Islamic discourse: the formation of an imagined community in Cities of Salt', Review Essay in Arab Studies Quarterly, Jan 2006, available at:

Week Eight: Women in the Fields: Nawal El-Saadawi, Love in the Kingdom of Oil, Egypt, 2001


(PDF Document)

There will be a handout with various material distributed in class.

Wiki Page (with numerous references and interviews):

Sheena Wilson, 'Gendering Oil: Tracing Western Petrosexual Relations' (Oil Culture)


Week Nine: From Peak to Post-peak. Energy decline and renewal in Cormac McCarthy's The Road (US, 2006)

Imre Szeman, "System Failure: Oil, Futurity, and the Anticipation of Disaster', South Atlantic Quarterly 106: 4, Fall 2007

Sonia Shah, 'Running on Empty', from Crude: The Story of Oil

Matthew Huber, "Refined Politics: Petroleum Products, Neoliberalism, and the Ecology of Entrepreneurial Life",Journal of American Studies 46, Special Issue 2 (2012): 295-312

Rune Grauland, "Fulcrums and Borderlands: A desert reading of Cormac McCarthy's The Road" Orbis Litterarum 65:1 57–78, 2010

Heather I. Sullivan (2019) ‘‘Petro-texts, plants, and people in the Anthropocene: the dark green’’, Green Letters, 23:2, 152-167

Marco Caracciolo, 'Negative Strategies and World Disruption in Postapocalyptic Fiction', in Style Vol. 52, No. 3 (2018)

Julien Murphet and Marc Stephen (eds), Styles of Extinction : Cormac McCarthy's The Road (NYC: Continuum, 2012)

Ashley Kunsa, "Maps of the World in Its Becoming: Post-Apocalyptic Naming in Cormac McCarthy's The Road." Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 33 no. 1, 2009, p. 57-74. Project MUSE

Sean Donnelly, 'Peak Oil Imagining in Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl', in English Academy Review: Southern African Journal of English Studies, 31.2., 156-169 (2014)

Week Ten: Short Story Selections: (PDF Document)

A pack will be handed out in class with stories by China Miéville, Ghassan Kanafani, Sheena Wilson, Stephen King, Brian Aldiss, Tim Gatreaux, Joanna Kavenna, Alain Mabanckou, Robin Yassim-Kassab, Mohammed Hasan Alwan and Rose Tremain. See also:

Secondary Reading - to be updated

World Literature

Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters (2004)

David Damrosch, How to Read World Literature (2009)

F. Jameson & M. Miyoshi, M. The Cultures of Globalization (1998)

Franco Moretti, ‘Conjectures on World Literature’, New Left Review (2000)

(ed) The Novel: Vol I: History, Geography and Culture (2006)

—. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History (2005)

Christopher Prendergast (ed) Debating World Literature (2004)

Han Saussy (ed) Comparative literature in an age of globalization (2006)

M. Valdez Moses, The Novel and the Globalization of Culture (1995)

Lawrence Buell, The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination (2005)

L. Coupe, ed., The Green Studies Reader (2000)

Greg Garrard, Ecocriticism (2004)

Oil in History, Politics, Culture

A Apter, The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria (2005)

Duncan Clarke, Empires of Oil: Corporate Oil in Barbarian Worlds (2007)

—. Crude Continent: The Struggle for Africa’s Oil Prize: The Struggle for Africa's Oil Prize (2008)

Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak (2006)

Toyin Falola and Ann Genova, The Politics of the Global Oil Industry: An Introduction (2005)

Catherine Gautier, Oil, Water, and Climate: An Introduction (2008)

John Ghazvinian, Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil (2008)

Christopher Harvie, Fool’s Gold: the story of North Sea oil (1994)

—. ‘North Sea Oil and Scottish Culture’ in Susanne Hagemann (ed), Studies in Scottish Fiction: 1945 to the Present (1996)

Richard Heinberg, Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies (2007)

Leonardo Maugeri, The Age of Oil: What They Don't Want You to Know About the

World's Most Controversial Resource (2008)

Mary Kaldor; Terry Lynn Karl and Yahia Said, Oil Wars (2007)

TL Karl, The Paradox of Plenty: Oil Booms and Petro-States (1997)

Jeremy Leggett, Half Gone: Oil, Gas, Hot Air and the Global Energy Crisis (2006)

Valerie Marcel, Oil Titans: National Oil Companies in the Middle East, John V. Mitchell (2005)

Leonardo Maugeri, The Age of Oil: The Mythology, History, and Future of the World's Most Controversial Resource (2006)

Oystein Noreng, Crude Power (2008)

Ike Okonta, Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights and Oil (2003)

Daniel Omoweh, Shell: The Petroleum Development Company, the State and Underdevelopment of Nigeria's Niger Delta - A Study in Environmental Degradation (2007)

Sonia Shah, Crude: The Story of Oil (2006)

Paul Roberts, The End of Oil: The Decline of the Petroleum Economy and the Rise of a New Energy Order (2005)

Toby Shelley, Oil: Politics, Poverty and the Planet (Global Issues) (2005)

Andrew Rowell, James Marriott, Lorne Stockman, The Next Gulf: London, Washington and Oil Conflict in Nigeria (2005)

Matthew R. Simmons, Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy

Michael C Ruppert, Crossing the Rubicon : the decline of the American empire at the end of the age of oil (2004)

Vaclav Smil, Oil: A Beginner's Guide (2006)

—. Energy at the Crossroads: Global Perspectives and Uncertainties (2005)

—. Energy: an introduction (2006)

—. Energy in World History (Essays on World History) (1994)