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Living Oil

Living Oil is a work of environmental cultural studies that engages with a wide spectrum of cultural forms, from museum exhibits and oil industry tours to poetry, documentary film, fiction, still photography, novels, and memoirs. The book's unique focus is the aesthetic, sensory, and emotional legacies of petroleum, from its rise to the preeminent modern fossil fuel during World War I through the current era of so-called "Tough Oil." LeMenager explores the uncomfortable, mixed feelings produced by oil's omnipresence in cultural artifacts such as books, films, hamburgers, and Aspirin tablets. The book makes a strong argument for the region as a vital intellectual frame for the study of fossil fuels, because at the regional level we can better recognize the material effects of petroleum on the day-to-day lives of humans and other, non-human lives. The fluid mobility of oil carries the book outside the United States, for instance to Alberta and Nigeria, emphasizing how both international and domestic resource regions have been mined to produce the idealized modern cultures of the so-called American Century.
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About the Author

Stephanie LeMenager is Moore Endowed Professor of English at the University of Oregon.


The book is a leisurely road trip through twentieth-century US media and culture, and LeMenager's goal * 'to consider how the story of petroleum has come to play a foundational role in the American imagination and therefore in the future of life on earth' * Not only does Living Oil take on the super wicked problem of oil with candor, humor, theoretical depth, historical precision, and a rare blend of critical ambition and down-to-earthness, but the book fashions a type of scholarship that is beautifully adapted to the subject: as heteroglossic and bioregionally situated as oil industry self-representations are monoglossic and disembodied; as deeply invested in nimble realism, self-questioning, dialogue, and cultural resilience as post-oil narratives are (frequently) mired in grim certainties and despair. The first 'petrocritical' monograph written from an ecocritical standpoint, Living Oil sets a high bar for future scholars. * The Goose * [LeMenager] takes an experimental, avowedly essayistic and often intensely personal approach to her subject. This accounts for many of the book's considerable strengths.... * Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism *

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