Framing in literary energy narratives

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This essay is part of a wider project exploring the ability of frame analysis to serve as a common methodology for the description and analysis of oral, media, historical and literary stories about energy. It investigates the application of framing to literary texts depicting and reflecting on our changing use of energy. Taking as starting point the conception and typology of frames in Gamson and Modigliani’s study of attitudes towards nuclear energy in the American media (1989), it experiments with the identification of framing mechanisms and frames in three English novels. The first is Jim Crace’s recent historical novel, Harvest (2013), a tale of enclosure in the sixteenth century; the second Charles Dickens’s Hard Times (1854), one of the best-known depictions of the Industrial Revolution by a contemporary. The third novel, which is examined in greater depth, is Ian McEwan’s account of the challenge posed by the transition to renewable energy today in Solar (2010). If the danger of a reductive categorisation of novels according to master frames is to be avoided, the complexity and ambivalence of framing which typify novels in comparison with media texts mean that caution and sensitivity are demanded in approaching narrative strategies which can involve multiple, conflicting framings and merely implicit narrative perspectives. With this caveat, it is, however, argued that the focus on framing foregrounds neglected aspects of literary narration, and gives new insight into similarities and differences between literary and non-literary stories, and hence the part played by literature in energy debates.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFraming the Environmental Humanities
EditorsHannes Bergthaller, Peter Mortensen
Place of PublicationLeiden, Boston
PublisherBrill | Rodopi
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9789004360488
ISBN (Print)9789004358843
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2018

Publication series

NameStudies in Environmental Humanities


  • Jim Crace, Charles Dickens, Ian McEwan, Energy narrative, Frame analysis,
  • Metaphor


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