Roundtable on Empirical Ecocriticism at the 2019 ASLE Conference in Davis

Since its origin, ASLE has asserted that narratives — stories, whether in literature, film, art, or other media — are of central importance to our relationships with other humans and nonhumans as well as the broader environment. However, in their exploration of the connections among storytelling and the disaster-prone terrains of the Anthropocene ecocritics have largely relied upon speculation to assess the critical question of the influence of environmental narratives on their audiences. Recently some ecocriticshave begun to empirically examine this question, sometimes in collaboration with social scientists. This work raises critical questions that are of interest to ecocritics and environmental humanists. What are the preliminary findings of this new, interdisciplinary subfield of research? What kinds of methodologies and collaborators does such scholarship require or enable? What relevant work has been done in related fields, such as cognitive narratology, the scientific study of literature and art, and environmental communication? What qualifies as “empirical”? What kinds of subjects, claims, and questions might empirical ecocritics examine?

This roundtable brings together five experienced ecocritics engaged in research on “empirical ecocriticism” – Wojciech Malecki, Salma Monani, Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, Scott Slovic, and Alexa Weik von Mossner – for a conversation on the possibilities, limitations, and potential future directions of this subfield. After short presentations on their current research, the participants will initiate a wide-ranging conversation with the audience about the place of empirical ecocriticism in the environmental humanities.
Biennial Conference of the Association of Literature and the Environment (ASLE) at the University of California, Davis, USA, June 26-30, 2019.