Mag. Markus Schwarz (Paris Lodron University of Salzburg): "'There's still a world': Salvaging Hope in Garbagetown"

Tuesday, January 31, 2023, 4:15-5:45 p.m., U5/00.24

In Catherynne M. Valente's The Past is Red, the world has already drowned: climate disaster and the subsequent rise of the oceans have submerged all continents. The novella is thus set in Garbagetown, a floating habitat that emerged from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and now consists of different quarters that are marked by the trash they are comprised of (such as Candle Town or Aluminumopolis). Although the world has ended, traces of the capitalist past, responsible for its destruction in the first place, are still lingering on. Nonetheless, within the inhabitants of Garbagetown, there is still nostalgia for the past, for the world of the "fuckwits" – as the previous inhabitants of the planet are ironically called. However, Tetley, the main protagonist of the novella, is able to see through this fake nostalgia and desire for an imagined better past; instead, she – seemingly naive – sees the beauty in the ruins and finds hope in a broken world.

In this lecture, Markus Schwarz will read Tetley as a salvagepunk protagonist, a character who is trying to "stay with the trouble" of her surroundings to figure out a way towards imagining something else, a place that emerges from the ruins of the past and present. Schwarz aims to draw out the anti-capitalist criticism of the contemporary moment in The Past is Red and the nod towards a utopian horizon that is not marked by nostalgia for the past or the hope for a future Eden, but by becoming truly post-apocalyptic, that is learning "to do something better, or at least morbidly fun, with the apocalyptic remains of the day" (Evan Calder-Williams).

Mag. Markus Schwarz is a PhD student at Paris Lodron University of Salzburg. His research is located in the field of cultural studies and he is currently working on his PhD project on utopian horizons in outer space and climate change imaginaries.