The transfiguration of the discarded: Consumption and waste in Wallace Stevens, A R Ammons, Don DeLillo, and Martin Scorsese

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

John Paul Russo - Committee Chair


The beginning of the urban way of life in the U.S. coincides with the historical shift from the rural, agrarian economy of the early nineteenth century to the industrial economy of the late nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. This transition has contributed to a crisis of waste. In America's throwaway consumer culture, waste (re)appears in advertising, art, literature, movies, and television. The term waste refers to not only literal rubbish, bodily excretions, dead bodies, also drugs ("junk" indicates heroin) and murder (to "be wasted"); in addition one wastes time, money, and life. My dissertation explores the creation of identity and the ways in which a subject reveals himself in film, literature, and poetry. The metaphor of archaeology, the study of fragments and ruins, underlies this inquiry. The overriding framework of waste enables the writers and filmmaker to situate characters within a postmodern dystopia. Thus, I argue that waste influences the formation of identity. My thesis explores how Wallace Stevens's "The Man on the Dump," A. R. Ammons's Garbage, Don DeLillo's Underworld, and Martin Scorsese's The Departed reappropriate the excluded and the discarded objects of our consumer culture and make use of waste in their social commentaries.


Literature, Modern; Literature, American; Cinema

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