Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, v, 167 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Paul Stasi

Committee Members

Bret Benjamin, Glyne Griffith


Abdelrahman Munif, Helon Habila, Oil capitalism, Oil World Literature, Upton Sinclair, Petroleum in literature, Petroleum industry and trade

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


Oil’s representation is shaped by the resource’s biological properties and its material forms of flow, which are features that contribute to its mystification as a commodity bringing instant and laborless wealth. I examine oil’s impact on narrative by charting some of the transnational formal and thematic patterns in literature shaped by the oil fetish and its mystified transformative capacities. Through a comparative reading of Upton Sinclair’s Oil!, Abdelrahman Munif’s Cities of Salt, and Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel and Oil on Water, I aim to locate the specific ruptures oil creates on temporal and spatial structures that shape the narratives of modernity and historical progress in the twentieth and twenty first century. I highlight two central tropes in oil fiction: oil’s alteration of the time-space dialectic and supernaturalism as an expression of oil’s logic, in order to trace how oil’s undermining of older temporalities and transformation of space are revealed in global oil capitalism’s restructuring of the systems of production, the alteration of ecologies, and the new patterns of movement of people, ideas, and commodities.