Constructing Readers and Theorizing Action in Environmental Justice Narratives (ASLE) (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, 13th Biennial Convention)
University of California, Davis
Organization: Association for the Study of Literature and Environment
Event: Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, 13th Biennial Convention
Constructing Readers and Theorizing Action in Environmental Justice Narratives (ASLE: deadline 12/15/18; conference 6/26-30/19)
13th Biennial Convention, Association for the Study of Literature and Environment
June 26-30, 2019
University of California, Davis
While ecocritics often celebrate literature’s activist agendas and presuppose that reading inspires extratextual action, scholars of minority literature and cognitive narratologists remain more skeptical, delineating limitations of readerly identification and empathy in prompting social change (e.g., Lesley Larkin 2015, Suzanne Keen 2007). Offering additional entry points into these debates, Dana Phillips argues that “the perusal of environmental literature would seem to be a roundabout way for us to secure a bond with the earth” (2003) whereas Bruno Latour, often cited by ecocritics, insists that “[d]iscourse is not a world unto itself but a population of actants that mix with things as well as with societies. . . . Interest in texts does not distance us from reality” (1993). This session focuses and extends these conversations by theorizing reading through narratological, formalist, and reception analysis.
Participants might address how literatures of environmental justice or postcolonial environmentalism imagine reading subjects and their potential for transformation or action; construct and position narratees amongst other textual agents; employ Brechtian “alienation effects” (1936), direct address, metafictional methods, or other narratological elements to confront readers; articulate the potential or limitations of identificatory or empathic reading in contexts of privilege and power; engage audiences affectively, psychologically, epistemologically, or sensorially; or depict reading and literacy as environmental problems. How does literature reinforce or resist conventional forms of subjectivity established via reading? What kinds of transactions between literature, readers, publics, and worlds do these texts envision? How do human and nonhuman agents shape these relationships? What other theoretical approaches might enrich these discussions (e.g., social movement theory, new materialism, empirical ecocriticism, queer theory, postcolonialism)?
Brecht, Bertolt. “Alienation Effects in Chinese Acting.” 1936. Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, edited and translated by John Willett, Hill and Wang, 1992, 91-99.
Keen, Suzanne. Empathy and the Novel. Oxford UP, 2007.
Larkin, Lesley. Race and the Literary Encounter: Black Literature from James Weldon Johnson to Percival Everett. Indiana UP, 2015.
Latour, Bruno. We Have Never Been Modern. Translated by Catherine Porter, Harvard UP, 1993.
Phillips, Dana. The Truth of Ecology: Nature, Culture, and Literature in America. Oxford UP, 2003.
This session will be either a traditional panel (4 presenters, 15-minute papers) or a roundtable (5-6 presenters, 10-minute papers). Please submit a 250-300-word abstract in an uploadable .pdf, .docx, or .doc file (including your name and contact information) at: