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The Ecocritical Approach

Taking an ecocritical approach to a topic means asking questions not only of a primary source such as literature, but asking larger questions about cultural attitudes towards and definitions of nature. Generally, ecocriticism can be applied to a primary source by either interpreting a text through an ecocritical lens, with an eye towards nature, or examining an ecocritical trope within the text. The questions below are examples of questions you might ask both when working with a primary source and when developing a research question that might have a broader perspective.

  • How is nature represented in this text?
  • How has the concept of nature changed over time?
  • How is the setting of the play/film/text related to the environment?
  • What is the influence on metaphors and representations of the land and the environment on how we treat it?
  • How do we see issues of environmental disaster and crises reflected in popular culture and literary works?
  • How are animals represented in this text and what is their relationship to humans?
  • How do the roles or representations of men and women towards the environment differ in this play/film/text/etc.
  • Where is the environment placed in the power hierarchy?
  • How is nature empowered or oppressed in this work?
  • What parallels can be drawn between the sufferings and oppression of groups of people (women, minorities, immigrants, etc.) and treatment of the land?
  • What rhetorical moves are used by environmentalists, and what can we learn from them about our cultural attitudes towards nature?


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