join us on facebook desmond elliott 2017
Search our site
Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber Read the opening extract of the brand new Kathleen Barber book before its publication on 27/12/2017

Making Waste Leftovers and the Eighteenth-Century Imagination by Sophie Gee

Making Waste Leftovers and the Eighteenth-Century Imagination


Making Waste Leftovers and the Eighteenth-Century Imagination by Sophie Gee

Why was eighteenth-century English culture so fascinated with the things its society discarded? Why did Restoration and Augustan writers such as Milton, Dryden, Swift, and Pope describe, catalog, and memorialize the waste matter that their social and political worlds wanted to get rid of--from the theological dregs in Paradise Lost to the excrements in The Lady's Dressing Room and the corpses of A Journal of the Plague Year? In Making Waste, the first book about refuse and its place in Enlightenment literature and culture, Sophie Gee examines the meaning of waste at the moment when the early modern world was turning modern. Gee explains how English writers used contemporary theological and philosophical texts about unwanted and leftover matter to explore secular, literary relationships between waste and value. She finds that, in the eighteenth century, waste was as culturally valuable as it was practically worthless--and that waste paradoxically revealed the things that the culture cherished most. The surprising central insight of Making Waste is that the creation of value always generates waste. Waste is therefore a sign--though a perverse one--that value and meaning have been made. Even when it appears to symbolize civic, economic, and political failure, waste is in fact restorative, a sign of cultural invigoration and imaginative abundance. Challenging the conventional association of Enlightenment culture with political and social improvement, and scientific and commercial progress, Making Waste has important insights for cultural and intellectual history as well as literary studies.


This brief book on an unlikely topic is packed with insights. By focusing on 'waste,
Gee has found an original way to look at the literature of the Restoration and early 18th century

... Best of all, she always writes clearly, making her book accessible even to beginners. --Choice For a book concerned largely with filth, Making Waste is stylistically pristine. Gee writes with an elegance and fluency that buoys her thinking from one topic to the next... Rarely does criticism read so well. --Jonathan Kramnick, Studies in English Literature Dazzling in its range of reference and implications, Making Waste springs to life like Swift's gaudy tulips, mixing memory and desire like lilacs bred out of the dead land, and inviting us to feast on the rich literary and theoretical harvest Ms. Gee has gleaned from the leftover. --Lynn Festa, Scriblerian

About the Author

Sophie Gee is assistant professor of English at Princeton University and the author of The Scandal of the Season (Scribner), a novel based on the story behind Alexander Pope's Rape of the Lock . She writes regularly for the New York Times Book Review , the Washington Post , and the Financial Times .

More books by this author
Author 'Like for Like' recommendations

Loading other formats...

Book Info

Publication date

17th January 2010


Sophie Gee

More books by Sophie Gee
Author 'Like for Like'


Princeton University Press


216 pages


Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800
Social & cultural history



With literary excellence, humour and drama, Lovereading's got value and is a real stress-calmer!

Siobhan McDowell

It's the first site that I visit when deciding on the next set of books to buy. A particular treat is being able to download an extract.

Tessa Olson

The best new books on the market, reviewed honestly, to give your readers the best choices.

Julie Cook

Thanks to Lovereading I have discovered new writers and read books I would never had looked twice at - and enjoyed them.

Angela Rhodes

As for why I'd recommend Lovereading, it's simple - it's a great place to get information and reviews about new books!

Margaret Freeman

You can trust Lovereading to show unbiased reviews by actual, ordinary readers that help likeminded booklovers choose their next great read.

Linda Hill

Lovereading is a wonderful way to expand my literary horizons, discover inspiring authors & get the chance to read new novels first. #loveit

Zarina de Ruiter

Lovereading has given me the opportunity to delve into new and exciting worlds of authors who I would never have tried before.

Glynis Elliott