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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: Waste and Modernity: Dispatches from the Sewers of Literature (ENLI11267)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis 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.
Course description 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 Swifts political satire to T.S. Eliots The Waste Land to Kathy Jetnil-Kijiners 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 4,000 word essay, either based on topics provided by the organiser or on the student¿s own essay question, to be discussed in advance with the course organiser. Students will have the opportunity to submit a «1,000 word essay plan and receive formative feedback ahead of final submission. The course can be readily adapted for hybrid delivery.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  5
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% Coursework «br /»«br /»
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4,000 word essay
Feedback Students to submit and receive formative feedback on a «1,000 word essay proposal ahead of final essay submission.

Written feedback will be provided on the assignment, and the course organiser will be available for verbal feedback in advance of and following assignment submission.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Critically reflect on, evaluate and articulate complex and original ideas on the diverse aesthetic and historical functions of waste in twentieth century and contemporary literature
  2. Analyse literary texts by synthesising and engaging with a diverse range of critical methods and specialised frameworks including ecocriticism, waste studies, psychoanalysis, postcolonial theory, and feminist theory
  3. Demonstrate extensive, detailed knowledge based of primary sources and specialised theories by constructing research-driven, original arguments on the course¿s key issues & concepts
  4. Apply critical reading skills and comparative methods to a variety of literary forms including novel, poetry, nonfiction, and experimental writing
  5. Develop and communicate independent lines of research based on the literary scholarship and critical frameworks discussed on the course
Reading List

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)
Additional Information
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 courses 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.
KeywordsTwentieth century,contemporary,aesthetics,abjection,pollution,trash,ecocriticism,waste
Course organiserDr Martin Schauss
Course secretaryMiss Kara McCormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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