Collective action to combat climate change first requires individuals to recognize their responsibility in the fight for a better future. With the urgent need for everyone to develop a climate awareness, novels may be a powerful tool to motivate that cultural mindset shift. My Independent Study raises the central research question: can novels depicting the disproportionate societal impacts of climate change generate sympathy for environmental situations beyond the reader’s immediate community? If so, how? I draw from Ulrich Beck’s encouragement of social scientific research that is cosmopolitan and multi-perspectival to propose the form of storytelling that may drive one to act against climate change. Then, I conduct a literary analysis of Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver and Oil on Water by Helon Habila—where negative environmental conditions underscore the societal dangers of climate change in the present day. I further propose a mixed-methods sociological study to empirically determine whether climate fiction novels galvanize readers to rethink their personal contributions to climate change. The longitudinal study asks affluent white Americans to participate in discussion groups and formal interviews to examine whether reading climate fiction influences personal action against climate change. Inspired by the emerging research field of empirical ecocriticism, my Independent Study highlights how future interdisciplinary approaches are necessary to understand the potential of novels to provoke systemic environmental change that supports vulnerable communities and planetary wellbeing.
English; Sociology and Anthropology
Davidson, Claire, "Can Climate Fiction Novels Inspire Social Change? A Literary and Empirical Ecocritical Analysis" (2021). Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 9453.
Environmental Studies | Literature in English, North America | Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority | Place and Environment | Social Justice | Sociology of Culture
Climate Change, Novels, Climate Fiction, Empirical Ecocriticism, Cosmopolitanism, Social Activism
Bachelor of Arts
Senior Independent Study Thesis
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