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Edited by Hannes Bergthaller and Peter Mortensen

The concept of framing has long intrigued and troubled scholars in fields including philosophy, rhetoric, media studies and literary criticism. But framing also has rich implications for environmental debate, urging us to reconsider how we understand the relationship between humans and their ecological environment, culture and nature.
The contributors to this wide-ranging volume use the concept of framing to engage with key questions in environmental literature, history, politics, film, TV, and pedagogy. In so doing, they show that framing can serve as a valuable analytical tool connecting different academic discourses within the emergent interdisciplinary field of the environmental humanities. No less importantly, they demonstrate how increased awareness of framing strategies and framing effects can help us move society in a more sustainable direction.

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Pippa Marland

Abstract

Tim Robinson’s Stones of Aran diptych takes the reader on a journey that first circumnavigates the coast and then delves into the interior of the island of Árainn, the largest of the Irish Aran islands. In its sustained focus and wealth of detail it represents an extraordinary piece of landscape-writing. At the heart of the work is the motif of the “good step,” an image Robinson uses to explore human “dwelling,” and of particular significance is his insistence on the spatiotemporal frames he uses to discuss that step. He proposes that we hold in our minds, as the ultimate contexts for all the other spans of space and time that occur in the narrative, the beginning of time and the horizon of the visible universe. In its reading of Stones of Aran, this chapter explores the implications for ecocriticism of Robinson’s expansive framework, assessing this in terms of recent concepts such as Timothy Clark’s “derangements of scale,” Ursula Heise’s “eco-cosmopolitanism” and Timothy Morton’s “thinking big.” It suggests that Robinson’s cosmic framing might potentially assist us in making sense of the kind of scales involved in the consideration of contemporary environmental issues, but that at the same time it also works to diminish our sense of the importance of the human species, ultimately and perhaps paradoxically focusing renewed – but valuably deterritorialised – attention on the “segment of home-planet” we each inhabit.

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Morten Tønnessen

Abstract

Inspired by Arran Stibbe and drawing on ecolinguistics, corpus linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis, this chapter presents a simple linguistic study of mentions of animals in Norwegian political party programs for the parliamentary term 2013–2017. The study is likely symptomatic of quite common attitudes to animals not only in Norway but also in a range of other countries. It documents a near-universal anthropocentric bias in Norwegian political party programs, with the Green Party as the only possible exception. This bias is particularly visible in the vocabulary constituted by occurrences of the morphemes “fisk” [fish] and “rein” [reindeer]. Rather than being framed as sentient beings, these animals are almost exclusively referred to in terms of economic resources that are to be managed by the authorities.

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Ottoaleksi Tähkäpää and Simo Laakkonen

Abstract

The Cold War era witnessed not only the rise of television as the leading mass media format throughout the industrialized world but also the surge of the environment as a major societal issue, both locally and internationally. According to the general consensus, television played an important role in initiating public discussion on and raising awareness of environmental issues in Western Europe, whereas in Eastern Europe, environmental protection is usually perceived as having been a top-down process subordinated to other political goals perceived as more pressing. Yet despite these prevailing preconceptions, surprisingly little is actually known about televised coverage of environmental issues on either side of the Iron Curtain. This comparative case study of Finnish and Estonian television aims to provide empirical evidence and novel perspectives on environmental television reporting in Eastern and Western Europe. When did environmental television reporting begin, how did it differ on either side of the Iron Curtain, and is the image such a juxtaposition yields as black-and-white as is commonly assumed?

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Michael Egan

Abstract

We live in a Toxic Century. While we cannot see it, each of us is a walking, breathing artifact of humanity’s toxic trespasses into nature. Sociological findings suggest that toxic chemicals scare human beings in new and special ways. This has more to do with what we do not know about their danger than what we do know, and those unknowns strike at the epicentre of how fear is individually and culturally manifested. The method through which persistent organic pollutants assault human and environmental health, the manner in which they proliferated after World War ii, and the unanticipated consequences of their spread are key characteristics of this new landscape of fear. Persistent organic pollutants contaminate rather than merely damage; their pollution penetrates human tissue indirectly rather than attacking the surface in a more straightforward manner; and the threat from exposure is not acute, but rather slow, chronic, and enduring. That we lack a full understanding of the hazards they pose and have little control over their environmental mobility distinguishes chemical toxins. As a result, a culture of fear associated with new toxins is an explicit and unmistakable feature of the post-World War ii world.

This paper examines the rise of toxic fear in the American 1980s, a decade punctuated by a series of environmental crises and explicit fears about chemical pollution, both within the United States and internationally. I examine the politics of uncertainty and point to the 1980s as a watershed moment in our contemporary understanding of toxic fear.

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Petr Kopecký

Abstract

This chapter addresses the reception of the works of two California authors, Robinson Jeffers and John Steinbeck, in communist Czechoslovakia (1948–1989), where they both enjoyed immense popularity. Its primary focus is on selected nature images, namely trees, rocks, and the ocean. I discuss the associations and meanings these images acquired after they were transplanted from the United States to communist Czechoslovakia through high-quality translations. The different political environment into which the literary texts were introduced affected their reading in ways that even the authors could hardly have anticipated. The new associations and interpretations, determined largely by ideological factors, thus receive considerable attention in the present study.

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Axel Goodbody

Abstract

This essay is part of a wider project exploring the ability of frame analysis to serve as a common methodology for the description and analysis of oral, media, historical and literary stories about energy, in the context of today’s transition to renewables. Taking as starting point the typology of frames in Gamson/Modigliani (1989), it applies the theory and methodology of framing to three literary texts depicting and reflecting on our changing use of energy. The first is Jim Crace’s recent historical novel, Harvest (2013), which tells the story of Britain’s agricultural enclosures; the second Charles Dickens’s classic depiction of the Industrial Revolution, Hard Times (1854). The third novel, which is examined in greater depth, is Ian McEwan’s account of the challenge posed by the transition to renewable energy today in Solar (2010). Sensitivity is demanded in approaching narrative strategies which can involve multiple, conflicting framings and merely implicit narrative perspectives. However, a focus on framing can, it is argued, foreground neglected aspects of literary narration, and give insights into the part played by literature and imagination in energy debates.

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Hannes Bergthaller and Peter Mortensen

“There is no natural frame,” Derrida notes in his essay on the “The Parergon” (1979: 39). In his argument, the frame is a figure that troubles the conceptual schemata which organize the discourse of aesthetics – a discourse which must, in order to move forward, presuppose a clear distinction between form and matter, between the example and that which it exemplifies, between the work itself and the medium in which it appears, between what is proper to it and what is not. The frame confounds these distinctions: it is not part of the work itself, but neither can it be merely an indifferent part of the environing “milieu,” because if it were, it would not be able to fulfil the essential task of setting the work apart. Marking the boundary between the inside and the outside, it does not have a proper place: “In relation to the work, […] it disappears into the wall and then, by degrees, into the general context. In relation to the general context, it disappears into the work […].” (1979: 24) The frame is neither matter nor form – but one can trace its effects where the material intrudes on the form; it “warps,” Derrida writes, “[l]ike wood”: “It splits, breaks down, breaks up, at the same time that it cooperates in the production of the product, it exceeds it and deducts itself. It never simply exposes itself” (1979: 35).

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Matthias Klestil

Abstract

Despite prolific scholarly engagement with Zora Neale Hurston in African American studies and, more recently, in ecocriticism, many of the author’s early short stories have remained largely underrepresented. Adding to an emerging ecocritical Hurston scholarship, this essay focuses on the central role of rivers in three of these texts, “John Redding Goes to Sea” (1921), “Magnolia Flower” (1925), and the only recently recovered “Under the Bridge” (1925). I employ the idea of fluid frames, conceptualized as frames that challenge human perceptive and epistemological boundaries, to describe the de-anthropocentrizing function of rivers in Hurston’s tales and to show how her texts critique some of the dominant racist as well as anthropocentric assumptions of early twentieth-century (physical) anthropology and sociology. “John Redding” and “Under the Bridge” hint at nonhuman forms of agency through their employment of rivers and implicitly challenge the (pre-Boasian) anthropological idea of a hierarchical ladder leading up to civilization through their celebration of a holistic Black folk culture. “Magnolia Flower” uses anthropomorphized streams as narrators to deconstruct the predominance of human perceptive modes and suggests the constructedness of the racial hierarchies proposed by several early twentieth-century anthropologists. Thus, Hurston’s environmentalism becomes visible as a multidimensional strategy that simultaneously subverts both racisms and anthropocentrisms of her day.

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Hannes Bergthaller and Peter Mortensen

In our introduction, we argued that the essays in this book are linked by a shared interest in how nature is framed – that is to say, in the ways in which different cultural and linguistic traditions, narratives, technologies, media, or institutions, shape how people perceive and interact with nature. As any reader who takes a closer look at the chapters will quickly recognize, this is itself a rather broad way of framing them – and one that may seem intent on disavowing their striking heterogeneity. In closing this volume, we should therefore emphasize that we do not consider this heterogeneity to be something that ought to be dissembled, in the first place, as it is no more than an accurate (albeit partial) reflection of the different approaches and conceptual vocabularies employed across the environmental humanities – differences that obtain no less between academic disciplines than between national or institutional traditions. What counts as good scholarly practice is not the same in ecocriticism and environmental history; and environmental history in Estonia is not the same as environmental history in Australia.