Next Article in Journal
Sustainability—What Are the Odds? Envisioning the Future of Our Environment, Economy and Society
Previous Article in Journal
Creating/Curating Cultural Capital: Monuments and Museums for Post-Apartheid South Africa
Article Menu

Export Article

Open AccessArticle
Humanities 2013, 2(1), 99-118;

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

School of Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University, 2 Bradford Street, Mount Lawley, WA 6050, Australia
Received: 8 January 2013 / Revised: 19 February 2013 / Accepted: 12 March 2013 / Published: 21 March 2013
Full-Text   |   PDF [399 KB, uploaded 21 March 2013]   |  


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. View Full-Text
Keywords: narratives; ecology; environmental aesthetics; Denali; traditional burning narratives; ecology; environmental aesthetics; Denali; traditional burning

Graphical abstract

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Ryan, J.C. Stories of Snow and Fire: The Importance of Narrative to a Critically Pluralistic Environmental Aesthetic. Humanities 2013, 2, 99-118.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics



[Return to top]
Humanities EISSN 2076-0787 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top