Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date



Offered as a response to the increasingly popular call within the eco-humanities for stories that will help humankind adapt to catastrophic planetary conditions, this article proposes “the eco-narrative”—an approach to storytelling that strives to compose with, not for, its nonhuman characters. An extension of eco-critical projects that analyze stories for their depictions of nonhumanity, the theoretical research herein brings ecological analysis of narrative to the level of structure. In particular, it problematizes the dominant plot model of conflict/climax/resolution, suggesting that stories motivated by conflict reinforce dualistic and anthropocentric habits for approaching the animal other. Evaluating two narratives concerning the human practice of killing animals—the Pew Commission’s report on Industrial Farm Animal Production and Annette Watson and Orville H. Huntington’s “They’re here—I can feel them”—the article observes how the former’s efforts at animal rights advocacy are undermined by its very storytelling framework. Celebrating the latter story’s more playful approach to narrative instead, the article ultimately suggests that a theory of “infinite play,” as developed by James P. Carse, can be used to re-envision the dominant plot model. A template for cooperation in the absence of known outcome, infinite play thus becomes the basis for the eco-narrative—a storytelling framework flexible enough to cocreate with nonhumanity, even during an environmental moment characterized by crisis.


This article originally appeared in Humanities, available at DOI: 10.3390/h6020017

© 2017 by the authors. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.