Seminar: Literatures and/of Waste

Orchid Tierney, University of Pennsylvania, orchid@sas.upenn.edu



Themes of waste and waste management circulate in contemporary literature as demonstrated in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the scatological poetry of A.R. Ammons, the collages of James Schuyler and Rachel Blau DuPlessis, and the language middens of Caroline Bergvall’s Drift. Collections like Jennifer Scappettone’s The Republic of Exit 43 also highlight the shared architecture of landfills and human bodies connected by waste, built environments, and literary corpuses. The purpose of the seminar is then twofold. First, this seminar invites participants to explore art, film, and literature through the lens of waste, waste management, and toxic materialism. We are especially interested in papers and projects that interrogate the material afterlives of trace and discard in literature, film, and art. Questions the session might consider are: how does new media poetry address the persistent toxicity of its materiality? What kind of natural history of electronic waste does new media and literature presume? And what forms of repair, recovery, and waste management can literature and film perform? Second, this seminar hopes to curate discussions about the relationships between the environmental humanities and literary studies, and the limits of discipline in spaces and places of human-created ecological disaster. Can environmental humanities articulate aesthetic trajectories that subvert the fantasies of waste? Could zero-waste discourses imagine different forms of harm or repair for literature? Possible topics might include: waste management and conceptual writing, race and toxic wastelands; landfills and the necropastoral; flows and sinks, e-waste and new media. We welcome projects and papers across genres and media in order to cultivate a range of perspectives on toxicity, waste, and waste management.



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