This article investigates selected environmental informational picturebooks in which – often in both the main text and the peritext – readers find brief descriptions of actions they can take to change their habits and save the planet. The analysis focuses on lists of tasks incorporated into books and considers whether such sections (and, potentially, whole books) invite critical engagement. This ability seems crucial in times of fake news and the need for conscious action and political engagement in climate issues. In the first part, the theoretical framework on informational picturebooks is presented, and the importance of peritextual elements is stressed, as well as the critical thinking that may be fostered by a nonfiction text, referring to Joe Sutliff Sanders’ concept of “a literature of questions” (date?). Four international picturebooks are then discussed, representing both ‘traditional’ (Müll by Gerda Raidt and Śmieciogród by Ola Woldańska-Płocińska) and ‘new’ children’s nonfiction (Be a Tree! by Maria Gianferrari and Felicita Sala and Greta and the Giants by Zoë Tucker and Zoe Persico). The analysis demonstrates that green informational picturebooks may be perceived as both eco-activist books and books about eco-activism as they present certain tasks and encourage the readers to take actions; hence, the term “a literature of actions” has been proposed, as these books seem to trigger little critical thinking. The reason green informational picturebooks are unlikely to foster critical engagement may be that fighting the climate crisis is crucial to ensure humanity’s future wellbeing.
Storying Plants in Australian Children’s and Young Adult Literature: Roots and Winged Seeds explores cultural and historical aspects of the representation of plants in Australian children’s and young adult literature, encompassing colonial, postcolonial, and Indigenous perspectives. While plants tend to be backgrounded as of less narrative interest than animals and humans, this book, in conversation with the field of critical plant studies, approaches them as living beings worthy of attention. Australia is home to over 20,000 species of native plants – from pungent Eucalypts to twisting mangroves, from tiny orchids to spiky, silvery spinifex. Indigenous Australians have lived with, relied upon, and cultivated these plants for many thousands of years. When European explorers and colonists first invaded Australia, unfamiliar species of plants captured their imagination. Vulnerable to bushfires, climate change, and introduced species, plants continue to occupy fraught but vital places in Australian ecologies, texts, and cultures. Discussing writers from Ambelin Kwaymullina and Aunty Joy Murphy to May Gibbs and Ethel Turner, and embracing transnational perspectives from Ukraine, Poland, and Aotearoa New Zealand, Storying Plants addresses the stories told about plants but also the stories that plants themselves tell, engaging with the wide-ranging significance of plants in Australian children’s and Young Adult literature.
«Trä är ett väldigt levande material»
Mennesker som blir til trær, i tre skandinaviske bildebøker
by Beatrice G. Reed
Arboreal metamorphoses are featured in mythical texts from all over the world. The motif has particularly been explored in children’s literature, with Carlo Collodi’s La avventura di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino (1883) being one of its most influential examples. While the Pinocchio narrative has largely been interpreted as a development from raw nature to a more mature cultural existence, transformations from human to tree appear far more ambivalent. The young research field of critical plant studies provides an opportunity to explore the motif and its embedded transgressions between the human and vegetal sphere in new ways. The article examines three Scandinavian picturebooks through such a plant-oriented approach. Metamorphosis is central to Hans Sande’s and Olav Hagen’s Plommetreet [The Plum Tree] (1984), Anna Jacobina Jacobsen’s Baglænsk [Backwardish] (2019) and Lisen Adbåge’s Furan [The Pine] (2021). By examining how the transformations are depicted, the contribution seeks to illuminate the ecocritical potential provided by arboreal metamorphosis.
Read/les article/artikkel: https://doi.org/10.18261/edda.110.3.2
In this paper, I examine how the novels Anna [The World According to Anna] by Jostein Gaarder (2013) and Blå [The End of the Ocean] by Maja Lunde (2017) discuss fundamental dilemmas related to energy and sustainability. Although the novels have different target groups, they have several common features. They both bring a generational perspective to climate and environmental issues. Also, dialogues on energy and sustainability issues have a central place in both texts. How, and to what extent, do central characters in Anna and Blå negotiate values related to energy dilemmas? The theoretical approach to my analyses is a combination of Mikhail Bakhtinʼs perspectives on dialogue, and the Nature in Culture Matrix (Goga et al., 2018), which builds on insights from ecocritical perspectives. I argue that the dialogues in Blå highlight conflicts and dilemmas, while the different characters in Anna largely have the same viewpoints when it comes to the relationship between humans, culture, and nature.
Read article: https://www.idunn.no/doi/10.18261/blft.14.1.8
by Nina Goga, Lykke Guanio-Uluru, Bjørg Oddrun Hallås, Sissel M. Høisæter, Aslaug Nyrnes & Hege Emma Rimmereide
This article argues that revisions of curricula in teacher education, undertaken in response to the UN’s Agenda 2030, goal 4.7, and the OECD’s The Future of Education and Skills, need to consider new ways of teaching topics related to current environmental issues. Grounded in ecocriticism and dialogic teaching practices, this article promotes ecocritical dialogues, as developed by the research group Nature in Children’s Literature and Culture, as one viable teaching approach. Ecocritical dialogues engage with a conceptual figure developed by the group, the NatCul Matrix, which functions as a grid for the discussion of different materials, texts, and practices, in dynamic dialogue with main figures of thought in the environmental discourse. The article further proposes a set of questions as a framework for setting up ecocritical dialogues. Ecocritical dialogues aim to enable student teachers to experience and reflect upon environmentally oriented teaching practices.
Available online as open access
With The Anthropocene Unconscious: Climate Catastrophe Culture, Mark Bould gives a new contribution to the study of the Anthropocene in literary, televised and cinematic fictions by providing a different perspective to some influential statements included in Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016). Indeed, whereas the latter maintains that “most forms of art and literature” not only conceal but also avoid dealing with climate catastrophe, Bould posits that the “art and literature of our time is pregnant with catastrophe, with weather and water, wildness and weirdness” (p. 3).
After providing a brief outline of the history and the controversies around the term the Anthropocene, Bould compares it to the Freudian unconscious, as it seems to underlie every cultural production while remaining largely repressed. Within this perspective, the Anthropocene is not absent from artistic and literary texts, but it is unspoken and, therefore, the critic’s role is to identify the textual fractures which reveal its presence and make textual silences speak, as claimed by Pierre Macherey’s theory of literary production. Bould also evokes Fredric Jameson’s political unconscious (1981) and the related idea that the critic rewrites “a given text in terms of a particular interpretive master code”. Along these lines, The Anthropocene Unconscious embarks on a critical rewriting and rereading of a large raft of texts, to reveal their unspoken representation of climate crisis.
To structure his analysis, Bould begins his book with an introduction where he sets out the above-mentioned purpose of his work; then, he proceeds with five thematically bound chapters, and he wraps up his critical reading enterprise with a conclusion, which is circularly connected to the introduction in pointing to a wider socioeconomic agenda. In the final part, Bould posits that bringing up the Anthropocene unconscious in different texts and productions might appear useless compared to the existential threat represented by the current climate crisis, but if it is turned into a collective critical practice, it can instil a slow but pivotal cultural and behavioural change towards an unconditional care for the biosphere.
To get to this point, the book’s five chapters explore almost thirty-six titles across different time periods (from 1880s to present days), countries (the USA, Canada, the UK, France, Spain, Norway, Russia, and India), and media (literature, television and film). Bould’s analysis traverses different forms of high and popular culture and different examples of the so-called Anthropocene unconscious. In Chapter 1, he explores texts that contain various anthropogenically induced predators, such as zombies, and highlight human complicity in climate change. In Chapters 2 and 3, Bould presents different examples of mundane, middle-class fiction, which seems to be loyal to ordinary and every-day details, but which reveals the presence of the Anthropocene as a distortion of “ordinary, if still relatively privileged, lives” or as a refusal of its effects on land and different species. Chapter 4, instead, probes a series of genre fiction and arthouse cinema that not only are set in watery landscapes but that also presents different perspectives on progress, reframed by water. Chapter 5 finally analyses different representations of trees in various texts, and their role in displaying different types of the environmental uncanny, as well as in providing sustainable and alternative examples of existence.
Undoubtedly engaging and innovative in its perspective, Bould’s study should be read by both experts and laymen who acknowledge the importance of reflecting on the Anthropocene. However, readers might be disoriented by the lack of explanation of the reasons why the author has selected certain texts and productions and displayed them in an apparently unstructured way. Indeed, Bould’s analysis evidently defies any national compartmentalisation, chronological categorization and aesthetic distinction and it is guided only by theme-analogies that make his reasoning comparable to the non-linearity of either the unconscious or tree branches. The book efficaciously unravels the unspoken potentialities of the mundane novels in revealing much more than the limited norms and tastes of the bourgeois life, but it also touches on a hazardous terrain: claiming that every contemporary cultural and artistic production speaks about the current climate crisis might be conceived as an attempt to unnaturally see something even when it is not there. To conclude, we are not sure if the Anthropocene is the unconscious of every text, but this essay invites us to adopt a critical attitude towards those textual fractures that might reveal what type of human – non-human relationship is unconsciously portrayed in every work of high and popular art.
28.04.2023 by Monica Peluso, PhD Student from University of Bologna
Ghosh, Amitav. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016.
Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (1981). London: Routledge, 2002.
Macherey, Pierre. A Theory of Literary Production. London: Verso Books, 2006.