New Materialist approach to comparative literature focusing on waste--garbage, trash, and detritus--and its metaphorical and ethical impact.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.
Tracing material and metaphoric waste through the Western canon, ranging from Beowulf
to Samuel Beckett, Susan Morrison disrupts traditional perceptions of waste to better understand how we theorize, manage, and are implicated in what is discarded and seen as garbage. Engaging a wide range of disciplines, Morrison addresses how the materiality of waste has been sedimented into a variety of toxic metaphors. The vibrancy of matter itself disturbs these metaphors, especially those used to characterize people as disposable garbage. If scholars can read waste as possessing dynamic agency, how might that change the ethics of refuse-ing and ostracizing wasted humans? A major contribution to the growing field of Waste Studies
, this comparative and theoretically innovative book confronts the reader with the ethical urgency present in waste literature itself.
"An unparalleled work of literary and cultural criticism....The Literature of Waste makes a strong argument for why the humanities matter - and why the matter the humanities explores must also include waste."
~ Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Professor of English, George Washington University, USA
"An unparalleled work of literary and cultural criticism, The Literature of Waste
brings together the new materialism, ecocriticism and environmental ethics to articulate the transformative and trans-temporal project of waste studies. Wide ranging, lucidly composed, and original, the book inspires and provokes. With its emphasis on aesthetics, ethics, literature, and community, The Literature of Waste
makes a strong argument for why the humanities matter - and why the matter the humanities explores must also include waste."
- Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Professor of English, George Washington University, USA
"'These fragments I have shored against my ruins,' writes T.S. Eliot famously in The Waste Land
. This phrase beautifully describes both the mélange of cultural residue that constitutes modern civilization and the concatenation of disparate sources that informs Morrison's lively, profound, and encyclopedic The Literature of Waste
. This is a book that builds wisely upon recent materialist trends in ecocriticism and helps to chart the future of the discipline. I have a new appreciation for the meaning of waste after reading this work."
- Scott Slovic, Professor of English, University of Idaho, USA and coeditor of Numbers and Nerves: Information, Emotion, and Meaning in a World of Data
"Building on her seminal work exploring Chaucerian fecopoetics, Excrement in the Late Middle Ages
, Morrison extends her brave march into the deepest and dirtiest corners of history's societal relationship with waste. From exploration of conspicuous consumption as a 'means to repute for a gentleman' to the metaphors of sin implied in uncleanliness, Morrison shows that all that litter is indeed - not gold. Having spent a year thinking about waste from my home inside a trash dumpster, I'm intimately in touch with the space that material waste occupies. If only I'd had this book to ponder whilst in the can, I might have found my nights less wasted by fear of impending doom from trash trucks and more filled with beautifully fragrant prose of meaning. You will be enlightened and delighted by this book."
- Jeff Wilson, Dean and Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Professor Dumpster of The Dumpster Project, Huston-Tillotson University, USA
"In a novel act of textual recuperation, The Literature of Waste
admirably confronts one of the most perplexing facts of human existence - our discomfiting entanglement in waste - and opens it up to new and transformative possibilities. The thing about waste, Morrison reveals, is that it can become a most vital ally in confronting the ethical dilemmas ahead as we attempt to meet the demands of living now in more sustainable ways."
- John Scanlan, Senior Lecturer of Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK and author of On Garbage
"Susan Signe Morrison is a pioneer of 'fecocriticism,' a brave and original mode of literary scholarship. She draws upon anthropology, archaeology, ecology, psychology, and history in order to argue for the centrality of waste in our lived experience and its consequent immanence in literary artefacts from Beowulf
to The Great Gatsby
. She brilliantly shows how the concerns raised by waste operate in ubiquitous ways across various spheres of human experience. But the greatest achievement of The Literature of Waste
is its commitment to the ethics of cultural criticism. Forceful and refreshing, Morrison's work is, ultimately, profoundly moral."
- Peter J. Smith, Reader of Renaissance Literature, Nottingham Trent University, UK and author of Between Two Stools: Scatology and its Representations in English Literature, Chaucer to Swift