"Let the Freaking Canning Begin": Human Waste in the Workplaces of George Saunders’s Pastoralia (2000)

2018-12-13T06:20:04Z (GMT) by Freya Verlander
This article suggests how Michael Thompson’s Rubbish Theory (1979), specifically the model of the life cycle of rubbish, might be applied to the dystopian workplace environments of George Saunders’s surreal and, often, dystopian collection Pastoralia (2000). Pastoralia foregrounds rubbish through depictions of live waste (rubbish employees and re-animated corpses), wasted lives, and waste disposal methods within the workplace. I focus on the short stories “Pastoralia” and “Sea Oak” to reveal the mechanisms behind the conversion of human employee to human waste both in, and out of, the workplace. I suggest how waste-theory further advances our understanding of Saunders’s fiction as the literary depictions of human waste in the workplace function as a critique of the dominant ideologies that govern American culture.