Cognitive ecocriticism draws on research in neuroscience and cognitive narratology to explore how literary reading can lead us to care about natural environments. Ann Pancake’s novel Strange as This Weather Has Been (2007) serves as an example of a novel that cues both direct and empathetic emotions for an actual environment—the Appalachian Mountains—that is wounded and scarred. I argue that the novel’s protagonists allow readers to imaginatively experience what it is like to love an environment and then witness its destruction by mountaintop removal mining. Pancake’s decision to relate large parts of the story through the consciousness of teenagers allows for highly emotional perspectives that have the potential to engage readers in the social and moral issues around resource extraction.
Why We Care about (Non) fictional Places: Empathy, Character, and Narrative Environment
Alexa Weik von Mossner is associate professor of American studies at the University of Klagenfurt in Austria. Her research explores contemporary environmental culture from a cognitive ecocritical perspective with a particular focus on affect and emotion. She is the author of Cosmopolitan Minds: Literature, Emotion, and the Transnational Imagination (2014) and Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative (2017), the editor of Moving Environments: Affect, Emotion, Ecology, and Film (2014), and the coeditor (with Sylvia Mayer) of The Anticipation of Catastrophe: Environmental Risk in North American Literature and Culture (2014).
Alexa Weik von Mossner; Why We Care about (Non) fictional Places: Empathy, Character, and Narrative Environment. Poetics Today 1 September 2019; 40 (3): 559–577. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-7558150
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