Empirical Ecocriticism

Call for Papers
Edited Volume: Empirical Ecocriticism
Deadline for Abstract Submission: September 15, 2018
Contact: wojciech.malecki@uwr.edu.pl; schneider-mayerson@yale-nus.edu.sg;

There is a growing consensus across disciplines that narratives are of central importance to our
relationships with other humans and nonhumans as well as the broader environment. However, until
recently ecocritics have largely relied upon speculation to assess the critical question of the influence of
environmental narratives on their audiences. This is due in part to the lack of interdisciplinary
cooperation between humanists and social scientists in assessing how environmental narratives across
various mediums contribute to our understanding of the world around us and our place in it. So as to
better understand this critical question, we are organizing an edited collection dedicated to empirical
ecocriticism. We hope that it will begin to address this lacuna, ask valuable empirical, theoretical, and
methodological questions, and encourage both ecocritics and environmental social scientists to conduct
similar research in the future.

In our definition, empirical ecocriticism is the empirically-grounded study of environmental narrative –
in literature, film, television, etc. – and its influence on various audiences. Though we are open to
different definitions of what would constitute empirical ecocriticism, we define this field as a fruitful
commingling of existing fields of study, such as traditional ecocriticism, 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 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. For examples of what might
constitute empirical ecocriticism, see the following articles:

  • Wojciech Małecki, Bogusław Pawłowski, and Piotr Sorokowski, “Literary fiction influences
    attitudes toward animal welfare,” PLoS ONE 11.1212
    (2016) https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0168695
  • Wojciech Małecki, Bogusław Pawłowski, Marcin Cieński, and Piotr Sorokowski, “Can Fiction
    Make Us Kinder to Other Species? The Impact of Fiction on pro-Animal Attitudes and
    Behavior.” Poetics 66 (February 2018): 54–63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2018.02.004
  • Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, “The Influence of Climate Fiction: An Empirical Survey of
    Readers,” forthcoming in Environmental Humanities 10.2 (e-mail for pre-publication copy)

Interested scholars might also consult two recent works that deal with similar questions about the
influence of environmental narrative:

  • Scott Slovic and Paul Slovic, Numbers and Nerves: Information, Emotion, and Meaning in a
    World of Data (Oregon State University Press, 2015)
  • Alexa Weik von Mossner, Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental
    Narrative (Ohio State University Press, 2017)

We encourage interdisciplinary approaches and collaborations, and are open to various methodologies
– qualitative, quantitative, ethnographic, historical, mixed, etc. We hope to include work that focuses on
the incredible diversity of environmental media in existence today, including but not limited to poetry,
short stories, novels, children’s literature, comic books, film, television, cartoons, video games, music,
sound art, visual art, dance, and theatre. We also hope to include studies with a range of geographical
diversity, speaking to the existence and significance of forms of environmental literature, art, and
popular culture that have sometimes been overlooked by Anglophone ecocriticism.

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