The average American produces four and a half pounds of trash every single day, and, as a whole, the U.S. generates nearly a quarter of a billion tons of garbage each year. Yet one person’s trash is another’s treasure. For instance, entire television channels are devoted to hoarders, and artists around the world craft “garbage art” from found materials. So what can we learn about ourselves from what we discard and what we keep? What stories are contained in the detritus of contemporary life?
Fellow Stephanie Foote, Jackson and Nichols Professor of English at West Virginia University, is beginning to answer these questions. In this podcast, she discusses her current work on the “art of garbage” and the intersections of consumer culture, the global economy, and the environment. Foote also speculates about how contemporary literature (such as the emergence of “climate fiction”) mediates the presence of planetary waste. In one form or another, whether celebrated or spurned, garbage, it turns out, is always with us.