ACADEMIC PUBLICATIONS – Forthcoming Papers
Drafts of all of the papers below have been completed and are awaiting publication.
When Everything Is Up for Grabs: Environmental Narcissism in Percival Everett’s Grand Canyon, Inc.
The essay offers an econarratological analysis of Percival Everett’s novella Grand Canyon, Inc., paying particular attention to the text’s postmodern elements. Ecocritics have often privileged sincere and realist storytelling, arguing that a dedication to authentic detail and life-like characters are best suited to instill in readers awareness and affective attachment to the depicted environment. There is very little realism in Everett’s postmodern satire, and yet it cues strong emotional responses in readers that may easily lead to moral outrage at attitudes and practices in the extra-textual world. Nicole Seymour has suggested that rather than hindering critical engagement, non-serious modes of narration can foster a self-critical attitudes in readers. The essay demonstrates how such fostering takes places in Grand Canyon, Inc. and suggest that Everett’s brisk satire amounts to a scathing critique of environmental narcissism.
(forthcoming in Ecocriticism: Environments in Anglophone Literaturess, edited by Birgit Neumann and Sonja Frenzel, special issue of Anglistik & Englischunterricht)
From Nostalgic Longing to Solastalgic Distress: A Cognitive Approach to Love in the Anthropocene
The essay aims to demonstrate the usefulness of a cognitive approach for affective ecocriticism, taking as an example Dale Jamieson and Bonnie Nadzam’s co-authored short story collection Love in the Anthropocene. It analyzes how in three stories from the collection readers are cued to feel empathy for characters and share their feelings of loss and nostalgia in the face of the drastically impoverished environments of an indistinct future. Like most emotions, love is a feeling that is directed at an object. The most uncontroversial object of human love may be another human being, but in Jamieson and Nadzam’s stories the emotional objects are far more diverse and more elusive. Sometimes they aren’t even materially present and yet we can trace how their very absence cues an emotional response in readers.
(forthcoming in Affective Ecocriticism, edited by Jennifer Ladino and Kyle Bladow, Omaha: University of Nebraska Press)
Green States of Mind? Cognition, Emotion, and Environmental Framing
The essay takes the virtual experience of Hurricane Harvey in the American media as a starting point for an exploration of what George Lakoff’s notion of cognitive framing can contribute to ecocritical discourse. Lakoff notes that it isn’t easy to change cognitive frames once they have become firmly established, but suggests that engaging storytelling is precisely what can get us to, quite literally, change our minds. The essay explores from a cognitive ecocritical perspective just how elastic our minds really are and what narratives strategies environmentally ortiented storytellers have developed in order to change them.
(forthcoming in a COMpostINGs section on “Framing” in the journal Resilience, edited by Michaela Castellanos)
Sensing Animals: Trans-Species Empathy and the Nature Documentary
The essay argues that viewers’ belief in the authenticity and consequentiality of the events seen on the screen is of central importance for their emotional responses to wildlife documentaries. Research in affective neuroscience and cognitive ethology that has demonstrated that signs of empathy and emotion can be observed in many mammals. The essay suggests that a closer look at the embodied expression of animal emotions allows for a better understanding of our affective responses to the animals we see in nonfiction film. It also helps explain why wildlife filmmakers have to edit their material so carefully in order to provide viewers with emotional experiences that are satisfying but not overwhelming in their intensity and valence.
(forthcoming in Documentary and Cognitive Theory, edited by Catalin Brylla and Mette Kramer. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan)
The Moral Dilemma of Unsustainability: Eco-dystopian Fiction as Cultural Critique
The essay takes the recent resurge of interest in dystopian fiction as a starting point for an investigation into the relationship between speculative storytelling and the cultural discourse on sustainability. Drawing on the work of sociologists Shai Dromi and Eva Illouz, the essay suggests that eco-dystopian texts are cultural critiques in the sense that they present readers with a dilemma and then imbue that dilemma with emotional value. It argues that Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower is a pertinent example of such a critique in that it invites readers to share the moral dilemma of its hypherempathetic protagonist while making them viscerally aware of the environmental and social conditions that have caused that dilemma.
(forthcoming in Cultural Dimensions of Sustainability, edited by Gabriele Rippl and Torsten Meireis, New York and London: Routledge)
Why We Care about (Non)fictional Places: Empathy, Character, and Narrative Environment
The essay draws on research in neuroscience and cognitive literary studies to explore how literary reading can lead us to care about natural environments that are both threatening for humans and threatened by human actions. Ann Pancake’s novel Strange as this Weather Has Been (2007) serves as an example of a novel that cues both direct and empathetic emotions for an actual natural environment – the Appalachian Mountains – that is wounded and scarred. Pancake’s choice to relate large parts of the story through the consciousness of teenagers allows for highly emotional and in many ways radical perspectives that have the potential to engage readers (within and outside the university) in the social and moral issues around resource extraction.
(forthcoming in a special issue of Poetics Today on “Knowledge, Understanding, Well-Being: Cognitive Literary Studies”, guest-edited by Nancy Easterlin)
How We Feel about (Not) Eating Animals: Vegan Studies and Cognitive Ecocriticism
The essay aims to draw connections between two emerging research fields within the environmental humanities: vegan studies and cognitive ecocriticism. It suggests that a cognitive ecocritical approach drawing on the insights of affective neuroscience and cognitive ethology can complement the cultural studies side of vegan studies by turning our attention to the ways in which texts and films invite us to feel about animals, food, and the relationship between the two. It is particularly interested in the transformative potential of a range of negative and positive emotions that are cued by texts that critically investigate our relationship with food.
(for The Vegan Studies Reader, edited by Laura Wright, under contract with the University of Nevada Press)
Feeling Literary Environments: Econarratology, Embodiment, and Emotion
Using a cognitive econarratological approach, the essay examines the narrative strategies and underlying neurological processes in the imaginary evocation and affective experience of literary environments. The first part looks at Sanora Babb’s memoir An Owl on Every Post, arguing that while it is the evocative sensual description of a literary environment that helps us imagine it vividly, it is the narrative alignment with experiencing agents that imbues that environment with affective meaning. Part two turns to Babb’s dust bowl novel Whose Names Are Unknown to demonstrate that the same basic principles also apply to fiction and that the vivid evocation of literary environments—and of characters’ affective responses to them—can be an important feature of politically engaged environmental narratives such as Babb’s.
(for Ecocriticism and Narrative Theory, edited by Erin James and Eric Morel, under consideration at the Ohio State University Press)