Ecocriticism and discontent

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Ecocriticism is the study of literature and the environment from an interdisciplinary point of view, where literature scholars analyze texts that illustrate environmental concerns and examine the various ways literature treats the subject of nature. To put it more simply in the words of Cheryll Glotfelty, Ecocriticism is ”the study of nature writing.” Interestingly, not even all the scholars who write about ecocriticism are content with using ecocriticism as the umbrella term for the field of study. However, we are going to embrace equivocacy and explore the topics of ecocriticism through the lenses of the politics of risk perception, natural documentary, Indigenism, and end the course with the discussion of senses of place from an Ecopoetic as well as Ecological Posthumanist point of view. Additionally, we include some supplemental readings of Ecofeminism, Ecogender study, and Ecopoetry to help you move along further as you traverse the other-than-human materiality. 

If you’re interested in the discussion of the definition of  Ecocriticism and the scope of the study:


  1. Intro to ecocriticism 
  2. Risk Perception
  3. Animal Studies & Speciesism
  4. Indigenism
  5. Senses of Place: Liminal Space and Ecological Posthumanism

Key Terms

#anthropocene, #pastoralism, #speciesism, #ecopoetics, #deepecology, #indigenism, #anthropomorphism


  • What is ecocriticism and why was it an incohesive movement?
  • How do you define “nature” or “environment”? What are the implications of excluding things in this definition?
  • How does language limit the international understanding of ecocriticism?
  • What are the different “waves” of ecocriticism and how do they differentiate each other through different points of view?
  • How does globalization impact your sense of place and why is this important?

-Glotfelty, Cheryll, and Harold Fromm. The Ecocriticism Reader. University of Georgia Press, 1996.  (read Introduction) 

-Lawrence Buell. “Ecocriticism: Some Emerging Trends.” Qui Parle, no. 2, Duke University Press, 2011, p. 87. Crossref, doi:10.5250/quiparle.19.2.0087


  • What’s the relationship between social issues and risk assessment in ecocriticism?
  • How is the idea of risk perception represented in different literary works, like in films, novels, also images?
  • How do authors construct their works about environmental risks in the context of the modernization and globalization process? What environmental issues do they usually concern about?

-Heise, Ursula K. Sense of Place and Sense of Planet. Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 119–59. (Read Chapter 4)


  • How is risk perception a useful framework for analyzing My Octopus Teacher? Particularly with its overwhelming tension between subjective and rational perceptions, what kinds of critiques does this framework invite? Can we connect some of the critiques on Wildlife Documentaries Horak provides in his writing to our last week’s readings about risk perception?
  • How does Anthropomorphism play the role in my octopus teacher, do we always have to humanize the animals in order to sympathize with them?
  • Does every eco-narrative really require a parallel theme of someone’s child (in this case the filmmaker’s son ugh) in order to make its claims? 
  • How well does My Octopus Teacher receive and how do the reviews reflect the arguments in Horak’s writing? What are the formal demands of the documentary genre?

Horak, Jan-Christopher. “Wildlife Documentaries: From Classical Forms to Reality TV.” Film History: An International Journal, no. 4, Indiana University Press, 2006, pp. 459–75. Crossref, doi:10.1353/fih.2007.0000.

My Octopus Teacher. 2020. (Documentary on Netflix)


  • What do we learn from an anthropological perspective as opposed to an ecocritical perspective? What are the shortcomings of the anthropological approach when taking on this ecocritical lens?
  • What could be the role of the body in the ecocritical debate? How effective is it in activism and as a sensor for the environment? 
  • What role does inclusion play in the acceptance of indigenism?

Experience America’s Largest Powwow | Short Film Showcase. National Geographic, 2015. (Youtube video)

Sondervan, Jeroen. “NECSUS | Indigenous Film Festival as Eco-Testimonial Encounter: The 2011 Native Film + Video Festival.” NECSUS_European Journal of Media Studies, Jeroen Sondervan, 3 June 2013 .

-Chap. 5 “Dancing at the End of the World: The Poetics of the Body in Indigenous Protest” by Janet Fiskio from  “Ecocriticism and indigenous Studies”


  • We are excited about your questions about eco-poems! Similarly, when engaging ecological concerns in the form of poetry, what kinds of thought patterns emerge that don’t emerge when someone writes about ecological concerns in the form of an essay?
  • How would you draw the similarities and differences in the perception of nature from Ecopoetic and Ecological Posthumanist view? Which one resonates with you more and why? 

The Ecology of Colors: Goethe’s Materialist Optics and Ecological Posthumanism by Heather I. Sullivan   (read chapter 5)

Iovino, Serenella, and Serpil Oppermann. Material Ecocriticism. Indiana University Press, 2014.pp269-280  (read chapter 17 The Liminal Space between Things – Epiphany and the Physical  by Timothy Morton)

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