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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
SummaryWaste 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 Jetn'il-Kijiner's poetry on the aftermath of nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands.
Course description 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.

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, allowing for a focus on late modernity, decolonizing movements, and contemporary environmental/climate issues. Key critical frameworks include postcolonial theory, psychoanalysis, ecocriticism, eco-materialism, and feminist theory. Students will gain 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.

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.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesNone
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
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
Essential reading (indicative, subject to possible changes):

Samuel Beckett, Stories and Texts for Nothing (1955)
Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968)
Kathy Acker, Blood and Guts in Highschool (1984)
Don DeLillo, White Noise (1985)
WG Sebald, The Rings of Saturn (1995)
Claudia Rankine, Don't Let Me Be Lonely (2004)
Indra Sinha, Animal's People (2007)
Rita Wong, undercurrent (2015)
Kathy Jetn'il-Kijiner, Iep Jaltok (2017)
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
Contacts
Course organiserDr Martin Schauss
Tel:
Email: mschauss@exseed.ed.ac.uk
Course secretaryMrs Vivien MacNish Porter
Tel: (0131 6)50 3528
Email: vivien.macnish-porter@ed.ac.uk
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