Undergraduate Course: Waste and Modernity: Dispatches from the Sewers of Literature (ENLI10417)
|School||School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Not available to visiting students
|Summary||This course explores the relation between literature and waste from ecological, postcolonial, aesthetic, and gender perspectives. It asks how literature represents the way modern life is energised by the production of waste: from pollution, CO2 emissions and 'fatbergs', to poor resource management and data dumps, to waste colonialism and the idea of the 'human-as-waste'. It encourages students to think about how diverse views on waste, overconsumption, and value (or the destruction of value) have shaped global literatures, as well as helped writers express colonial and environmental resistance.
Waste plays a key role in how we understand modernity, and how we understand some of its consequences, such as climate change and environmental justice. To call something 'waste' is 'to invoke its history'. Nuclear waste, bodily waste, medical waste, these all tell us specific stories about the world we live in. Writers have long drawn on the stories of waste to express fundamental artistic questions in modernity, from Swift's political satire to T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land to Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner's poetry on the aftermath of nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands.
This course explores this close relationship between literature and waste, touching on numerous key intersections such as: (post-)modernist aesthetics and the idea of trash culture; bodily waste, abjection and questions of gender and sexuality; the 'human-as-waste', race, and disability; postcolonial satire in relation to disgust, dirt, and sanitation; pollution, breathing and language; waste colonialism, environmental racism and eco-refugees; climate change, ocean waste and ecopoetics.
The course encourages students to consider how literary texts explore diverse forms of waste on a thematic, formal and stylistic level and to place their readings within a historical and ecological context. To that end, we will read a wide range of global literatures of different genres, including modernist novels, literary fiction, nonfiction, poetry and multimedia texts. The literary period covered is 1945-present day, with some shorter works and excerpts from earlier works provided as additional reading; this allows for a focus on post-World War II modernity, decolonizing movements, and contemporary environmental/climate issues.
The course introduces students to key theorists and critical frameworks such as postcolonial theory, psychoanalysis, ecocriticism, eco-materialism, and feminist theory. It aims to provide students with a broad understanding of the aesthetic, ecological, social, and colonial issues at stake when we talk about 'waste', exploring how literature responds to and helps shape these issues.
Students are expected to attend and participate in weekly 2-hour seminars; seminars include delivery of a short introductory lecture followed by group discussion. To prepare for the seminars, they read essential and recommended primary and secondary texts, and discuss and report on a weekly task with their autonomous learning group. In addition, each student is expected to prepare one formative (unassessed) 5-10 minute oral presentation during the semester, based on an assigned secondary reading. To demonstrate their achievement of the intended learning outcomes, students will be assessed on one coursework essay and one final essay, based on topics provided by the organiser with an option to propose their own essay question. The course can be readily adapted for hybrid delivery.
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2022/23, Not available to visiting students (SS1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Additional Information (Learning and Teaching)
plus 1 hour Autonomous Learning Group per week, at time to be arranged.
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
40% 2,500 word mid-semester coursework essay
60% 3,000 word final essay
||Written feedback will be provided on each assignment, and the course organiser will be available for additional verbal feedback in advance of and following assignment submission.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- critically reflect on, evaluate and articulate ideas on the diverse aesthetic and historical functions of waste in twentieth century and contemporary literature
- analyse literary texts using a diverse range of critical methods and frameworks including ecocriticism, waste studies, psychoanalysis, postcolonial theory, and feminist theory
- demonstrate knowledge based on primary and secondary sources by constructing clear, original arguments on the course¿s key issues & concepts
- apply close reading skills and comparative methods to a variety of literary forms including novel, poetry, nonfiction, and experimental writing
|Essential reading (indicative): |
Samuel Beckett, Watt (1953)
Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968)
Kathy Acker, Blood and Guts in Highschool (1984)
Don DeLillo, White Noise (1985)
Claudia Rankine, Don¿t Let Me Be Lonely (2004)
Indra Sinha, Animal¿s People (2007)
Rita Wong, undercurrent (2015)
Mike McCormack, Solar Bones (2017)
Kathy Jetn¿il-Kijiner, Iep Jaltok (2017)
Excerpts/short texts (will be made available):
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922)
Samuel Beckett, ¿Breath¿ (1969)
Jonathan Swift, ¿A Modest Proposal¿ (1729)
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962)
Jennifer Scappettone, The Republic of Exit 43 (2016)
Jordan Scott and Stephen Collis, Decomp (2013)
Caroline Bergvall, Meddle English (2011)
Rita Wong, forage (2007)
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||Knowledge and understanding: students will have developed and demonstrated their knowledge of the literary period (1945-present, global Anglophone literature) as well as their critical understanding of the intersection of the course¿s key themes & concepts (waste, modernity, colonialism, environment).
Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: in class discussion, ALG reports, and formal assessment tasks, students will have applied their acquired knowledge through building argument based on close reading of materials and engagement with concepts and context.
Generic Cognitive Skills: through the completion of group work, individual work, and assessed essays, students will have practiced and demonstrated creative problem-solving based on literary analysis and engagement with social, historical and ecological issues.
Communication: students will have practiced and demonstrated communication skills through peer-to-peer, formative, as well as summative tasks, communicating ideas on the complex, specialised topics of the course orally and in writing.
Autonomy and Working with others: students will have worked autonomously on weekly tasks and coursework assignments, as well as in small groups with peers on weekly designated tasks (ALGs). They will have been encouraged to present their critical arguments both to their peers and the course leader, and to autonomously design their own essay question/topic in order to further develop their personal research skills.
|Additional Class Delivery Information
||one 2-hour Seminar per week;
one 1-hour Autonomous Learning Group per week (at time to be arranged)
|Course organiser||Dr Martin Schauss
|Course secretary||Ms June Cahongo
Tel: (0131 6)50 3620