Introduction: Ecocriticism and Narrative Form


Narrative has proven itself a continuous as well as adaptable means for environmentally oriented expression. Its role goes beyond the mediation of pre-existing knowledge imported into the realm of storytelling from other domains; rather, influential models of the natural world tend to circulate as storyworlds. This special issue of SubStance proceeds from the premise that narratives are not only a sequence of (material) signs encoding a story but also “invisible, elusive representations that exist only in the mind.” Narrative forms generate and transfer environmental knowledge; moreover, any specifically narrative concerns are important contributing factors to the models of agency, change, and nonhuman subjecthood that serve as the basis of environmental thought and action at a given time. Narrative, in other words, influences what is considered knowable (and doable) in an environment. In no small part, it also determines what the contested term ‘environment’ encompasses in the first place: any “terrains located at the intersection of economic, political, social, cultural, and sexual ecologies” can also be conceived as matters of narrative negotiation. Consequently, inquiries into eco-narrative form allow us to put into focus the exclusionary limits, perspectival narrowings, and restrictions of agency that precede and underlie any seemingly ‘pristine’ environment.

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