Simon C. Estok
Pages 121-131
DOI: 10.3726/CUL.2017.01.12


This paper argues that garbage is no longer the site of contempt and fear and has become an object of profound theoretical investigation. The paper reviews some of the salient points in the growing body of theory about garbage and shows that if one thing has come out of this scholarship, it is that waste is both productive and dangerous, spent but agential, rejected but inescapable, and the intensity of disruptions of order potential in waste are immense. I show that two very different poems – one entitled “Above the Water, Under the Water” by South Korean poet Choi Sung-ho, the other entitled “Garbage” by American poet A.R. Ammons –reveal in very different ways both the agentic capacity of garbage and the ascension of garbage to a semiotics of the sublime in the twentieth century, East and West.