- Stories of EnergyNarrative in the Energy Humanities
This collection of essays is an output of the UK research project Stories of Change: Energy in the Past, Present, and Future.1 Its principal aim is to explore the insights that narratives, literary and nonfiction, afford into the processes and consequences of energy generation and consumption and into energy-system change and to consider what implications such insights may have for the transition to renewable energy. At the same time, the special issue was conceived as a test of the ability of narrative to serve as a focus for interdisciplinary work in the environmental humanities.2
Much of the work of the Stories of Change team consisted of eliciting, recording and curating oral stories about energy in everyday life from individuals and communities.3 Telling stories possesses an important consciousness-enhancing function for the subject as well as the listener and has a part to play in public debates on the environment and energy.4 Working through areas of current concern with hitherto marginalized actors and exploring elements of a collective vision for the future, the project sought to encourage individuals and communities to think about the role of energy in their lives and the necessity for change. This issue of Resilience draws on Stories of Change’s use of story as a device around which different disciplines (e.g., literature, history, design, geography, social and policy research) and methodologies (e.g., digital storytelling, oral history, creative practice) could be gathered. However, it is concerned solely with written narratives.5 [End Page 1]
Narrative in Environmental Humanities
Environmental humanities has emerged in the twenty-first century as a vibrant interdisciplinary field of research addressing the social and cultural dimensions of pressing contemporary socioenvironmental problems, including resource depletion, environmental injustice, anthropogenic climate change, and the escalation of species loss. Work in history, philosophy, anthropology, geography, sociology, literature, the visual arts, media and communication, and the interdisciplinary field of science and technology studies (STS) has been collected together in a flood of publications, new journals, and research centers, starting in Australia and rapidly extending to America, Britain, and Europe (Scandinavia and Germany in particular). Fostering dialogue and debate across the disciplinary divides that separate the arts, humanities, and social sciences and reaching out to the natural sciences, environmental humanities examines the underlying sociocultural assumptions, values, and practices that both shape and are in turn shaped by patterns of human interaction with more-than-human others and our physical environment.
A major challenge for researchers in environmental humanities has been the need to focus and coordinate efforts in the disciplines involved to analyze, explain, and facilitate the finding of solutions for complex environmental problems. The frequency with which the Anthropocene is referenced (the proposed new geological epoch in which human beings have become agents of change on a planetary scale, including, but not limited to, climate change) reflects its usefulness as a unifying concept.6 Another effort to develop shared theoretical and methodological principles underpinning environmental humanities work has been the adaptation of frame analysis, a procedure hitherto principally located in media and communication studies. One of the editors of this collection of essays has contributed to this initiative with a research network titled the Cultural Framing of Environmental Discourse,7 workshops on frame analysis, and articles examining framing in literary energy narratives.8 Here, however, we adopt an approach focused on narrative. We are not, of course, the first to argue that the study of narrative has a key role to play in the core disciplines in the wider field of environmental humanities, or that of Energy Humanities, as we shall see from recent [End Page 2] work in literary study around econarratology, in history (since the so-called narrative turn in the 1980s), and on scenarios.
Since Erin James introduced the term “econarratology” in her book The Storyworld Accord: Econarratology and Postcolonial Narratives, in 2015,9 a growing number of scholars have argued that narrative analysis deserves to play a central role in environmental humanities.10 Econarratology draws principally on literary and rhetorical methods of textual analysis but claims that these have the potential...