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This chapter investigates the multiple ways that coal and oil generate story, revealing humanity’s abiding intimacy with unearthed matter throughout history. Spotlighting the influential term “petrofiction” coined by the Indian writer Amitav Ghosh (from Latin petra, meaning “rock”), it introduces authors, critics, and activists whose works interrogate fossil fuels’ lively and lethal geological agency. Recent tales of coal and oil often portray conjunctions between embodiment and environment that are unhealthy, chronic, and entrenched; furthermore, these detriments are predominantly borne by the poor, Indigenous peoples, and communities of color. Both Ida Stewart’s poem naming the many degradations caused by mountaintop removal mining (Gloss)and Ann Pancake’s novel narrating the failed containment of coal slurry impoundment dams (Strange as This Weather Has Been) confront the toxic enmeshment of human beings in the Appalachian coalfields. Petrocritical approaches magnify harms of coal and oil and point out their pivotal role in ongoing climate crises. Petrocriticism also suggests that paying attention to human and nonhuman voices inflected by coal and oil supplies the energy needed for ecological remediation, and for more just, and more inhabitable, futures.
This chapter explores the relationship between Shakespeare and climate. Taking its inspiration from weather disruptions to the 2017 Shakespeare Association of America conference, it riffs on the tweets that this climatic disturbance generated and the themes they reveal. It deals with the issues of: climate and its material effects on Shakespearean composition and performance, whereby climate and culture may be said to be co-constitutive; the resistance in Shakespeare’s time to codifying climate, in partial acknowledgement of climate’s unpredictability; and thus the extent to which Shakespearean texts portend human and non-human entanglement in the Anthropocene.
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