Drafts of all of the papers below have been completed and are awaiting publication.

Empirical Ecocriticism: Environmental Texts and Empirical Methods (with Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and Wojciech Małecki)

This is the introduction to a cluster of articles in the journal Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment that engage in empirical ecocriticism: an empirically grounded, interdisciplinary approach to environmental narrative that combines methods from the humanities with methods from the social sciences. It argues that the problem with the convictions held by many ecocritics about the power of environmental literature and other media is that they have been based largely on our intuitions, speculations, and anecdotal data. To substantiate, reject, or complicate our hunches we need empirical evidence while also paying attention to the themes and narrative features of a given text. The cluster understands itself an invitation, not a definitive statement. From a methodological perspective, the three articles collected in the special cluster in it use familiar and well-respected methodologies: the questionnaire, the focus group, and the experiment.

(forthcoming introduction to a thematic cluster of articles on “Empirical Ecocriticism,” guest-edited by Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, Alexa Weik von Mossner and Wojciech Małecki, in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment)

Feeling Bad? Veganism, Climate Change, and the Rhetoric of Cowspiracy

Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn’s Cowspiracy uncovers a truth that many people are still unaware of: the fact that our personal food choices have an impact on the climate. The essay combines a cognitive ecocritical analysis of Cowspircacy’s rhetorical strategies with the experiences I made in teaching the film to a group of Austrian students in a seminar on American Climate Change Cinema. Class discussions as well as anonymized questionnaires showed that students were deeply affected by the film’s rhetoric. Many of them felt for the first time that their personal choices mattered in fighting climate change, but they were also overwhelmed by the prospect that this moral choice would involve changing their eating habits. The essay discusses the potential of such emotional responses in light of scholarship on the “rhetorical form” of documentary film (Bordwell and Thompson 2001).

(for Veg(etari)an Arguments in Culture, History, and Practice: The V Word, edited by Cristina Hanganu-Bresch and Kristin Kondrlik. Under contract with Palgrave Macmillan)

Popularizing Climate Change: Cli-Fi Film and Narrative Impact

Over the past two decades, climate science has increasingly engaged with the popular medium of film. Not only have climatologists commented on the representation of climate change in Hollywood block­busters such as Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow, they have also acted as consultants, given interviews for documentary films, and – perhaps the most radical choice – become filmmakers themselves. I will argue that these scientific “experiments” with filmic modes of story­telling reveal both the potential and some of the risks inherent in communicating climate change with narrative strategies that aren’t inherent to science or even science communication. Engaging popular audiences tends to involve finding an emotional story within the scientific one, a story that captivates people’s attention in a way that maximizes “narrative impact” (Green & Brock 2000). This need for emotion­alization can be problematic from a scientific point of view, but it also opens powerful new avenues for communicating climate change.

(for Research Handbook in Communicating Climate Change, edited by David Holmes and Lucy Richardson. Under contract with Edward Elgar Publishing)

Affect, Emotion, and Ecocriticism

From its inception, the study of literature and the environment has been interested in how ecologically oriented texts represent and provoke emotions in relation to the natural world. More recently, the first couple of books were published that aim to develop a more sustained theoretical approach to exploring how affect and emotion function in environmentally oriented texts. The article traces this development over time, highlighting some of the most important texts and theoretical concepts in affective ecocriticism, including explorations of nostalgia, place attachment, ecophobia, ecohorror, irony and irreverence, as well as recent econarratological and cognitive approaches to environmental narrative and emotion.

(Invited contribution for the 2020 Anniverary Issue of [email protected]: European Journal of Literature, Culture, and Environment, edited by Carmen Flys Junquera, Axel Goodbody, and Serpil Oppermann)

Climate on Screen: From Doom and Disaster to Ecotopian Visions

It has become a critical commonplace that cinematic depictions of climate change offer a spectacle-driven, apocalyptic vision that is at odds with the diffuse experience of climate and the slow violence of climate change. Some critics also fear that such dark and disastrous visions might prove detrimental to our capacity of properly addressing the issue because people end up disengaging from it entirely. The first part of the chapter digs deeper into these concerns by exploring some of the emotions cued by dystopian depictions of climate doom and disaster. The second part turns to two films that have tried an entirely different affective approach – Cyril Dion and Melanie Laurent’s Demain and Damon Gameau’s 2040 – by using presenting possible solutions to the climate crisis along with desirable ecotopian futures in a mode that is often humorous, witty, and uplifting. Both narrative strategies, I suggest, have their place in climate change cinema, and both can be effective with some audiences.

(for The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Climate, edited by Kelly Sultzbach and Adeline Johns-Putra. Under contract with Cambridge University Press)

Screening Veganism: The Production, Rhetoric, and Reception of Vegan Advocacy Films

The essay looks at how vegan advocacy films get conceived, financed, produced, distributed and promoted, from no-budget productions to crowd-funding campaigns and the involvement of Hollywood celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio. Moreover, it explores how such films tap into other discourses such as speciesism, animal rights, diet, climate change, and celebrity culture to bolster their arguments for adopting a vegan diet and/or lifestyle. In this context, the essay will also explore some of the narrative strategies employed in these films. Through these different routes of analysis, the essay gives insight in how (and by whom) vegan advocacy films get produced and what narrative strategies they consider most effective in order to reach their goals.

(for The Routledge Handbook of Vegan Studies, edited by Laura Wright. Under contract with Routledge)