American Studies Research Seminar | The Afterlives of Garbage: Waste in American Culture
When: 29 November 2016, 18:00 – 19:30
Where: K6.63 King’s Building, Strand, King’s College London, WC2R 2LS
How: All welcome; no need to book.

Bio: Dr Diarmuid Hester is an interdisciplinary scholar and early career researcher based at the University of Sussex. Recently named one of Ireland’s leading young researchers, his work focuses on the intersections of writing, art, and film in modern and contemporary American culture and is published or forthcoming in Textual Practice, the Journal of American StudiesStudies in the Literary Imagination, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and gorse magazine. He is currently writing a book on waste in the culture of New York City.

Paper title: The Afterlives of Garbage: Waste in American Culture

Paper description: On June 28, 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump provoked another media sensation by delivering a policy speech to the nation in front of a wall of trash; at a recycling plant in Monessen, PA, Trump once again promised to “put America first”. Critics were quick to elide the difference between the candidate and his backdrop, branding Trump with that most contemporary of epithets: a “garbage person”. This incident and the responses to it raise a number of issues that will be investigated in the course of this talk, which will elucidate the connections between waste and twentieth-century American culture. Considering the incursions of garbage materially and metaphorically into New York’s art and literature I show, for instance, that waste has always been synonymous with the objectionable parts of American society: social, political, and material waste alike must be expelled, shunned – it must quickly disappear. But reflecting on the figurative role of waste in these works I also show that waste can never be totally eliminated; it is permanently in the background, quietly undermining attempts to project a vision of the United States that is homogenous and exceptional.

The King’s American Studies Research Group

King’s College London
London, WC2R 2LS

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