Ecocritical Network for Scandinavian Studies (ENSCAN) Workshop in Helsinki 2023, Metsätalo sali/hall 4. Abstracts are below the program. Last updated: 12th June.
Tuesday, 13 June 2023

10.00 Opening session

Presentation of the organizing research project:
Literature and reading in the era of climate crisis

Toni Lahtinen, Olli Löytty, Anna Helle, Panu Pihkala


12.00 Lunch (Unicafe Metsätalo)


13.00-14.30 Paper session 1: Cruel optimism, tierratrauma and utopias

Co-organized with scholars from Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS & Environmental Humanities Hub in University of Helsinki


Nina Janasik, Eeva-Lotta Apajalahti & Eeva Houtbeckers:
Cruel Optimism? Representations of resilience in Emmi Itäranta’s Memory of Water and Maja Lunde’s Blue


Inna Sukhenko:

Non-Human Agency in Emoting Nuclear Tierratraumatic Experience:

Johanna Aulen’s Tšernobylin koirat and Ari-Pekka Kivinen’s Tšernobylin kissat


Camilla Brudin Borg:

Creative Utopian stories as “cognitive frame changers” and “future literacy” builders

Co-organized with scholars from Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS & Environmental Humanities Hub in University of Helsinki


14.30-15 Coffee break (Metsätalo)


15.00-16.30 Paper session 2: Movies and mires


Antony Fredriksson:

Nonhuman Images: Environment and Emotion in two films by Viera Čákanyová


Pauliina Latvala-Harvilahti and Virpi Kaukio:

Environmental Emotions in the Mire Art


Meeri Pihlström:

Human and nonhuman relationships in children’s literature and Disney’s adaptations


Kadri Tüür:

How does it feel to be eaten by a bear?


16.30-45 break


16.45-18.15 Keynote 1: Prof. Matthew Schneider-Mayerson:

Empirical Ecocriticism, Environmental Narratives, and Social Change

Comment: Prof. Sanna Karkulehto


18.30 Evening program

Wednesday, 14 June 2023

9.00-9.50 Paper session 3: Oral and audiovisual storytelling


Heli Aaltonen:
Oral storytelling performance “Being Salmon, Being Human”


Janne I. Hukkinen1, Nina Janasik1, Peeter Vihma1 and Antti Mäkelä2:

Making the chronic environmental crisis an acute one with an audiovisual dashboard narrating a plausible spatiotemporal transfer of events


10-12 Keynote 2: Prof. Wojciech Malecki

Measuring Environmental Affects: Experimental Methods in Empirical Ecocriticism

Comment: Adj. prof. Elisa Aaltola


12-13 Lunch (Unicafe Metsätalo)


13.00-14.30 Paper session 4: Finnish poetry & Margaret Atwood


Tiia Kähärä:

Emotions, affects and human-animal relations in the modernist poems and short stories of Eeva-Liisa Manner


Reeta Holopainen:

Environmental emotions in Eila Kivikk’aho’s poetry


Essi Vatilo:

Complacency and (Apparent) Agency within Organisational Structures in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake


14.30-15 Coffee break (Metsätalo)


15.00-16.30 Paper session 5: Varieties of eco- and climate anxiety


Johanna Oksala:

From Climate Anxiety to Post-Nihilist Politics 


Silviya Serafimova:

On the Moral Concerns about Eco-anxiety in The World According to Anna


Thorunn Gullaksen Endreson:

Climate change, psychological health, and material forms in Sara Sølberg’s novel Sarabande


Faeze Rezaii (TBC):

Abiotic Environments and Ecological Suffering in “The Martian way”


16.30-17.00 Closing session


The order of papers may change.


Tuesday 13th June


13.00-14.30 Paper session 1: Cruel optimism, tierratrauma and utopias

Co-organized with scholars from Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS & Environmental Humanities Hub in University of Helsinki


Nina Janasik 1, Eeva-Lotta Apajalahti 2 & Eeva Houtbeckers 3:

Cruel Optimism? Representations of resilience in Emmi Itäranta’s Memory of Water and Maja Lunde’s Blue

In studies on environmental affect, reference is often made to terms like “trauma”, “melancholia” and “anxiety”. The focus on distinct trauma-inducing events in this work has, however, recently been challenged by cultural theorist Lauren Berlant. In the book Cruel Optimism (2015) Berlant claims that “most such happenings that force people to adapt to an unfolding change are better described by a notion of systemic crisis or “crisis ordinariness” and followed out with an eye to seeing how the affective impact takes form”. Crisis thus becomes a “process embedded in the ordinary that unfolds in stories about navigating what’s overwhelming”. The response to such situations is not trauma, but what Berlant calls “the new genre of situation tragedy”: here, “the subject’s world is fragile beyond repair, one gesture away from losing all access to sustaining its fantasies: the situation threatens utter, abject unraveling.” The situation tragedy thus represents the uttermost point in what Berlant calls relations of cruel optimism, that is, when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing. In this contribution, we suggest that the novels Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta and Blue by Maja Lunde depict a world characterized not only by cruel optimism (as in, e.g. capitalist societies), but the collapse of such relations; and that they accordingly thematize not only traumatic responses, but also adjustment mechanisms specific to “crisis ordinariness”. In this contribution, we analyze how the two novels thematize resilience in a world beyond relations of cruel optimism. In these novels, what is the subject’s “just one gesture away from losing all access to sustaining its fantasies”? What lies beyond that gesture? We suggest that the two novels, despite many differences, offer similar gestures in response to the threat of the subject’s “utter, abject unraveling”.

1 Environmental Policy Research Group, University of Helsinki

2 LUT School of Energy Systems, LUT University

3 Sociology, University of Turku

Inna Sukhenko, University of Helsinki:

Non-Human Agency in Emoting Nuclear Tierratraumatic Experience:

Johanna Aulen’s Tšernobylin koirat and Ari-Pekka Kivinen’s Tšernobylin kissat


Studying the narrative toolkit of emoting the nuclear traumatic experience within fictionalizing the energetic past appeals to the literary imaginaries of profiling ‘tierratrauma’ (Albrecht 2007) in nuclear fictional writings, which helps distinguish the transformations of value paradigm of the trauma experienced community. Such approach to profiling the non-human agency, demonstrating the early symptoms of human-induced environmental disasters within the ‘slow-violence’ of environmental degradation (Nixon 2017), articulates ‘tierratrauma’ as a trigger for reconsidering physical/spiritual survival as well as weakening the apocalyptic rhetoric and appealing to further self-therapy/resilience in the context of traumatic experience with its strength, challenges, hopes and risk regulations. By emphasizing the non-human agency in works by Finnish language writers – Ari-Pekka Kivinen’s Tšernobylin kissat (2016) (the collection of poems) and Johanna Aulen’s Tšernobylin koirat (2022) (a graphic novel) – the presentation highlights the non-human receptions of ‘tierratrauma’, regarded as a tool of ‘examining the role of interpretation in ‘human-environment’ relations’ (Drenthen 2017). With a different concern of appealing to the premises and consequences of the Chernobyl disaster but without negotiating the reasons and seriousness of the disaster, these Finnish language writings neither alter the narrative of the nuclear disaster, nor offer other scenarios of framing ‘survival’ in the radiation contaminated area, but highlight non-human animals’ agency and subjectivity in conceptualizing ‘tierratrauma’ within post-traumatic physical and psychological realities. Via different tools – poetic imaginaries and graphic components – these works help enhance the non-human agency (‘kissat’ and ‘koirat’) within the overall effect of the ‘survival’ narrative, and emphasize the emotional transformations/switch as an act of resilience and healing in narrating the post-traumatic experience. Such perspective of the research not only helps to communicate the cultural and literary dimensions of emoting ‘tierratrauma’ in the contemporary nuclear writing practices but also contributes to researching the literary responses to the transformations of emotional paradigm of the energy-driven society within world energy literary scholarship.


Camilla Brudin Borg, Dr in Literature at the University of Gothenburg:

Creative Utopian stories as “cognitive frame changers” and “future literacy” builders


In the interdisciplinary citizen science project “Utopian stories”, we invited citizens, especially young people, to write utopian stories about a future which will be good for “both people and the planet”.

The overall aim of the project is to search for methods to bridge between citizen created visions of good futures and climate models used by policy makers. Another, likewise important aim, has been to help the authors to broaden their own “future literacy”, i.e., to develop their ability to imagine many possible futures.

After one year of collection of future stories, the project has now moved into the analyze phase. We have used a semi-quantitative thematic analysis to construct “an average utopia” that is meaningful to compare to the five future scenarios that is used by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) to anticipate plausible futures in terms of social scenarios and green gas emissions (IPCC, 2021, 2022I, see O’Neill et al. 2017). Our “average utopia” turned out to be similar to the most ecological possible pathway calculated by the IPCC.

However, the utopian authors were not limited by the same “plausibility requirement” as IPCCs future pathways and therefore also had the ability to find novel and norm-breaking future scenarios that could inspire to hope and create really novel solutions and ways of future life. Weik von Mossner (2018, & Lakoff, 2010 ) highlights that “storytelling is the best way to reach people on the emotional level and get them to change or adjust some of their prevailing cognitive frames”. Through the utopian stories the authors could connect their narratives to a deeper emotional level, reaching the imaginative frames of possible futures by imagining who lives and interacts in the future, with what kind of feelings, under what perspective, with what kind of visons and hopes, a good life in the future can be shared by humans and the planet.

The utopian stories will according to an empirical and a cognitive theoretical perspective (Weik Von Mossner, 2018) in this paper be understood as motivational, creative tools, that can influence people’s deeper awareness and attitudes towards our common future and as such comprise a bridge between the existential (meaning, feelings and emotions) and the societal level of approaching, understanding and creating an environmentally sustainable future. (Moylan 1986).


IPCC, (2021). Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu, and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.

Lakoff, G. (2010). “Why It Matters How We Frame the Environment.” Environmental Communication 4 (1): 70–81.

Moylan, T. (1986). Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination. New York, London: Methuen.

O’Neill, B. C., et al., (2017). The roads ahead: Narratives for shared socioeconomic pathways describing world futures in the 21st century. Global Environmental Change 42, 169–180. Doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.01.004.

Weik Von Mossner, A. (2018). Green states of mind? Cognition, emotion and environmental framing. Green Letters, 22(3), 313-323.

Weik Von Mossner, A. (2017) Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative, The Ohio State University


14.30-15 Coffee break (Metsätalo)


15.00-16.30 Paper session 2: Movies and mires


Antony Fredriksson, University of Pardubice, Czech Republic:

Nonhuman Images: Environment and Emotion in two films by Viera Čákanyová


In her films, Slovakian director Viera Čákanyová portrays the momentous, and at the same time fragile, landscapes of King George Island off the coast of Antarctica. Frem (Slovakia 2019) depicts vast and arid vistas through the perspective of a drone that moves about, based on algorithms of an artificial intelligence. The follow up, White on White (Slovakia 2020) was shot during the same expedition, but this time the camera is held by Čákanyová. We get two very different cinematography’s: one which is a neutral, emotionally detached, machinic view, another which is embodied, vulnerable and affective. This juxtaposition between the human gaze and the gaze of the machine addresses us with important questions about the status of the image in the context of the Anthropocene. A seal bleeding on an ice floe, a melting iceberg crumbling into the sea, a human seeking shelter in the biting cold—the scenes provide the viewer with very different potentialities for emotional responses depending on whether the camera is held by a human hand and guided by a human eye, or if the gaze is that of a drone guided by computational algorithms. 

In this presentation I will scrutinize these questions: What role does imaginations about the nonhuman, the more than human or the beyond human play in our visual culture? Does the gaze of the machine provide us with something benevolent and useful? Or does it deprive us of something that is needed for us to understand our position in the world? Čákanyová’s films are my main discussion partners in investigating these question. In addition, my conclusions are inspired by Merleau-Ponty’s redefinition of our relationship with nature. He writes about the nonhuman, not as a result of transcending human experience, but rather as an acknowledgement of our connectedness to, and immersion in nature.


Pauliina Latvala-Harvilahti and Virpi Kaukio, University of Eastern Finland:

Environmental Emotions in the Mire Art


In Finland, the debate on the protection of mires is topical. Alongside with forests, mires are part of the typical landscape and therefore also play an important role for many people, also on an emotional level. However, not everyone in Finland is familiar with mires and their importance to climate change, even though there are so many of them in the country. The hypothesis is that mire art as a social construct has the power to transform society step by step, alongside with other sectors and tools in society. For example, mire performances as a form of environmental art intend to make people aware of their natural environment, encourage pro-environmental behavior and create new meaningful relationships with the environment. Our presentation will focus on the emotional experience of the environment with both the artists and the recipients of mire-related art. Ecologically oriented artists can be seen to implement empirical ecocriticism in their work. We review how artists’ own environmental emotions shape the conditions and goals of their art making. We also explore the reception of mire art. How the public experiences the laments performed in the mire when environmental problems dominate the social debate? What kinds of environmental emotions have lament performances in the mire provoked and how are emotions contextualized in audience interviews?

Our presentation is based on case studies conducted in the Mire Trend research project 2020-2023 (University of Eastern Finland).


Meeri Pihlström, Doctoral student, University of Helsinki:

Human and nonhuman relationships in children’s literature and Disney’s adaptations


In my proposed presentation I will introduce the research plan for my doctoral studies in comparative literature. My project’s working title is ”Human and nonhuman relationships in children’s literature and Disney’s adaptations”. At the ENSCAN workshop I would present my research plan for this project as I have just completed my master’s degree and am now applying for the position as a doctoral candidate.


In my thesis I plan to study the relationships between human and nonhuman characters in children’s literature and Disney’s movie adaptations of said literature and fairy tales. The existing research on ecocriticism, Disney, adaptation, and children’s literature provide a versatile theoretical background for my project. I am using an ecocritical lens to examine the ways in which Disney adapts, reproduces and challenges the portrayal of nonhuman animal characters. I am particularly interested in the portrayed relationships of human or child characters and animals or the environment.


In my research I will analyze various Disney animations and their base texts, such as The 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh, and Frozen. Through case studies I will study the ways in which the portrayal of animals and the environment evolve in Disney’s adaptation. How does Disney adapt classic children’s stories? What gets adapted, why, and what gets left out? Disney’s impact as a storyteller is massive and therefore its representation of animals and the environment has significant cultural meaning as we fight ecological crises. How do the animations shape children’s culture and the way we think about animals and the environment?


Kadri Tüür, Tallinn University, Estonia:

How does it feel to be eaten by a bear?


The presentation will explore the topic in the spirit of empirical ecocriticism: how do the narratives circulating in our cultural environment (mis)guide human behaviour so that some humans end up deliberately exposing themselves to precarious situations that may result in literally getting eaten by a bear? I argue that human narratives, based on the symbolic dimension of language, are, technically speaking, instances of auto-communication where the standpoint of the non-human counterpart in a communicative situation is not (sufficiently) taken into account. In my approach I rely on the Umwelt theory that focuses on the species-specific ways of engagement with one’s surroundings. In the beginning, I will provide a brief overview of the basics of human-animal communication from a zoosemiotic perspective. Smell, hearing, proxemics, sight, posture, movement, etc. usually comprise mutually perceivable signals in inter-species’ communiation, unlike cultural perceptions in the form of narratives, beliefs, myths and other cultural representations that are accessible to human species only.


I will analyse two cultural artefacts, one film (Werner Herzog’s documentary “Grizzly Man”, 2005) and one book ( “In the Eye of the Wild”, 2019, an autobiographical memoir by Nastassja Martin) from the vantage point of the overlapping Umwelten. From both sources we get the human point of view of the fatal events. On one hand, there are cultural representations and narratives that lead the human protagonists to act as they do. But what are the bears using as the lead lines of their actions?  I argue that in inter-species’ communication we should focus on immediate, not symbolic layer of meanings if we are interested in surviving the encounters in a successful manner. Being eaten by a bear is definitely an extraordinary experience, but it does not necessarily have to be glorified.



16.45-18.15 Keynote 1: Prof. Matthew Schneider-Mayerson

Empirical Ecocriticism, Environmental Narratives, and Social Change

Amidst accelerating environmental crises, with unprecedented catastrophes and injustice already baked into our near future, what is the point of doing ecocriticism? In this talk, I argue that ecocritics might embrace an applied goal that is already implicit in so much of the field’s research and pedagogy: expediting the socio-ecological transition that is already underway and working to ensure that it is oriented towards justice. Taking this charge seriously would require that ecocritics focus on the relationship between narratives and environmental beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, and engage with parallel but oft-ignored research in the social sciences. I will describe how empirical ecocriticism attempts to do this and outline some of the possibilities it offers to scholars of literature, media, and other forms of narrative, drawing on my qualitative research on the influence of climate fiction on readers.

Comment: Prof. Sanna Karkulehto




Wednesday 14th June


9.00-9.50 Paper session 3: Oral and audiovisual storytelling


Heli Aaltonen, of drama and theatre, Norwegian University of Science and Technology:
Oral storytelling performance “Being Salmon, Being Human”


My proposal relates to the question: How can literature be used in practice to engage with eco-emotions in a constructive manner? The proposal is connected with oral storytelling practice, because I think that oral storytelling has a possibility to talk from heart to heart, and such practice has a possibility to engage with eco-emotions in a constructive manner. The specific focus is on how to tell such stories, which awake moral agency in humans to care what happens with life below water. In the presentation are different contradictory stories about salmon are explored. As an example of artistic practice, I will present an oral storytelling performance “Being Salmon, Being Human” (1) as an example of ecosophical multispecies storytelling, where the wild salmon and farmed salmon experiences are performed. For David Abram, re-storying the land and shapeshifting the body are two ways to proceed. This resonates well with storytelling and several other activist theatre practices where transformation of stories and work with bodily practices are central tools to work with (Fritz, 2012). In Becoming Animal, Abram discusses “shapeshifting”, or the human body’s capacity to become something or someone else (2010). Shapeshifting, Abram explains elsewhere, in the 2020 interview, is concerned with our bodies’ ability to know the Other through direct experiences:

[…] we have within our bodies echoes of every other bodily presence around us, even if they be very distant echoes. And everything, conversely, every part of the landscape, is a distant variant of my own flesh. After all, we are all constituted of the same stuff. And so we have within us this magical capacity to feel into and empathize with pretty much anything of the Earth – because we ourselves are, first and foremost, pieces of Earth. And, so, a kind of shapeshifting is just native to the human organism. It’s our birthright.
(Milstein & Castro-Sotomayor, 2020, p. 21).

The presentation suggests that the use of embodiment and dramatic empathy in multispecies storytelling practice is close of the strategies of feministic care ethics where other-directedness and openness to difference may create empathic relationship with the other, which is essential for achieving attitude change and moral agency for more empathic future.



Abram, D. (2010). Becoming animal: an earthly cosmology. Pantheon Books.

Fritz, B. (2012). InExActArt: the autopoetic theatre of Augusto Boal, a handbook of Theatre of the Oppressed Practice. Ibidem Press.

Milstein, T. & Castro-Sotomayor, J. (2020). Interbreathing ecocultural identity in the Humilocene. David Abram with Tema Milstein and José Castro-Sotomayor. In T. Milstein & J. Castro-Sotomayor (Eds.) Routledge handbook of ecocultural identity, (pp. xvii – xxiii). Routledge.
(1); and


Janne I. Hukkinen 1, Nina Janasik 1, Peeter Vihma 1, Antti Mäkelä 2:

Making the chronic environmental crisis an acute one with an audiovisual dashboard narrating a plausible spatiotemporal transfer of events


According to the IPCC’s 2022 report, both the frequency and intensity of extreme temperature, precipitation, and drought events will increase manyfold in case of a 2 degree increase in average global temperature by 2100, which currently is a likely scenario. The foreseeable decades promise to be an age of chronic socio-environmental polycrisis, i.e., disparate shocks interacting in ways that make the whole more overwhelming than the sum of the parts. The challenge for policymakers today is to make coordinated decisions in chronic socio-environmental urgencies while also preparing strategically for the inevitable long-term disruptions. In this presentation we ask: How to make the chronic polycrisis relevant for today’s decision-makers? We developed an audio-visual dashboard during eight strategic situation room exercises organized with high-level policymakers in three Finnish cities (Helsinki, Tampere, Kotka) during 2019-2022. The dashboard narrates with videos and animations a plausible polycrisis of floods, heatwaves, and forest fires that each city may experience frequently in the future. The dashboard consists of a mock-up TV climate news broadcast, a map-based animation of a storm-induced flood in the city center, and a 3-D drone animation of the flood. The realism of the event is heightened by using data from an actual 2011 Copenhagen storm to simulate the flooding impact in the downtown areas of the three Finnish cities. In narrative terms, the dashboard challenges the city’s current strategic narrative, as it is presented in sectoral plans, by visualizing a counternarrative. The counternarrative is based on a climate-induced polycrisis threatening the achievement of the strategic goals and relies on the argument: “This could threaten your city plans in the near future because it has already happened a nearby city in the recent past.” The juxtaposition of the narrative embedded in the current plans with the counternarrative told by the dashboard acts as a stimulus for the participants of the exercise to develop a metanarrative that helps each city to make their strategies more resilient. In the exercise, the metanarrative consisted of alternative policy solutions developed by the participants to address the city’s current vulnerabilities.


1 Environmental Policy Research Group (EPRG), Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS), University of Helsinki (

2 Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI)


10-12 Keynote 2: Prof. Wojciech Malecki

Measuring Environmental Affects: Experimental Methods in Empirical Ecocriticism

In the paper I discuss the experimental method, explaining why experiments can be useful for studying complex causal relations that are of the utmost importance to ecocriticism, in particular those that concern affects, i.e., emotions, attitudes, and other mental states that involve evaluative feeling. Can narratives improve social attitudes to non-human animals? Can they promote interspecies empathy? Could fictional narratives change our approach to pressing environmental issues such as climate change? And could the dominant emotional tone of pro-environmental messages—melodramatic, somber, and serious—be counterproductive, discouraging people from taking part in pro-environmental initiatives? I try to explain not only why experimental methods could be useful in answering such causal questions, but how to go about using them. In this, I draw on examples taken from experimental research on the impact of animal stories conducted over the years by my team.

Comment: Adj. prof. Elisa Aaltola


12-13 lunch (Unicafe Metsätalo)


13.00-14.30 Paper session 4: Finnish poetry & Margaret Atwood


Tiia Kähärä, University of Helsinki:

Emotions, affects and human-animal relations in the modernist poems and short stories of Eeva-Liisa Manner


Eeva-Liisa Manner's collection Tämä matka (‘This Journey’, 1956) was a landmark text of Finnish post-war modernism with its associative style and dense imagery. This Journey and a short story collection titled Kävelymusiikkia pienille virtahevoille (‘Promenade Music for Small Hippopotamuses’, 1957), published a year later, both handle themes and emotional states frequently illustrated in literary modernism, such as loneliness, estrangement, nostalgia, disappointment in human beings following horrors of war and loss of meaning in an absurd world.

Less well-known are the themes considering human-animal relations and the aims to challenge anthropocentric thinking. Longing for empathic engagement and companionship with non-human animals, portraying the suffering of animals and a critical view of humans are key themes in both works. The poems and short stories, for example, travel back in time before the alienation from nature and before the beginning of human dominion over other species. The texts create imaginary worlds in which main characters and animals live together and understand each other, but they also display apocalyptic or dystopic scenes where humans have lost their dominant role in the world. In many of the texts, animals have superior skills and admirable qualities, whereas humans are described as a simple, disgusting, terrifying and violent species.

This paper examines emotions, affects and emotional tones in human-animal relations and representations of humans and other animals in the poems and short stories of Manner from the 1950s. I combine methods of affective literary studies and ecocriticism. I consider how empathy toward animals can be read as an environmental emotion and how modernist themes, such as pessimism about modernity, shock of war and failure to communicate are also used in these texts to challenge anthropocentric thinking.


Reeta Holopainen, Doctoral Researcher, University of Helsinki:

Environmental emotions in Eila Kivikk’aho’s poetry


In my presentation, I examine environmental emotions in Eila Kivikk’aho’s poetry. Kivikk’aho is a highly regarded Finnish poet who published her six poem collections in the period between the 1940s and the 1990s. She is especially known as a representative of the Finnish post-war modernism.

Nature and affects related to it have a significant role in Kivikk’aho’s poetry. I apply environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht’s (2019) concepts of Earth emotions by exploring how eutierria, tierratrauma and solastalgia manifest themselves in Kivikk’aho’s poetry. I argue that environmental emotions depicted in the poems are a crucial component of the ecocentric ethos of Kivikk’aho’s poetry.

Kivikk’aho’s early poem collections Sinikallio (1942) and Viuhkalaulu (1945) do not deal with ecological crises, but they depict many so-called positive Earth emotions, in which Albrecht’s concept of eutierria, a feeling of total harmony with the Earth, is included. I demonstrate how eutierria is constructed in Kivikk’aho’s poetry by analyzing its connectedness to a sense of wonder towards nature, which environmental scientist and writer Haydn Washington (2018) considers a basis of ecocentrism. In Kivikk’aho’s early works, eutierria and a sense of wonder foreground the interconnectedness of life and form the foundation of Kivikk’aho’s ecopoetics.

In Kivikk’aho’s last poem collections, the ecological destructiveness of human life appears in her poems. They depict, for example, an oil spill and the damaging consequences of urbanization. I demonstrate how tierratrauma, a traumatic experience caused by a sudden environmental destruction, and solastalgia, a distress caused by the environmental change of one’s home environment, play a crucial part in Parvi’s (1961) and Ruusukvartsi’s (1995) environmental poems.

The aim of my presentation is to strengthen the collaboration between the ecocritical study of poetry and the study of environmental emotions and to suggest that when seeking more ecological future, an interest in so-called positive Earth emotions is as important as the study of environmental grief and eco-anxiety.



Albrecht, Glenn (2019) Earth Emotions. New Words for a New World. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Washington, Haydn (2018) A Sense of Wonder Towards Nature. Healing the Planet through Belonging. London: Routledge.


Essi Vatilo, PhD candidate, English literature, Tampere University:

Complacency and (Apparent) Agency within Organisational Structures in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake


In Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003), Snowman is haunted by a past of complacency. His self-torment in a postapocalyptic reality is juxtaposed by all the everyday, commonplace little things that went unnoticed in the pre-apocalypse until they become weighted with importance in retrospect. This juxtaposition serves to highlight the personal tragedy of the apocalypse but also how easily people become complicit through their everyday habits and professions in slowly bringing about the apocalypse. Also juxtaposed are all the missed hints of impending genocide and all the signs of climate change that are pushed out of sight, out of mind. So, on the one hand, this complacency is seen as allowing reality to slip into apocalypse, and on the other hand, complacency is also shown with understanding for the difficulty of acting against the system, against corporate goals.


In my presentation I will focus on complacency, or denial in the form of looking away, of not going against the grain, and the guilt that follows in retrospect. I will interrogate how personal agency or lack thereof reveals the social/corporate structures standing in the way and how emotions might mediate between personal and structural levels. I will explore how evoking emotions in relation to personal responsibility might align with or differ from structural responsibility. Finally, I will also consider what insights all these juxtapositions and contrasts might offer the readers.


14.30-15 Coffee break (Metsätalo)


15.00-16.00 Paper session 5: Varieties of eco- and climate anxiety

(two papers from this session have been regrettably canceled)


Silviya Serafimova, Associate Professor, PhD, Department of Ethical Studies (BAS):

On the Moral Concerns about Eco-anxiety in The World According to Anna


The primary objective of this talk is to analyze the origin and the implications of eco-anxiety, as displayed in Jostein Gaarder’s book The World According to Anna, by focusing on two central aspects of the anxiety above in Ojala et al.’s sense (2021). Specifically, I explore what they call an ontic aspect of eco-anxiety, understood as a threat to the future survival of humanity and a moral aspect regarding one’s right to live that way concerning nature and other humans. In this context, the reasons behind Anna’s eco-anxiety as existential anxiety are revealed by tackling the following questions. Can Anna’s eco-anxiety be described as driven by what Johan Galtung calls the apocalypse now! syndrome? If so, would it be possible to determine what Anne considers a lack of second thought for future generations, an issue deserving special attention in the field of intragenerational justice? Consequently, can one refract the macro-worry about future generations through the lens of what Ojala et al. define as a matter of who values global justice, peace, equality and the well-being of nature and animals? Based upon analyzing the points above, I also aim to reevaluate the role of care for cultivating empathy in ‘the world according to Anna’. By elaborating upon what Gaarder considers one’s strive to look for a way to treat lack of concern, I raise the question of how one can overcome eco-anxiety by cultivating sensitivity towards otherness in all its diversity.


Thorunn Gullaksen Endreson, University of Oslo:

Climate change, psychological health, and material forms in Sara Sølberg’s novel Sarabande


Sara Sølberg’s novel Sarabande (2021) moves beyond anthropocentrism and human-centered time in a narrative that alternates between present time, primordial time, and a distant future. Relying on theories of environmental anxiety as well as Jane Benett’s theory on vital materiality (Vibrant Matter), I will show that the novel demonstrates how climate change can severely affect psychological health, but also alter how a human being perceives the natural environment.


The main character – and first-person narrator – is highly sensible to changes in the natural environment as a consequence of climate change. She works as a gardener in the Botanical Garden in Oslo, but as the normally lush natural environment dries up in a record hot summer, the narrator experiences a deep existential crisis. She becomes increasingly alienated from her own being, and her life is transformed to a nightmarish and hallucinatory universe. In the introductory scene of the novel her apartment – including herself, her plants, and the furniture – is invaded by a colony of different insects such as ants, flees, and beetles, as well as bacteria and fungi. She experiences deep changes in the way she perceives the natural environment, affecting her sight, her hearing, her sense of smell and her mental health. Organisms usually invisible and soundless she is now able to perceive. In a Kafkaesque manner the first-person narrator eventually metamorphoses into a beetle, but unlike Kafka’s character, the metamorphosis is not stable, she assumes the form of an earthworm, a nightflying moth, a bird, oscillating between different forms and displaying what Bennett terms “small agency”. The narrator experiences a deep interaction with the earth and with other species. Her universe appears as an agentic assemblage of different organisms.