English R1B

Reading and Composition: Petrofiction and Climate Fiction

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
11 Spring 2022 Beckett, Balthazar I.
MWF 1-2 225 Dwinelle


In 1992, Amitav Ghosh observed that, despite the ubiquity of petroleum in our lives, oil has “produced scarcely a single [literary] work of note.” And in 2006, commenting on the destruction caused by fossil fuels, Ghosh added that “climate change casts a much smaller shadow within the landscape of literary fiction than it does even in the public arena.” Other scholars have pointed out that, in their lack of critical engagement with worsening climate chaos, literature—and the humanities at large—are at risk of becoming obsolete. Heeding this call, this course will investigate the footprint that fossil fuel extraction has left on literature from a variety of geographical contexts, ranging from Bedouin communities in Saudi Arabia to Native American tribes in Oklahoma, and how literary texts address the challenges of global warming. We will read both non-fiction and fiction of various genres—from the realism of Upton Sinclair and John Steinbeck to the dystopian novels of Octavia Butler and the emerging genre of climate fiction (Cli-Fi).

Building on the skills students acquired in R1A, this course will continue to develop reading, writing, and research skills with the aim to practice writing longer essays that are rhetorically aware and partake in relevant scholarly conversations. Students will conclude this course by submitting a research paper in which they will partake in a scholarly debate that they feel passionate about.

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