Title

Exploring the literature of energy

Document Type

Presentation

Publication Date

11-19-2015

Abstract

Energy scholar Vaclav Smil wrote, "Tug at any human use of energy and you will find its effects cascading throughout society." Too often public discussions of energy-related issues become gridlocked in debates concerning cost, environmental degradation, and the plausibility (or implausibility) of innovative technologies. But the topic of energy is much broader and deeper than these debates typically reveal. In my Forum presentation, I argue that energy is a defining topic of our time and that the humanities have as much to say about it as do the sciences.

The literature of energy bears this out--and takes the notion further, revealing in vivid stories and images how energy permeates the fundamental nature of existence. My presentation draws on my co-edited anthology Currents of the Universal Being: Explorations in the Literature of Energy (Texas Tech UP, 2015). Readings in this collection encompass a wide array of topics, from addiction to oil to life "off the grid," from the power of the atom to the power of bicycle technology. This talk emphasizes the emergence of one strain of energy literature, namely petrofiction and oil culture.

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