ENG32800 Wasted Wor(l)ds

Academic Year 2023/2024

What happens when we take decay, breakdown, and contamination as starting points for our investigations into world literature? This module focuses on depictions of waste and wasted landscapes in global texts — and considers what it means to write from amidst the ruins of our modern world.
We will explore texts from around the globe (such as Brazil, India, the Pacific Islands, West Africa, the UK, and the US), that register the impact of toxic seep from landfill, plastics, oil, and/or nuclear detritus; and consider the peculiar formal features of ‘broken world’ texts. Modes for consideration include the documentary, excremental realism, the eco-gothic, eco-apocalypse, and/ or the toxic sublime; through forms like poetry, short fiction, novels, and films; and in texts from the late-twentieth century through to the present. These will be put into dialogue with theories from waste scholarship, postcolonial ecocriticism, world-ecology, and environmental justice; and we will also explore how toxicity and rubbish are central to the reproduction of hierarchies based on class, caste, race, and gender. The module will conclude on a hopeful note by engaging with critical and creative work on decolonizing waste, on repair and maintenance.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
• analyse a range of literatures and concepts related to waste, and connect their concerns and modes of expression to their cultural, socio-ecological, and theoretical contexts;
• demonstrate a basic understanding of the contours of contemporary waste literary criticism;
• evince an advanced ability to perform close-reading of different textual forms leading to nuanced comparative analyses;
• enter into scholarly conversation with secondary work in the fields of waste scholarship, postcolonial-ecocriticism, and world literary studies;
• develop confidence in primary and secondary research skills – undertaking, applying, and transmitting research.

Indicative Module Content:

Readings will be grouped by region and theme (landfill, nuclear, plastics/seep). They may include some (not all) of the following:

• Short stories by Italo Calvino, Romesh Gunesekara, Teresa Svoboda, Duanwad Pimwana.
• Novels by Mulk Raj Anand, John Burnside, Indra Sinha, Karen Tei Yamashita.
• Poetry by Khairani Bharokka, Adam Dickinson, Craig Santos Perez, Kathy Jetnil Kijiner.
• Films/ Television Shows like Wasteland (Lucy Walker), Anthropocene (Jennifer Baichwal), Chernobyl (TV series).

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning


Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module is seminar-based, with a strong emphasis on group discussion and class participation. Approaches in this module may include: student-led discussion, group work and group-led discussions, discussion forums, lecture overviews, critical writing, close reading. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Continuous Assessment: discussion points for class and/ or essay proposal (1000 words total) Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Assignment: Speculative Repair Manual (1000 words) Week 12 n/a Graded No


Essay: final essay (3000 words) Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Name Role
Mr Mark Ronan Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Rebecca Stephenson Lecturer / Co-Lecturer