Mo / 18:00

Environmental Crisis and the Problem of Realism

Ursula K. Heise

Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI) Essen, Gartensaal, Goethestr. 31, 45128 Essen

Environmental journalists, novelists, filmmakers, and artists have traditionally preferred realist genres and styles to highlight the materiality and scientific grounding of environmental crises. Over the last twenty years, this convention has increasingly come into question. On one hand, climate change and other rapidly evolving ecological crises have diminished the relevance of stories and images focused primarily on individuals and families, particular places, and events commonly considered plausible. On the other hand, narrative themes and plots from speculative fiction have increasingly spread into environmental journalism and nonfiction. Concepts such as the „new normal,“ the „New Weird,“ and „hyperobjects“ have sought to capture this altered type of realism.

This lecture will explore the controversies about what kinds of realism are appropriate and effective in environmental communication today, and it will argue that the narrative strategies of science fiction, traditionally considered a secondary or minor genre merely designed for entertainment, offer the most interesting foundations for thinking and talking about global environmental change.