The following call for proposals is copied from the project page on the MLA website, found here.

Proposals are invited for a volume in the MLA Options for Teaching series entitled Teaching Energy Humanities, edited by Debby Rosenthal and Jason Molesky.

Cultures breathe energy. Energy humanities, a swiftly growing subfield of the environmental humanities, works to reveal—and, perhaps, to remake—the interrelationships between cultural practices and energy systems. How a society uses, produces, and distributes energy reflects, as well as shapes, its foundational structures and values. Questions of energy are always already questions of ethics, identity, narrative, and community—in short, questions of culture that invite broad, interdisciplinary humanistic inquiry.

Properly understood, then, scholarship and teaching about energy are the purviews of not only scientists and public policy experts but also literary theorists, art historians, musicologists, actors, philosophers, poets, and architects. Those working in such areas are well-equipped to situate our current energy regime in terms of its overdetermined social and historical bases in, for example, colonialism, racial capitalism, and global class struggles. Yet energy humanities looks beyond concerns of climate change to consider, among other issues, the textual and cultural relations bound up with inputs like wood, whale oil, or the laboring muscles of human and nonhuman beings; the gendered politics of energy systems; the conflicts around historical energy transitions; or the artistic tensions and possibilities fostered by energy shifts such as the rise of steam power, mass electrification, or automobility.

The word power derives from the Latin potere, meaning “to be able.” Energy humanists recognize that extractivist practices are dually able to “power” industrial capitalism and also “power” structures of authority and influence over our societies. The unequal usage, distribution, and access to both kinds of power can reinforce inequity, as shown in many postcolonial texts about energy extraction. Such recent petrofiction and extractivist literatures have a rich history in earlier texts like Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, which asks us to consider how energy is made available through the imperial politics of natural resources. This textual lineage can also extend to modern, medieval, or classical literatures dealing with related concerns.

Teaching Energy Humanities aims to help scholars and teachers equip themselves with practical strategies to incorporate themes of energy and extraction into humanities courses. Potential essay topics might include but are not limited to the following:

  • practical strategies for teaching energy humanities with literary texts, either as a unit in a course or as a stand-alone course, to demonstrate that literature can imbue energy studies with narrative purpose
  • using creative writing assignments relating to energy issues in the classroom
  • teaching energy humanities alongside film, television, or other media
  • using energy humanities to design interdisciplinary, collaborative, or team-teaching projects that ask how the energy humanities have contributed to discourses surrounding the Anthropocene, climate change, carbon culture, the sustainability of resources, or environmental degradation
  • assignments that push students to recognize the effects of our extraction economy on both bodies and the earth, and particularly on historically marginalized and vulnerable peoples and regions
  • strategies for thinking how the humanities have contributed to discussions about economic ideologies embedded in our energy-extraction culture, and how the humanities help us reimagine our energy-intensive high-emissions lifestyles
  • best practices for teaching about energy in online and hybrid courses

Please submit a 300–500-word abstract with a short bio or CV to both Debby Rosenthal ( and Jason Molesky ( by 31 October 2022. Authors will be notified of initial acceptance by mid- to late December 2022. Pending the MLA’s peer review of the book prospectus, finished essays of 3,000–3,500 words (including works cited) would likely be due in August 2023.

Queries are welcome, including requests for feedback on ideas. We welcome proposals from all geographical regions and on any topic or historical period. For more information on the MLA Options for Teaching Series, see What We Publish.