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Plastics have been a defining feature of contemporary life since at least the 1960s; they permeate our consumer goods and their packaging, our clothing and buildings, our bodies and minds. In this first episode of a two-part series, contributors to the volume LIFE IN PLASTIC: ARTISTIC RESPONSES TO PETROMODERNITY discuss plasticity and myth, stretchy superheroes, how plastic became gendered, plastic as a colonizing force, plastic in art and everyday life, and more. Featuring Caren Irr, Lisa Swanstrom, Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor, and Daniel Worden.

Show Notes

Plastics have been a defining feature of contemporary life since at least the 1960s. Yet our proliferating use of plastics has also triggered catastrophic environmental consequences. Plastics 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. In this first episode of a two-part series, contributors to the volume LIFE IN PLASTIC: ARTISTIC RESPONSES TO PETROMODERNITY discuss plasticity and myth, stretchy superheroes, how plastic became gendered, plastic as a colonizing force, plastic in art and everyday life, and more. Featuring Caren Irr, Lisa Swanstrom, Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor, and Daniel Worden.


Caren Irr is a professor of English at Brandeis University and author of Toward the Geopolitical Novel, Pink Pirates, and The Suburb of Dissent.

Lisa Swanstrom is an associate professor of English at the University of Utah, coeditor of Science Fiction Studies, and author of Animal, Vegetable, Digital.

Jennifer A. Wagner-Lawlor is professor of English and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Pennsylvania State University. She is author of Postmodern Utopias and co-curator of Plastic Entanglements.

Daniel Worden is associate professor of interdisciplinary humanities at the Rochester Institute of Technology and author of Masculine Style, editor of The Comics of Joe Sacco, and coeditor of Oil Culture and Postmodern/Postwar—and After.

Works and people referenced in the episode:
Catherine Malabou
Roland Barthes
Through the Arc of the Rain Forest by Karen Tei Yamashita
The Drought by J.G. Ballard
Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters
Covehithe by China Miéville
Artist Pinar Yoldas
Plastic by Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard
Great Pacific (comic, 16-issue series)
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

What is University of Minnesota Press?

Authors join peers, scholars, and friends in conversation. Topics include environment, humanities, race, social justice, cultural studies, art, literature and literary criticism, media studies, sociology, anthropology, grief and loss, mental health, and more.