Rig Talk and Disidentification in Peter Christensen’s Rig Talk and Mathew Henderson’s The Lease


  • Melanie Dennis Unrau University of Manitoba


Although Mathew Henderson’s 2012 poetry collection The Lease has been credited as the first book of insider poetry about oil work, Peter Christensen’s 1981 collection Rig Talk marks the beginning of an overlooked and growing tradition in Canadian literary history. Written during different oil booms and published three decades apart, both books incorporate rough, violent, misogynist, and racist “rig talk” to embody and subvert a toxic masculinity and its seeming opposite, an equally toxic settler-colonial ecopoetics. This article adapts theories of disidentification by Michel Pêcheux, José Esteban Muñoz, and Judith Butler to argue that the ambivalent speakers of both texts use petrocultural disidentification to perform, mourn, and resist the inadequate versions of subjectivity on offer. Considering recent calls for a just energy transition that leaves no one behind, and looking for alternatives to polarization and despair, it considers petrocultural disidentification as a mode for solidarity and resistance.