1991 B.A. Stanford University, English and Anthropology; 1999 Ph.D. Harvard University, English and American Literatures and Languages
Over the years, my career has developed toward environmental cultural studies and the public humanities, through programming and outreach work at my former university and through my founding roles in varied green public humanities ventures, namely the environmental humanities journal Resilience, co-founded with Professor Stephanie Foote of the University of Illinois. Other collaborations include invited membership in Arizona State University's Mellon-sponsored "Humanities for the Environment" workshop series, organization and co-sponsorship of the UC campus lab project “i (heart) h2o,” led by the artists Sara Daleiden and Therese Kelly, and Project 51, a public arts collective focused on the Los Angeles River which I joined at the invitation of the environmental historian and creative nonfiction writer Jenny Price—and in which I now play a satellite role, having left the LA region. These projects, in addition to my book Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century (Oxford UP, January 2014), represent my commitment to building out the strengths of my literary-historical scholarship and classroom pedagogy toward a broader discussion of what “resilience” means in the twenty-first century, for example as a re-envisioning of coastal real estate in anticipation of sea-level rise, or a tactical use of corporate plazas as public parks, or the re-inhabitation of sites of energy mining, like the former oil field where I used to make my home, in the Ventura River valley of southern California. I see the potentialities of the environmental humanities as a hugely exciting if as-yet underdeveloped interdisciplinary field, in terms of prospects for cross-field collaboration, academic/creative lab work, and community engagement.
I have written many articles in the fields of American Studies and environmental criticism. My books include the collection Environmental Criticism for the Twenty-First Century (co-edited with Teresa Shewry and Ken Hiltner) and the monograph Manifest and Other Destinies (2005). My recent book, Living Oil, participates in the critical regionalist project of investigating the local histories of macro-scale systems, of which the petroleum complex is a prime example. The point of this radical localism is to push toward deep material histories, where culture meets matter and such aesthetic forms as genre can be seen, after Raymond Williams, to emerge from the inter-relation of specific economic and ecological structures. Living Oil reaches outside the United States, to Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Azerbaijan, but its North American case studies allow for historically “deep” criticism of literary and popular culture, in addition to ethnographic forays where I make brief appearances as a character in the book, interacting with other moderns who, like myself, are enmeshed in oil. The terms “petrophilia” and “petromelancholy” became mine as the book progressed, and I recognized that considerations of affect and emotion were central to the difficulty of weaning ourselves from this profoundly unsustainable resource attachment.
My new book project, Weathering, focuses on the ecological significance of literature in the era of global climate change.
Professor LeMenager's Graduate Class "Cultures of Climate Change" in The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/01/education/using-the-arts-to-teach-how-to-prepare-for-climate-crisis.html?_r=0