Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 August 2021
The history of waste records a relationship that has altered over time, resulting in various literal and symbolic manifestations. Waste Studies crosses conventional disciplines to offer ethical frameworks which pay attention to, understand, and act on bodily, cultural, and societal waste. With examples from novelists Toni Morrison and Wolfgang Hilbig, this chapter illustrates a number of aspects of waste in literature: waste as material agent; waste as metaphor; and narratives structured as waste, with little hope for clarity. The strategy of slow practice through narrative construction can prove a means to inculcate an ecological sensitivity and awareness we carry with us beyond the act of reading. While waste categories often are used to dismiss, deny, and reject certain humans, other-than-human agents, and material items, waste has also been used as a means to provoke compassion and ethical engagement by which we can develop a compassionate commonality with wasted beings to act for them, for us, and for the world. Waste Studies argues that the humanities can vibrantly and dynamically work to improve all of our lives in a concrete and material way.