Transcript Slide 1

Sigtuna Workshop

Frame Analysis: Literature in the Context of Environmental Discourse

Axel Goodbody (University of Bath, UK)

Overwiew of the workshop

Introduction to framing  Aims of the session  What is framing?  Primary and secondary frames  Factors involved in framing  What are the principal frames in environmental communication?  How are frames constructed and analysed?  Two examples of literary framing Work in small groups Participants present their work Conclusions and evaluation

Aims of the session

 to test the usefulness of the concept of framing as a tool in the environmental humanities,  whether it gives insight into the structures and dynamics of environmental communication,  whether it is it a helpful way of classifying types of message about the environment,  whether it can be applied in literary study, and help us define the contribution of literature (also film and art) to environmental discourse

What is framing?

Definitions - “the principles of organisation which govern events and our subjective involvement in them ” (adapted from Goffman1974, pp. 10f. ) - “principles of selection, emphasis and presentation, determined by assumptions about what exists, what happens, and what matters ” (adapted from Gitlin 1980, p. 6) - the discursive construction of environmental problems and in particular the underpinning of arguments with human values.

Primary and secondary frames

Primary or deep frames are: cognitive structures forged in childhood, held in the long-term memory, which associate an experience with particular values languages reflect the values, worldview and culture of their speakers through the metaphorical structure of key concepts

Secondary/ conscious/ strategic/ advocate framing

Frames as rhetorical structures that induce us to filter our perceptions of the world in particular ways „ To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/ or treatment recommendation” (Entman 1993, p. 52)

„Frames organise central ideas, defining a controversy to resonate with core values and assumptions. They allow citizens to rapidly identify why an issue matters, who might be responsible, and what should be done.” (Nisbet and Mooney 2000 ,p. 56)

Frame alignment

aligning the framing of an issue with that already present in the belief system of the public, so as to arouse a resonance in them and mobilise support. To be successful, the framing of an issue must usually relate to the experience of the public (including mediated experience), and fit in some way with existing cultural values and narratives (Snow and Benford 1988)

Factors involved in framing

1. relating of the message to values Research into values has revealed quasi-universal clusters of values, along two main axes: - openness to change


conservation - self-enhancement (hedonism, achievement and power)


self-transcendence (universalism and benevolence) (Schwartz 2010) 2. conventions of medium and form - limitations imposed by the medium - common narratives in media stories (conflict, human interest, economic consequences) - traditional genres

3. shaping influence of culture and language - concepts with particular resonances (e.g. resulting from historical experience, institutions and traditions in the structuring of knowledge) - structuring metaphors - myths, stories At least four locations of frames in the communication process: communicator, text, receiver, culture (Entman 1993, p. 52)

What are the principal/ master frames in environmental communication?

Pairs of opposing value-related deep frames dominating environmental debates

- whether we conceive of human nature as guided by self-interest or common interest - whether we conceive of the family (and state as led by a strict father or nurturing parent - whether we conceive of society as legitimately shaped by elite governance or participative democracy (Crompton 2010, drawing on Dryzeck 2005)

Common frames in the literature of climate change

- apocalyptic - pastoral/ elegiac - conspiracy/ critique of elites

Mobilising narratives in climate change literature

- lamenting Eden (appeals to nostalgia) - presaging apocalypse (fear) - constructing Babel (pride) - celebrating Jubilee (sense of justice) (Hulme 2009)

How are frames constructed and analysed?

use of keywords and lexical clusters underlying conceptual metaphors and images use of personal pronouns modal expressions implying obligation and prohibition tacit presuppositions adaptation of familiar narratives images

Two examples of literary framing

1. W.G. Sebald,

The Rings of Saturn

, translated by Michael Hulse, London: Harvill, 1998

Once the herring shoal had been sighted, it was fished during the following night, and this was done, according to the natural history of the North Sea already quoted, using nets two hundred feet long that could take almost a quarter of a million fish. [...] The nets do not enclose the catch, but rather present a kind of wall in the water which the fish swim up against in desperation until at length their gills catch in the mesh; they are then throttled during the near-eight-hour process of hauling up and winding in the nets. [...] Given these quantities, the natural historians sought consolation in [...] the assumption that the particular physiology of the fish left them free of the fear and pains that rack the bodies and souls of higher animals in their death throes. But the truth is that we do not know what the herring feels. (

The Rings of Saturn

, pp. 56f.)

According to Professor Lange, the author or educational pamphlet F213/1939, the significance of silk cultivation in Germany lay not only in obviating the need to buy from abroad [...], but also in the importance silk would have in the dawning era of aerial warfare [...]. For that reason, it was desirable that schools should interest the youth of Germany in silk cultivation. [...] After all, the Professor added, quite apart from their indubitable utility value, silkworms afforded an almost ideal object lesson for the classroom. [..]

They were perfectly docile and needed neither cages nor compounds, and they were suitable for a variety of experiments (weighing, measuring and so forth) at every stage in their evolution. They could be used to illustrate the structure and distinctive features of insect anatomy, insect domestication, retrogressive mutations, and the essential measures which are taken by breeders to monitor productivity and selection, including extermination to pre-empt racial degeneration. (

Rings of Saturn

, pp. 293f.)

2. Ian McEwan,


, London: Vintage, 2010

“There are a dozen proven ways of making electricity out of sunlight, but the ultimate goal is still ahead [...]. I ’m talking of artificial photosynthesis, of copying the methods nature took three billion years to perfect. We ’ll use light directly to make cheap hydrogen and oxygen out of water, and run our turbines night and day, or we ’ll make fuels out of water, sunlight and carbon dioxide, or we ’ll build desalination plants that make electricity as well as fresh water. Believe me, this will happen. Solar will expand [...]. Basic science, the market and our grave situation will determine that this is the future – logic, not idealism, compels it.“ (Michael Beard in


, p. 154)