Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism is a journal that explores the relationship between literary, artistic and popular culture and concepts of the environment. They are concerned with aesthetics, metaphors, representations and rhetorics of waste in their newest special issue dedicated to “junk and composting.”
Following a trend in the humanities and some social sciences to use “vibrant matter” or “new materialisms” to think about the agency of objects, the introductory text outlines their goal for the issue:
The terms – junk and composting – around which this issue pivots are considered in connection with recent developments in ecological aesthetics and philosophy that have reexamined the sticky concept of materialism. ‘New materialisms’ and their theorisation in a ‘material ecocriticism’ stress the agency of all forms of matter.
Some of the essays propose a celebratory “junk aesthetic” where waste is brought into an idealized “loop of life.” Others follow Scanlan’s work where humans are emotionally or spiritually preoccupied with their own death and decomposition, and yet others look at cultural production as a sort of remainder (wasting away or otherwise). How do these notions map on to the materialities of modern waste: its toxicity, scale, heterogeneity, and link to economic systems? Or does this question even matter when waste is being used chiefly as a metaphor, even within a New Materialisms/Vibrant Matter frame? What happens to the material stuff and process of waste when it is celebrated in metaphorical or aesthetic registers?
Remaindering: the material ecology of junk and composting
Pippa Marland & John Parham
Decompicultures: decomposition of culture and cultures of decomposition
Bringing in the trash: the cultural ecology of Dada
‘Rummaging behind the compost heap’: decaying Romanticism in Wallace Stevens and Basil Bunting
Composting dragons: recovery and eco-radicalisation of local folk tales in a Gloucestershire landscape
Volcanoes, guts and cosmic collisions: the queer sublime in Frankenstein and Melancholia
‘Island of the dead’: composting twenty-thousand saints on Bardsey Island
‘All energy is borrowed’ – terraforming: a master motif for physical and cultural re(up)cycling in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy