There is a growing understanding across disciplines that narratives are of central importance to our relationships with other humans and nonhumans as well as the broader environment. However, there is a need for more interdisciplinary cooperation and trans-disciplinary convergence in order to explore further, in both the theoretical and the empirical realm, how environmental narratives across various mediums contribute to our understanding of the world around us and our place in it.Together with Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and Wojciech Malecki, I am therefore developing empirical ecocriticism as a new research field within the Environmental Humanities.

Empirical ecocriticism investigates the influence of environmental narratives (across a wide variety of media) on their audiences. We think of it as a fruitful commingling of existing fields of study, such as traditional ecocriticism, ecomedia, the empirical study of literature and art, environmental communication, and environmental psychology. For us, empirical ecocriticism is 1) Empirically grounded. 2) Open to qualitative and exploratory methodologies. 3) Focused on the effects of narrative strategies and techniques, with the kind of depth and nuance that cultural critics have brought to their research for decades. 4) Features writing that is more engaging than the typical social science paper, since we hope to find an audience among both environmental humanists and social scientists. 5) Open to critical engagement with competing definitions of “empirical” data,

One of the central aims of the interdisciplinary field that this workshop will develop is to gain a better understanding of the role of environmental narratives in influencing people’s awareness, attitudes, and behavior in a time of rapid social and ecological transformation. Combining approaches from the humanities and the social sciences, empirical ecocriticism explores the ways in which people from various cultural backgrounds engage with environmental narratives and the larger repercussions of such engagement.

Associated workshops:

Empirical Ecocriticism Workshop at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich

Date: 14-15 December 2018
Location: Rachel Carson Center, Munich, Germany
Conveners: Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and  Alexa Weik von Mossner

Associated publications:

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and Alexa Weik von Mossner, eds. Thematic cluster of articles on “Empirical Ecocriticism” in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies of Literature and Environment. In preparation.

Malecki, Wojciech and Alexa Weik von Mossner. “Stories versus Speciesism: The Case of Alice Walker’s ‘Am I Blue’.” Article for the thematic cluster on “Empirical Ecocriticism” in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies of Literature and Environment. Eds. Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and Alexa Weik von Mossner. In preparation.

Malecki, Wojciech, Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and Alexa Weik von Mossner, eds. Empirical Ecocriticism: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Environmental Narrative. Edited volume. In preparation.