ENGL 583 B1: Cultural Studies - Resource Aesthetics

M. Simpson

This graduate course focuses on the concept of "resource aesthetics" as it bears on theoretical and critical conversations taking place across a number of fields in the humanities today. The resource logic of capitalism presupposes (and prevails as we accept) that resources have no aesthetic whatsoever-that they constitute pure, brute inputs. Against such presupposition, our inquiry in this course will start from an insight recently offered by the energy humanist Jennifer Wenzel: "a resource logic is also a resource aesthetic" ("Improvement and Overburden," Postmodern Culture 26.2). We will explore and examine the aesthetics of resource cultures, historically and in the present, in order to consider the ways in which we do, or do not, see, feel, and act in response to the abidingly material power of resources: not merely inputs but forces, relations, practices that fundamentally shape or indeed render culture and society. While our investigations will range widely, they will focus on six fields in particular: energy humanities; media theory; animal studies; affect theory; aesthetic theory; materialisms old and new. A key aim in this course is to consider what happens-to imagine what could become possible-when taking up resource aesthetics as cultural practice yet also critical method: as at once object and analytic.

Theoretical readings will include excerpts from the following:

Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism.

Maurizia Boscagli, Stuff Theory: Everyday Objects, Radical Materialism.

Jonathan Flatley, Affective Mapping: Melancholia and the Politics of Modernism.

Stephanie LeMenager, Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century.

Andreas Malm, Fossil Capital.

Jussi Parikka, A Geology of Media.

Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible.

Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World.

"Pivots" will include:

Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel, Leviathan.

Rebecca Harding Davis, "Life in the Iron Mills."