Empirical ecocriticism is an emerging subfield of ecocriticism that focuses on the empirically-grounded study of environmental narrative – in literature, film, television, etc. – and its influence on various audiences. The main objective of empirical ecocriticism is to put to empirical test claims made within ecocriticism, and the environmental humanities more generally, about the impact of environmental narratives. To this end, it employs empirical methods used in disciplines such as environmental communication, environmental psychology, and the empirical study of literature. These include correlational and experimental studies, and others.
In our current working definition, empirical ecocriticism is
- Empirically grounded
- Open to qualitative and exploratory methodologies
- 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
- Open to critical engagement with competing definitions of “empirical” data
While empirical ecocriticism focuses on employing established empirical methods, it therefore remains open to different characterizations of empirical data and to the use of humanistic methods as well, including those characteristic of traditional ecocriticism, such as textual and historical analysis.
One the central aims of this interdisciplinary field 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.
The mission of this website is to facilitate the development of empirical ecocriticism by providing information, compiling relevant publications, and enabling cross-disciplinary communication and collaboration.
It is designed to:
- Post news on the current state of Empirical Ecocriticism
- Advertise pertinent Calls for Papers
- Provide resources such as scholarly bibliographies
- Identify journals and book series that are open to empirical ecocriticism
The people behind this website
Wojciech Małecki is Assistant Professor of LiteraryTheory at the Institute of Polish Philology, University of Wrocław, Poland. He is the author of two books, EmbodyingPragmatism (Lang, 2010) and HumanMinds and Animal Stories (Routledge, 2019), the editor or co-editor of four collections of essays, and he has published numerous bookchapters and contributed to journals such as Teksty Drugie, The OxfordLiterary Review, Foucault Studies,Angelaki, Journal of Ecocriticism, DeutscheZeitschrift für Philosophie, Journalof Comparative Literature and Aesthetics, PLOS One, Poetics, andothers. His research interests include American pragmatism, the theory ofinterpretation, the environmental humanities, aesthetics, popular culture, andthe empirical study of literature.
Matthew Schneider-Mayerson is Associate Professor of Social Sciences (Environmental Studies) at Yale-NUS College. His research employs literary criticism, qualitative social science, and cultural history to examine cultural and political responses to contemporary environmental challenges, with a focus on climate change. He has published articles and book chapters on literature, popular culture, environmental futures, and environmental politics, and he is the author of Peak Oil: Apocalyptic Environmentalism and Libertarian Political Culture (U of Chicago P, 2015) and the co-editor of An Ecotopian Lexicon (U of Minnesota P, 2019).
Nicolai Skiveren is a PhD Fellow at the School of Communication and Culture, Department of English at Aarhus University in Denmark. His PhD project, Cinematic Wasthetics, examines the role of waste in contemporary cinema and film and reflects on visual media’s role in representing the complex intersecting crises and possibilities of the Anthropocene. His article on spectral toxicity in HBO’s Chernobyl was published in Ekphrasis in 2020.
Alexa Weik von Mossner is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Klagenfurt in Austria. Her publications include Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion and Environmental Narrative (Ohio State UP, 2017), Moving Environments: Affect, Emotion, Ecology, and Film (Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2014) and articles in journals such as ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Environmental Humanities, Environmental Communication, Textual Practice and the Poetics Today. Her research explores contemporary environmental culture from a cognitive ecocritical perspective, including empirical studies.
Frank Hakemulder is Assistant Professor at the Department for Media and Culture Studies, Utrecht University. He specializes in the psychology of literature, focusing on the effects of reading literary texts on outgroup attitudes and moral self-concept. On this subject he has published several books and articles, among them The Moral Laboratory. Experiments Examining the Effects of Reading Literature on Social Perception and Moral Self-Concept (Benjamins, 2000), Scientific Methods for the Humanities (Benjamins, 2012) and Narrative Absorption (Benjamins, 2017) He also conducts studies concerning the reception of film and trains students in the Humanities in research methods, especially experimentation.
Other researchers who investigate environmental narratives empirically
Jan Alber is Professor of English Literature and Cognitive Studies at RWTH Aachen University (Germany) and Past President of the International Society for the Study of Narrative . Hereceived fellowships and research grants from the British Academy, the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the Humboldt Foundation.In 2013, the German Association of University Teachers of English awarded him the prize for the best Habilitation written between 2011 and 2013.From 2014 to 2016, he worked as a COFUND (Marie-Curie) Fellow at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies (Denmark)..
Pat Brereton works in the School of Communications at Dublin City University (DCU) Ireland and is interested in investigating environmental narratives empirically. His environmental books include Hollywood Utopia: Ecology in Contemporary American Cinema (2005);Environmental Ethics and Film (2016) and his upcoming Environmental Literacy: Digital Media Audiences (2019). Alongside book chapters and journal articles, he has also works on a number of funded research projects on media coverage of environmental issues including a national Citizen’s Assembly response to Climate Change in Ireland. Committed to an interdisciplinary study of environmentalism, he remains focused on examining audio-visual narratives.
Eni Buljubašić is a postdoctoral researcher and teaching assistant at theDepartment of Croatian language and literature, Faculty of Humanities andSocial Sciences, University of Split. Her doctoral thesis (2017) ininterdisciplinary humanities investigatated “neoklapa”, aheritage-turned-popular music phenomenon and its Mediterranean nationalidentity articulations. Eni has published over 10 scientific papers in literaryand cultural studies, critical heritage studies and stylistics. She iscurrently pursuing her interests in ecocriticism and environmental humanities, witha focus on Croatian literature, culture, and media. She is researching climatefiction, children’s literature and anthropocene narratives.
Marco Caracciolo is an Associate Professor of English and Literary Theory at Ghent University in Belgium. Marco’s work explores the phenomenology of narrative, or the structure of the experiences afforded by literary fiction and other narrative media. He is the author of several books, including most recently Narrating the Mesh: Form and Story in the Anthropocene (University of Virginia Press, 2021) and With Bodies: Narrative Theory and Embodied Cognition (co-authored with Karin Kukkonen; Ohio State University Press, 2021).
Judith Eckenhoff is currently pursuingher PhD on the topic of PostapocalypticStoryworlds. She holds a Master of Arts in Cultural Studies and works as aresearch and teaching assistant at the Chair for Cognitive Literary Studies atRWTH Aachen University. Besides empirical ecocriticism, her research interestsinclude speculative fiction and posthumanism, as well as Gothic and horrorstudies. She is a member of the Aachen Research Team CogLit, the Center forHuman-Animal Studies Aachen, and the interdisciplinary RWTH Aachen ERS project The Apocalyptic Dimensions of Global ClimateChange in Contemporary Models and Discourses.
Rachel Fetherston is a PhD candidate in Literary Studies and Social Science at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia where she is investigating the representation of the native nonhuman in Australian ecofiction and the impact that such fiction has on readers’ connectedness to nature. She is also co-founder and publications manager of the nature connection charity Remember The Wild.
Karin Fikkers is assistant professor at the department of Languages, Literature, and Communication at Utrecht University. She aims to understand how stories can contribute to positive changes in people’s behavior – with a specific interest in sustainable behaviors. Karin has a background in communication science and media psychology, and previously studied effects of audiovisual media entertainment on children and adolescents using longitudinal survey research and experiments. She is currently working on various projects related to interactive narratives, in which she aims to better understand (both through qualitative and quantitative methods) how such productions communicate with and affect their users.
Salma Monani is Associate Professor and Chair at Gettysburg College’s Environmental Studies department. She is an ecomedia scholar, and is co-editor, with Steve Rust and Sean Cubitt, of Ecocinema Theory and Practice (Routledge/AFI 2013), and Ecomedia: Key Concepts (Routledge/Earthscan 2015), and lead editor (with Joni Adamson) on Ecocriticism and Indigenous Studies (Routledge/Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Literature, forthcoming 2016). She has also extensively published on explorations of film and environmental justice, film festival studies, and indigenous eco-activism, and is currently working on a monograph titled Indigenous Ecocinema: Decolonizing Media Landscapes (in contract with University of West Virginia¹s Salvaging the Anthropocene Series).
Meryl Shriver-Rice developed, directs, and teaches for the Master’s program in Environment, Culture, & Media at the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science & Policy at the University of Miami. As both a media anthropologist and paleoethnobotanist, Dr. Shriver-Rice’s interdisciplinary background includes dual degrees in Anthropology and Biology, a Master’s degree in Archaeology from the University of Nottingham, England, and a Ph.D in Communication from the University of Miami. She is the 2018 recipient (with Juliana Fernandez and Cameron Riopelle) of a pilot study grant from the Center for Communication, Culture, and Change for the project: An Audience Study of Formal Variables in Digital Short-Form Environmental Media. .
Scott Slovic is professor of literature and environment and professor of natural resources at society at the University of Idaho, USA. The author, editor, or coeditor of twenty-seven books, ranging fromSeeking Awareness in American Nature Writing (1992) to The Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication (2019), he served as the founding president of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment and has edited the journal ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment since 1995. He currently also serves as coeditor of Routledge Studies in World Literatures and the Environment. Together with the psychologist Paul Slovic, he is the editor of Numbers and Nerves (2015).
Eline Tabak is PhD Candidate in Environmental Humanities at the Rachel Carson Center (LMU Munich) who is interested in environmental literature and the ways art practices respond to environmental crises. She is currently working on a qualitative reader-response study on climate change fiction and narratives of insect decline.