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

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)

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 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)

Larger than Life: Endangered Animals across Media in Louie Psihoyos’s Racing Extinction

The article investigates Racing Extinction as an argumentative eco-documentary that deliberately embraces intermediality as a visual and narrative strategy to draw attention to a pressing environmental issue: anthropogenic species extinction. Scholars, activists, and artists alike have made the argument that storytelling is an important tool in communicating the threat of large-scale biodiversity loss. The article argues that Racing Extinction’s intermedial strategies turn endangered animals into a cross-media spectacle that is highly entertaining but not without some conceptual and political problems. In this context, it also aims to demonstrate that intermedial ecocriticism can be complemented and enriched in meaningful ways by cognitive approaches in the exploration of mixed ecomedia.

(for a special issue of Ekphrasis on “Intermedial Ecocritcism,” edited by Jørgen Bruhn and Liviu Lutas)

Ecology and Emotion: Feeling Narrative Environments

The chapter argues that the concept of liberated embodied simulation can help us better understand how literary texts engage readers emotionally in their narrative environments. To this purpose, it differentiates between the direct emotions that a text might cue in relation to the depicted storyworld and empathetic character emotions, which allow readers to feel along with the people who populate the storyworld and are thus physically exposed to it. The chapter explores these issues in relation to a widely read climate change novel, Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife, combining narratological analysis with the insights gained from a published survey of readers of the novel.

(for The Routledge Companion to Literature and Emotion, edited by Patrick Colm Hogan, Lalita Pandit Hogan, and Bradley Irish, under contract with Routledge)