The essays in the new book Life in Plastic: Artistic Responses to Petromodernity constitute a vital contribution to environmental humanities exploring artistic responses to the plastic age…
Since at least the 1960s, plastics have been a defining feature of contemporary life. They are undeniably utopian—wondrously innovative, cheap, malleable, durable, and convenient. Yet our proliferating use of plastics has also triggered catastrophic environmental consequences. Plastics are piling up in landfills, floating in oceans, and contributing to climate change and cancer clusters. They are derived from petrochemicals and enmeshed with the global oil economy, and they permeate our consumer goods and their packaging, our clothing and buildings, our bodies and minds. Plastic reshapes our cultural and social imaginaries.
With impressive breadth and compelling urgency, the essays in Life in Plastic examine the arts and literature of the plastic age. Focusing mainly on post-1960s North America, the collection spans a wide variety of genres, including graphic novels, superhero comics, utopic and dystopic science fiction, poetry, and satirical prose, as well as vinyl records and visual arts. Essays by a remarkable lineup of cultural theorists interrogate how plastic—as material and concept—has affected human sensibilities and expression. The collection reveals the place of plastic in reshaping how we perceive, relate to, represent, and re-imagine bodies, senses, environment, scale, mortality, and collective well-being.
Ultimately, the contributors to Life in Plastic think through plastic with an eye to imagining our way out of plastic, moving toward a postplastic future.
Contributors: Crystal Bartolovich, Syracuse U; Maurizia Boscagli, U of California, Santa Barbara; Christopher Breu, Illinois State U; Loren Glass, U of Iowa; Sean Grattan, U of Kent; Nayoung Kim, Brandeis U; Jane Kuenz, U of Southern Maine; Paul Morrison, Brandeis U; W. Dana Phillips, Towson U in Maryland and Rhodes U in Grahamstown, South Africa; Margaret Ronda, UC-Davis; Lisa Swanstrom, U of Utah; Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor, Pennsylvania State U; Phillip E. Wegner, U of Florida; Daniel Worden, Rochester Institute of Technology.