Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative explores our emotional engagement with environmental narrative.


Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative

Affective Ecologies was published by the Ohio State University Press in May 2017. You can visit the publisher’s website here.

From the blurb:

Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative explores our emotional engagement with environmental narrative. Focusing on the American cultural context, Alexa Weik von Mossner develops an ecocritical approach that draws on the insights of affective science and cognitive narratology. This approach helps to clarify how we interact with environmental narratives in ways that are both biologically universal and culturally specific. In doing so, it pays particular attention to the thesis that our minds are both embodied (in a physical body) and embedded (in a physical environment), not only when we interact with the real world but also in our engagement with imaginary worlds.

How do we experience the virtual environments we encounter in literature and film on the sensory and emotional level? How do environmental narratives invite us to care for human and nonhuman others who are put at risk? And how do we feel about the speculative futures presented to us in ecotopian and ecodystopian texts? Weik von Mossner explores these central questions that are important to anyone with an interest in the emotional appeal and persuasive power of environmental narratives.


Table of Contents:

Introduction: Environmental Narrative, Embodiment and Emotion    

Part I: Sensing Place

1. Captivating Evocations: Literary Topophilia and Narrative Perspective    

2. Touching Sights and Sounds: Embodiment, Emotion and Cinematic Environments  

Part II: Feeling With Others

3. Imagining the Pain: Strategic Empathy and the Environmental Justice Narrative

4. Beyond Boundaries: Imaginary Animals and the Intricacies of Trans-Species Empathy

Part III: Experiencing the Future 

5. Troubling Futures: Climate Risk and the Emotional Power of Dystopia

6. Alluring Visions: Hope, Desire, and the Affective Appeal of Ecotopia

Epilogue: Environmental Narrative across Media



Affective Ecologies breaks genuinely new ground and uses a body of theory, concepts, and critical tools that can significantly contribute to strengthening or falsifying the claims of ecocritics about the psychological and political impacts of environmental writing and film, which have so far remained largely speculative. This is a book with real potential for transformative impact. The stakes are clearly articulated and brilliantly executed” – Ursula Heise, UCLA (author of Sense of Place and Sense of Planet and Imagining Extinction)

“Through cognitive analyses of various literary and cinematic texts, this work explains how and why such texts have such deep implications for our engagement with real-world social and environmental situations. Alexa Weik von Mossner’s conclusion that cognitive ecocriticism has much to offer will resonate strongly with readers, especially with ecocritics who are looking for the field’s next important direction.” – Scott Slovic, University of Idaho (author of Going Away to Think: Engagement, Retreat, and Ecocritical Responsibility)

“This is a pioneer study in the environmental humanities, which assesses the role of emotions in ecological communication from a cognitive science perspective. Analyzing a wide range of texts and films across diverse genres and areas of the ecocritical field between nature writing and fictional narratives, environmental justice and animal discourses, dystopian and ecotopian imaginations, Alexa Weik von Mossner’s book impressively demonstrates the ways in which emotions are employed in conveying both critical awareness and empathetic engagement in ecological communication. This is a landmark contribution which establishes affective ecology as a new, indispensable perspective in the environmental humanities.” – Hubert Zapf, University of Augsburg (author of Literature as Cultural Ecology)

Academic reviews:

Tagnani, David. 2018. Review Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion and Environmental Narrative by Alexa Weik von Mossner. The Goose 16 (2): article 21.