European Association for Studies of Literature, Culture and the Environment

16th Webinar II – Cognition, Emotion, and the Impact of Environmental Narratives with Alexa Weik von Mossner

Cognition, Emotion, and the Impact of Environmental Narratives

Alexa Weik von Mossner, Professor of American Studies, University of Klagenfurt, Austria

Time and Date: Saturday, 7th of November 2020, 09:00 a.m. CET (Central European Time) Due to the high level of interest.

Max Participants: 8  (Please register below)


Recent years have seen an increased attention to the ways in which environmental narratives engage the human mind and what emotional dimensions such engagement can have. In this webinar, we will approach these issues from a cognitive ecocritical perspective. In doing so, we will pay particular attention to the thesis, forwarded by neuroscientists such as Antonio Damasio and Vittorio Gallese, that our minds are both embodied (in a physical body) and embedded (in a physical environment), not only when we interact with the real world but also in our engagement with imaginary people and places. In this context, we will also explore the value of combining the theoretical and analytical investigations of cognitive ecocriticism with empirical research on actual audiences. By way of example, we will look at a series of case studies focusing on Alice Walker’s thought-provoking essay “Am I Blue?” that were carried out by interdisciplinary research teams in Poland, Austria, and the US. We will discuss what can be gained by such interdisciplinary ecocritical endeavors and what challenges and limitations researchers face in the process.

Required Reading:

Weik von Mossner, Alexa. 2017. “Introduction: Environmental Narrative, Embodiment and Emotion.” In Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion and Environmental Narrative. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.

Keen, Suzanne. 2010. “Narrative Empathy.” In Toward a Cognitive Theory of Narrative Acts, edited by Frederick Louis Aldama, 61-94. Austin: University of Texas Press.Schneider-Mayerson, Matthew, Alexa Weik von Mossner, and W.P. Małecki. 2020. “Empirical Ecocriticism: Environmental Texts and Empirical Methods.” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 27 (2): 327-36.

Małecki, WP, Alexa Weik von Mossner, and Małgorzata Dobrowolska. 2020. “Narrating Human and Animal Oppression: Strategic Empathy and Intersectionalism in Alice Walker’s ‘Am I Blue?’” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 27 (2): 365-84.

Walker, Alice. 1988. “Am I Blue?” https://genius.com/Alice-walker-am-i-blue-annotated

The key questions to discuss include:

  1. How do literary texts and films engage us cognitively and emotionally in their imaginary environments and how do they invite us to care for the characters and places features in them?
  2. Does the strategic use of empathy become problematic when it invites readers/viewers to feel with a nonhuman animal? What are the political dimensions of such uses and at what point does anthropomorphism become problematic?
  3. What can we learn from empirical reception studies about how actual readers and viewers engage with environmental texts on the cognitive and affective level? What methodologies can be used and what are their potential benefits and limitations?
  4. What are some of the advantages and potential difficulties involved in exploring such question through approaches that are highly interdisciplinary?

REGISTRATION: Filled 12/09/2020


Above Featured Image: Helena Lopes