Foote is in residence at the National Humanities Center in Durham, N.C. for the 2017-18 academic year while working on her book about waste.
In “The Art of Waste: Narrative, Trash, and Contemporary Culture,” Foote plans to examine the role of garbage in narrating the relationship of American culture to environmental crisis.
"Garbage assaults our senses—it's rancid and putrefying, or damaged and useless, or just jarringly out of place. Yet, it is also easy to ignore," said Foote, the Jackson and Nichols Professor of English. “Even though garbage shows how humans have caused environmental degradation, the neatly stacked recycling bins and the rows of municipal wastebaskets that line city streets promise that we can forget about what we throw away once we've found the right place to dispose of it. But the objects we get rid of haunt and structure our relationships not just to the things we use and waste, but to the things we keep and treasure.”
"We can use the stories garbage tells and the stories that we tell about it to understand the evolution of literary and artistic forms in an era of climate change," she said.
Because there is less than a seven percent chance of receiving the fellowship, Foote never expected to win.
"I don't apply for external funding very often, and I was completely shocked to win this fellowship," she said.
The National Humanities Center is the only private institute that exclusively studies all areas of the humanities. The nonprofit organization uses residential fellows and educational programs coupled with public engagement to create new knowledge and understanding while strengthening the teaching of the humanities.
"The humanities are ideally all about thinking in and for the public, so the kinds of revisions and explanations we make as we craft our project descriptions always get us closer to the best version of our thinking," Foote said. "Every time we apply for something, we are forced to sharpen our ideas and address our arguments to a wider public."
Foote is the author of two other books and has had numerous articles published in journals and edited collections. She also edits Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, which she founded along with Stephanie LeMenager, Moore Professor of English at the University of Oregon.