Stories of Snow and Fire: The Importance of Narrative to a Critically Pluralistic Environmental Aesthetic

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Abstract

Written narratives enable humans to appreciate the natural world in aesthetic terms. Firstly, narratives can galvanize for the reader a sense for another person’s experience of nature through the aesthetic representation of that experience in language. Secondly, narratives can encode and document for the human appreciator as writer an experience of nature in aesthetic terms. Through different narrative lenses, the compelling qualities of environments can be crystallized for both the reader (who vicariously experiences nature through language) and the human appreciator (who directly experiences nature through the senses). However, according to philosopher Allen Carlson’s “natural environmental model” of landscape aesthetics, science provides the definitive narrative that represents nature on its own terms and catalyzes appropriate appreciation. In this article, I examine Carlson’s claim and argue for an environmental aesthetic philosophy of narrative multiplicity. Such a model would draw from scientific, indigenous, and journalistic narrative modes toward a critically pluralistic environmental aesthetic of the natural world. The ethical framework I propose—the function of which I characterize simply as narrative “cross-checking”—acknowledges the value of narrative heterogeneity in expressing and generating aesthetic experience of environments. This article’s thesis is forwarded through extensive treatment of these three narratives expressed within two examples, one of geographical place and one of environmental practice. As I will suggest, Denali, the prominent Alaskan mountain, can be aesthetically appreciated through the diverse narratives enumerated above. As a second case study, the traditional burning regimes of indigenous peoples reveal collectively how a critically pluralistic environmental aesthetic of narratives can be applied to—and identified to exist within—ecocultural practices, such as firing the landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-118
JournalHumanities
Volume2
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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Aesthetics
Nature
Natural World
Reader
Language
Philosopher
Ethical Framework
Indigenous Peoples
Person
Mountains
Writer
Philosophy
Narrative Mode
Multiplicity
Aesthetic Experience

Cite this

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abstract = "Written narratives enable humans to appreciate the natural world in aesthetic terms. Firstly, narratives can galvanize for the reader a sense for another person’s experience of nature through the aesthetic representation of that experience in language. Secondly, narratives can encode and document for the human appreciator as writer an experience of nature in aesthetic terms. Through different narrative lenses, the compelling qualities of environments can be crystallized for both the reader (who vicariously experiences nature through language) and the human appreciator (who directly experiences nature through the senses). However, according to philosopher Allen Carlson’s “natural environmental model” of landscape aesthetics, science provides the definitive narrative that represents nature on its own terms and catalyzes appropriate appreciation. In this article, I examine Carlson’s claim and argue for an environmental aesthetic philosophy of narrative multiplicity. Such a model would draw from scientific, indigenous, and journalistic narrative modes toward a critically pluralistic environmental aesthetic of the natural world. The ethical framework I propose—the function of which I characterize simply as narrative “cross-checking”—acknowledges the value of narrative heterogeneity in expressing and generating aesthetic experience of environments. This article’s thesis is forwarded through extensive treatment of these three narratives expressed within two examples, one of geographical place and one of environmental practice. As I will suggest, Denali, the prominent Alaskan mountain, can be aesthetically appreciated through the diverse narratives enumerated above. As a second case study, the traditional burning regimes of indigenous peoples reveal collectively how a critically pluralistic environmental aesthetic of narratives can be applied to—and identified to exist within—ecocultural practices, such as firing the landscape.",
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Stories of Snow and Fire: The Importance of Narrative to a Critically Pluralistic Environmental Aesthetic. / Ryan, John Charles.

In: Humanities, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2013, p. 99-118.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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