Narrative communication in environmental fiction

Cognitive and rhetorical approaches

Authored by: Markku Lehtimäki

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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This chapter introduces and discusses the ways in which narrative theory and ecocriticism may be beneficial to each other, especially when it comes to communicating ideas about nature and the environment in the mode of storytelling. It focuses on ecocriticism, cognitive narratology, and the rhetorical theory of narrative, which offer their respective and differing views on the relationship between fiction and the natural environment. It is suggested that a new methodology bridging narratology and ecocriticism is needed. Although narratology and ecocriticism have traced different paths until recent years, both the rhetorical theory of narrative and environmental literary studies see the importance of ethics and rhetoric in literary communication. It is also maintained that any text is potentially open to ecocritical readings, just as any text about nature can be approached by a variety of methodologies, including narratology. Cognitive-narratological readings of the natural environment may demonstrate how the human mind operates in the midst of nature, whereas the rhetorical approach seems relevant when fiction communicates ideas and values related to climate change. The concepts of rhetorical theory are therefore valuable when we are delineating the communicative designs and purposes of a fictional narrative. In conclusion, it is argued that recent narrative theories, either cognitive or rhetorical, have moved on to deal with ecocritical values, including non-human animals and environmental risks in the age of the Anthropocene.

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