Masterclass with Jennifer Wenzel: How to Read for Oil

Professor Jennifer Wenzel (Columbia University) will be delivering a masterclass for postgraduate students and ECRs on the topic, 'How to Read for Oil'.

Oil is everywhere and nowhere, including the manufacture of the objects in a room (and of the room itself), the various modes of transport that bring us and those objects together, and the economic activity that generates the revenue that makes the university run. Oil is everywhere, ubiquitous in our daily life, and yet we so rarely see oil, either literally or metaphorically. Given this simultaneous ubiquity and invisibility, our central questions are, how do we read for oil? and how do different kinds of texts— novels, short stories, poems, manifestos, essays, cartoons, photographs, and documentary films— either work against or contribute to oil’s invisibility?

Jennifer Wenzel will lead a special masterclass session for postgraduate students and ECRs that will consider these questions. Readings to be set in advance will include key texts in the emerging energy humanities field by authors including Patricia Yaeger, Imre Szeman, Dominic Boyer and Italo Calvino. Due to very limited space, registration for this masterclass is essential. Please RSVP to Rebecca Macklin if you wish to participate.

Jennifer Wenzel is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. She will be delivering a public lecture on 29 November on, 'Reading for the Planet: Environmental Crisis and World Literature', also taking place in the same location. All are welcome to the lecture and evening reception.

This event has been kindly sponsored by the University of Leeds Environmental Humanities ITN. It is co-hosted with the Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, the Centre for World Literatures and the Environmental Humanities Research Group.

Jennifer Wenzel

Jennifer Wenzel is jointly appointed in English and Comparative Literature and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. Over the past decade, she has become a leading figure in the environmental and energy humanities, and she helped pioneer the study of literature and oil. A reconsideration of her concept of "petro-magic-realism" appears in Oil Culture (2014)and she is a co-editor (with Imre Szeman and Patricia Yaeger) of Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and Environment (Fordham 2017). She is also the author of Bulletproof: Afterlives of Anticolonial Prophecy in South Africa and Beyond (Chicago and KwaZulu-Natal, 2009), which was awarded Honorable Mention for the Perkins Prize by the International Society for the Study of Narrative. Her current book project is called "The Fossil-Fueled Imagination: How (and Why) to Read for Energy."


Alumni Room, School of English, 10 Cavendish Road.