Affect, Emotion, and Ecocriticism
Our relationships to the environments that surround, sustain, and sometimes threaten us are fraught with emotion. And since, as neurologist Antonio Damasio has shown, cognition is directly linked to emotion, and emotion is linked to the feelings of the body, our physical environment influences not only how we feel, but also what we think. Importantly, this also holds true when we interact with artistic representations of such environments, as we find them in literature, film, and other media. For this reason, our emotions can take a rollercoaster ride when we read a book or watch a film. Typically, such emotions are evoked as we empathize with characters while also inhabiting emotionally the storyworlds that surround these characters and interact with them in various ways. Given this crucial interlinkage between environment, emotion, and environmental narrative in the widest sense, it is unsurprising that, from its inception, the study of literature and the environment has been interested in how ecologically oriented texts represent and provoke emotions in relation to the natural world. More recently, ecocritical scholars have started to develop a more sustained theoretical approach to exploring how affect and emotion function in environmentally oriented texts of all kinds. In this article, I will attempt to trace this development over time, briefly highlighting some of the most important texts and theoretical concepts in affective ecocriticism
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