Jenny Kerber is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. She teaches and researches in the areas of Canadian literature, environmental humanities, border studies, Indigenous literatures, and the literature of sport.
“Corrosive Aesthetics: On the Receiving End of Oil and Gas in Who by Fire”
This article explores the politics of Alberta oil and gas in Fred Stenson’s 2014 novel Who By Fire. Stenson’s text raises timely questions about the petroleum industry both from the perspectives of those who work in it, and those who live with its attendant risks. For instance, how does one articulate sensory encounters with oil and gas development in ways that will generate official responses that move beyond bland statements of empathy? And, when it comes to addressing pollution, to what extent can allies within industry aid affected citizens? Drawing on the work of contemporary petrocritics, I look at how Stenson develops the key metaphor of corrosion to understand industry’s effects on human and ecosystem health in Alberta, while at the same time demonstrating the limits of leaving the responsibility for containment in the hands of industry alone.
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