Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Romance Languages

First Advisor

Philippe Met


In this dissertation, I engage with authors and works that sweep waste to the center, destabilizing our expectations of what waste is, and what it does. They do so through an aesthetics of waste that foregrounds waste as a major theme and mode of artistic creation. By waste, I refer to the wide material and metaphorical implications of the word – from trash, refuse and excrement, to textual debris that would typically be discarded from a finished work of art.

My corpus is composed of contemporary French works and spans the genres of novel, film and poetic notebook. It begins with a trash-centered reading of Michel Tournier’s Les M�t�ores (1975), before moving on to Agn�s Varda’s documentary Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse (2000) and a selection of Sabine Macher’s poetic notebooks (1992 – 2005). Through these works, my dissertation interrogates the relationship between writing (�criture and cin�criture) and waste. Tournier, Varda and Macher mount a critique of commodity culture and its values of standardization, homogenization, over-consumption and plastic perfection. At the same time, they locate waste as a subversive site for new artistic creation. Waste in these works thus functions as an alternative aesthetics and a social and ecological critique. Waste also emerges as an ambiguous concept, negatively figured as the by-product of our relentless production-consumption, and positively figured as a means of escaping such a system.

Each genre and work under study lends itself to its own blend of “waste making” or “waste management” techniques, including recycling, bricolage, gleaning and a poetics of lack. In self-conscious gestures, Tournier, Varda and Macher place themselves in their works to model their waste-making practices as trash aesthete-pickers, gleaners and bricoleurs. My dissertation thus approaches the issue of waste from a literary, artistic and aesthetic perspective, while incorporating discourses from the fields of eco-criticism, ethics, postmodernism and waste studies. Ultimately, I argue that waste is the ‘stuff’ that works of art are made of.

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