How the material world communicates

Insights from material ecocriticism

Authored by: Serpil Oppermann

Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138053137
eBook ISBN: 9781315167343
Adobe ISBN:


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The traditional understanding of environmental communication is about the particular efficacy of human languages with their wealth of emotional registers, rich symbolism, rhetorical possibilities, and the alleged representational veracity to give accurate voice to nature. Nature here is thought to be “silent” and needs a human interlocutor to speak on its behalf, to recount effectively how it is breaking and tearing under the ongoing acts of exploitation. This chapter argues that this is a narrowly understood definition of environmental communication confined within the parameters of human signifying systems, disregarding the agency and eloquence of nonhuman beings. To contest this anthropocentric vision, the chapter proposes a material ecocritical approach that takes into account innate meanings and creative expressions produced by nonhuman species, as well as inorganic matter itself. Material ecocriticism claims that all agentic entities are expressive and have the ability to communicate intelligibly with other entities around them and with their immediate environments. All earthly agencies produce meaning-filled encounters with everything else in an ongoing process of communications. Possessing narrative potentialities, they emerge as narrative agencies to reveal astonishing storied articulations of the physical environments.

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