Literature Among the Ruins: Junky Humanities, Literary Garbage, and Textual Flotsam

deadline for submissions: 
May 8, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
MMLA (Two Part Special Session)
contact email: 

Literature Among the Ruins: Junky Humanities, Literary Garbage, and Textual Flotsam

Two-Part Conference Panel


Organizers: Dr. Craig Dionne and Dr. Meg Dobbins, Eastern Michigan University


Description: For decades now, scholars have been pronouncing the humanities and the English major “dead.” Assuming we are living either in the end days leading up to or in the immediate aftermath following such an extinction event, which of our literary materials and activities survive, linger, proliferate, accumulate, and circulate in the ruins? This two-part panel seeks papers on the theme of “Junky Humanities, Literary Garbage, and Textual Flotsam.” Authors are invited to conceive of these themes broadly and creatively, as a sort of scholarly grab bag (or more aptly trash bag) for gathering our collective reflections on what it means to read, write, and teach literature in an age characterized by rampant precarity and insecurity, imminent climate disaster, and the devaluation of the humanities. What kinds of reading communities, textual artifacts/collections, scholarly affects, and/or pedagogical approaches live on—perhaps even flourish—within the material conditions of literary ruination, flotsam, detritus, wastelands, and toxicity?


Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Literature, ecocriticism, the Anthropocene; representations and engagements with garbage, waste management, trash

  • “Trashy” genres and texts; popular, commercial, and lowbrow forms

  • Literary commodifications; marketing, trashy packaging; literary recycling, repurposing; revamping the English major/department etc.

  • Marginal works, textual waysides and gutters; alternative canons and histories

  • Ephemera and transient artifacts; wasted and wasting texts/ aesthetics

  • Dead, obsolete, and old-fashioned texts, authors, and textual practices; forgotten works and approaches

  • “Toxic” literary texts and authors; tarnished legacies, approaches to handling problematic figures and canons, etc.

  • Literature as touring the ruins; teaching literature as pleasure in the ruins

  • Decolonization, intentional defacement, destruction, and refusal of literary texts and authors

  • Changing student values and university climates; “cancel culture”; student activism; new campus cultures and collectives

  • Dirty books, filth; pollution; obscenity and censorship

  • Fragments, disjecta membra; diaspora; drift

  • Physical trash; print and paper; literary preservation, digital humanities, material cultures


Please submit 250-500 word abstracts (for 15-20 minute presentations) including a 1-2 page CV to Dr. Craig Dionne ( and Dr. Meg Dobbins ( by May 8th.