Madeleine Reid

Project title: ‘We live inside a dream’: Petroculture and petro-infrastructures in North American neo-Surrealism

Fiction gives us an opportunity to understand the desires and ideologies that underlie the structuring of our world, and for this project in particular, the kinds of energy we rely on. Fiction’s strength is that it can do this at different scales: for instance, it can consider how energy plays a role in our daily use, or for larger-scale projects such as nation-building.

My project considers how we might interpret energy as cultural rather than purely logistical, and further, how fictional texts from the US’s post-surrealist period may provide insights into the kinds of unconscious desires and beliefs that perpetuate fossil fuel usage. By moving the discussion away from energy transition as a simple matter of moving from one kind to another, fiction opens up space to consider how we may have to treat energy differently in the future, including a greater awareness of energy’s relationship to inequality and neo-imperialism, and how this may translate into more humble expectations of energy usage going forward. More specifically, this project’s focus is on analysing the seemingly abstract and incoherent world of post-surrealist symbolism to reveal fossil fuels’ role in building the US into the nation it has become today.

Awarded: Carnegie PhD Scholarship

Field: Literary Studies

University: University of Glasgow

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