Embracing Waste

American Literature and the Metaphor of Human Waste

Mary Foltz examines the ways several postmodern authors use representations of human excrement to critique how people treat each other and the natural world.

Story by

Lori Friedman

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Illustration by Kara Walker

“There is no big secret about sh*t: most people do not like it,” writes Mary Foltz, associate professor of English.

In her book, “Contemporary American Literature and Excremental Culture: American Sh*t,” Foltz, whose expertise is in American literature post-1945, explores representations of waste in five post-1960 American novels: Ishmael Reed’s “The Free-Lance Pallbearers” (1967), Jonathan Franzen’s “The Corrections” (2001), Gloria Naylor’s “Linden Hills” (1985), Don DeLillo’s “Underworld” (1997) and Samuel R. Delany’s “The Mad Man” (1994). Foltz examines how these postmodern authors engage with urgent issues such as institutional racism, environmental justice and militarism.

Read the full story here.

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Mary Foltz specializes in contemporary American literature with a specific focus on ecocriticism, postmodern fiction and theory, and queer fiction and theory. She received her Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo.

Illustration by Kara Walker

Story by

Lori Friedman

Photography by

Illustration by Kara Walker

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