Green Hour: “Empirical Ecocriticism: Environmental Narratives for Social Change” (Dr. habil. Wojciech Malecki)


July 6
12:00 PM - 01:00 PM

Empirical Ecocriticism: Environmental Narratives for Social Change


It is now widely acknowledged that we are living through an extraordinary time of accelerating socio-ecological crises. While policy shifts will play a major role in responding to them, these crises cannot be properly addressed without major changes in public behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. It is commonly claimed, within the environmental humanities and beyond, that such a change could be facilitated by environmental narratives—novels, movies, theatrical performances, journalistic reports, video games, and others. However, there is little empirical evidence for these and similar proliferating claims, and therefore little knowledge about how strong the psychological, social, and political impact of environmental narratives might be and how best to utilize it to tackle these socio-ecological challenges. Empirical ecocriticism is supposed to fill this gap by combining the perspectives of the environmental humanities (ecocriticism, animal studies, extinction studies, etc.) with the empirical methods of studying narrative impact derived from the social sciences. Although relatively new, it has been already recognized by ecocriticism’s most prominent journals, organizations, and institutions (ASLE; EASLCE; Environmental Humanities; ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment) attracting scholars from a variety of disciplines and corners of the globe. The talk will provide a general introduction to empirical ecocriticism focusing on its contributions to understanding the impact of environmental narratives — from climate fiction to CNN documentaries — on cognitive, affective, and behavioral attitudes toward non-human animals, extinction, and climate change. It will also serve as a pre-launch event for the volume Empirical Ecocriticism: Environmental Narratives for Social Change, to be published in August 2023 by the University of Minnesota Press, edited by Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, Alexa Weik von Mossner, Wojciech Malecki, and Frank Hakemulder.


Wojciech Malecki is associate professor of literary theory at the University of Wroclaw, Poland. His research is situated at the intersections of the humanities and social sciences exploring the impact of literature and the media on society, in particular on public attitudes toward the environment. It has been published in Poetics, ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Frontiers in Psychology, Oxford Literary Review, and other journals, featured in the media, including in Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Statesman, and Psychology Today, as well as translated into Chinese, Swedish, and other languages. His most recent books include Human Minds and Animal Stories: How Narratives Make Us Care About Other Species (Routledge 2019) and What Can We Hope For? (Princeton University Press, 2022).