English 159 - Winter, 2015

Topics in the Novel

    Topic: Energy Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Ziser, Michael
CRN: 93567
Time: MWF 1:10-2:00
Location: 251 Olson


    The development of the fossil-fuel economy is the single most significant thing to happen to the human species in the last 250 years. But where is it registered in art? In this course we will consider what new energy sources and systems—hydrocarbons, mostly—have meant for modern culture through an investigation of the history and literature of coal, oil, and related fuels. Our search will take us from the tales of deforestation in 17th century England to the poetic-scientific speculations about coal in the 18th-century Europe to 19th-century novels centered on labor unrest in the coal-pits to the 20th-century global odyssey of oil and 21st-century speculations about a post-carbon future.


    Attendance and participation 10%
    Weekly short writing 25%
    Short paper 15%
    Final exam 15%
    Final paper 35%


    Germinal, Emile Zola
    Storming Heaven, Denise Giardina
    Oil!, Upton Sinclair
    Mean Spirit, Linda Hogan
    Cities of Salt, Abdelrahman Munif
    Dune, Frank Herbert
    The Road, Cormac McCarthy
    World Made by Hand, James Howard Kunstler