One of our ongoing initiatives is to generate and publish a form of critical media reviews that we are calling an eco-critical review. In 2024, this is a new endeavor for us, and we are still forming the boundaries of what, specifically, an eco-critical review is. Would you like to help us refine the process?
Table of Contents
Maybe you’re just curious, intrigued?
Feel free to skip directly to our proposal guidelines.
Or, first you can dive into our interpretation of what it means to be critical, etc.
Either way, read on!
What, exactly, is an eco-critical review?
Let’s start with our understanding of what we mean by critical. We’ll turn to Merriam-Webster, exploring their definitions of “critical”1Definition of Critical (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- 1b. consisting of or involving criticism, also : of or relating to the judgment of critics
- 1c. exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation
- 1d. including variant readings and scholarly emendations
- 2a. of, relating to, or being a turning point or specially important juncture
- 2b. indispensable, vital
- 2d. crucial, decisive
Think about it: What is your take on careful judgment and judicious evaluation? How might you infuse this into a critical review? We certainly align with the idea that a proper review requires careful judgment and judicious evaluation.
Have you ever come across the term emendation before? It’s an interesting concept: “an alteration designed to correct or improve”2Definition of Emendation (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emendation. How might your approach to a critical review serve as a mechanism for improving our understanding of the artifact(s) under review.
Can a critical review serve as a turning point? A critical juncture? Of what? To what end?
What might make a critical review vital, crucial, and/or decisive?
This leads us to our interpretation of criticism, which we shall also base on definitions3Definition of Criticism (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/criticism provided by M-W:
- 2. the art of evaluating or analyzing works of art or literature, also : writings expressing such evaluation or analysis
- 3. the scientific investigation of literary documents (such as the Bible) in regard to such matters as origin, text, composition, or history
Regardless of the object under review (art, literature, etc.) we can derive that criticism is, apparently, an art and a science. Which aspects of your approach to a critical review would be artistic? Which would be scientific?
We also appreciate the inclusion of composition and history within the scientific approach to criticism. A focus on composition implies a focus on the practice imbued in the creation of the work under scrutiny. A focus on history indicates a contextual awareness that aligns with systems wisdom, especially the idea of expanding our time horizons. How might you broaden the approach you bring to a critical review?
You’ve probably noticed we’ve not yet touched on the “eco-” aspect of eco-critical reviews.
Let’s consider the M-W definitions of ecological4Definition of Ecological (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- 2. of or relating to the environments of living things or to the relationships between living things and their environments
- 3. of or relating to human ecology
So, if we’re contextualizing the criticality of our reviewing process, we’d be doing so within the context of relationships between living things and their (our) environments. How might we go about actualizing this contextualization during a critical review process?
Also: more on human ecology in a bit, but first, let’s explore the M-W definition of ecology5Definition of Ecology (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- 1. a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments
- 2. the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment
- 3. human ecology
- 4. environment, climate, also : an often delicate or intricate system or complex
The first two terms that stick out to us: totality and patterns. Exploring patterns of relationships (between living things and their environments) while taking a step back into a purview of totality. How might this process help us inform the critical review process, leading to an eco-critical stage?
What about the delicate and intricate aspects of the complexities of these systems? How might we approach such intricacies within the context of an eco-critical review?
And there’s that human ecology term again. let’s explore the M-W definition of human ecology6Definition of Human Ecology (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- 1. a branch of sociology dealing especially with the spatial and temporal interrelationships between humans and their economic, social, and political organization
- 2. the ecology of human communities and populations especially as concerned with preservation of environmental quality (as of air or water) through proper application of conservation and civil engineering practices
Time and space. Economic, social, and political systems. This is starting to sound like civics class from freshman year in high school. When’s the last time you thought clearly and critically about the interrelationships of these human-derived systems across the scales of space and time?
Preservation and conservation. To what end? Are we being critical enough? Contextualizing broadly enough, beyond ourselves as a species? Do we recognize our anthropocentric biases well enough to bypass them during the eco-critical review process? Is bypassing such biases a requirement for eco-critical review?
That’s up for each of us to decide, perhaps.
And understanding contextualization and inherent biases doesn’t necessarily explain what it means to complete an eco-critical review.
Still, though: WHAT is an eco-critical review?
When you’ve finished an eco-critical review, what will it look like?
Simply put: our idea of eco-critical reviews is that they are some combination of a more traditional review (like a brief book review, as described by the UNC Writing Center) and some form of report (like a book report, as described by the Purdue Online Writing Lab, which also provides their take on writing book reviews). For another resource, Butte College provides a TIP sheet for writing about nonfiction books.
Regardless of the resulting combination of review-report that becomes any eco-critical review document, there are some basic underlying perspectives we would hope to infuse into the analysis, review, and report of any eco-critical process, such as an infusing of systems thinking mindsets and systems wisdom principles into the analysis of the material output or expression, and hopefully a similar critique of the production process as well. We’d hope an eco-critical perspective would be imbued with contextualization of human fabrications and endeavors, such as capitalism and the fourth industrial revolution, per se.
We see one purpose of the eco-critical review process to be a validation and justification of the reviewed work within these contexts. Or, perhaps, it should be an invalidation? To which conclusions will an ecological perspective lead you?
Here’s another perspective to consider: what is the work product that results from the process of conducting an eco critical review? When you’re “done” with the eco-critical review process, what is the document or set of artifacts that can be published as a result, and how?
We’re open to interpretation on this issue, and we’d love to explore the boundaries of what can be published as part of our hybrid digital multimedia approach to publishing in general, and with eco-critical reviews in particular. What are the complementary media that can best support the argument(s) and claims made by your eco-critical review?
Our one big rule is to obey all copyright laws, and ensure that proper permissions, attribution, and citation protocols are followed across the spectrum of modalities of expressive works.
What are the questions we want to address with eco-critical reviews? Certainly, we hope anyone tackling an eco-critical review process will come up with plenty of their own good questions – and answer them accordingly. Ideally these questions will expand the braided pathway of critique along the ecological currents explored above.
We’d also love to see answers to “simpler” questions such as:
- What purpose(s) does this book (or artifact, etc.) serve?
- Does the book (or artifact, etc.) do a good job serving this purpose or purposes? How so or not? Why or why not?
- Did you learn anything interesting or unexpected when engaging with this book (or artifact, etc.)? If so, what?
What sorts of questions come to mind for you regarding this eco-critical approach to any artifact?
What is the target object of an eco-critical review?
To this point, we’ve focused heavily upon the written word as the target of a review.
What other sorts of reviews have you consumed? Movies? Records? Restaurants? We’ve all seen the basic (and highly suspect) five-star review systems pervading the internet to ubiquity. Using this oversimplified logic: anything can be reviewed.
Can anything be the object(s) under scrutiny as part of an eco-critical review process? Probably, yes. A book, a movie, a record, a performance, an app, a museum, a restaurant, a national park, a public transit system. Any event, process or artifact. An organization, a corporation, a municipality. A theoretical or practical concept.
It can be something we’ve not yet thought of. What do you have in mind?
Guidelines for proposing an eco-critical review.
Using approximately 3-5 pages, please tell us succinctly about the eco-critical review you intend to conduct.
The first page of your proposal should contain the following information:
- A description of the artifact that is the intended target of the review: including all relevant information available about the intended target.
- Any background information available about the creator of the artifact to be reviewed
- If the creator of said artifact is not well known or easy to research, please provide us with as much specific background information as possible in order for us to contextualize the intent of your proposed review
The remaining 2-4 pages of your proposal should contain the following information:
- Describe to us the basic approach, goals, intentions of your proposed eco-critical review
- Tell us an approximate word count for your review once it is completed, and give us a basic outline of your proposed review.
- Tell us more about yourself, and if relevant, why you are qualified to do this particular eco-critical review.
- If you have a procedural outline and timeline for completion of your eco-critical review in mind, please include this. It would be helpful as well to let us know how far along you currently are in the process, even if you’re not yet started.
When submitting your proposal, you’ll have several optional additions you may choose to include:
- Your current CV
- One writing/multimedia sample that best represents your intended approach to the eco-critical review proposed
- Additional supplemental materials supporting your proposal – please combine these into a single document taking the form of one or more appendices
In your proposal materials, please be as specific and detailed as possible. The less effort it takes for us to find/consume the (linked) information you’ve provided, the more quickly we’ll be able to reach a valid decision about your proposal.
Various textual file formats will be accepted when you submit your proposal, such as PDF and DOCX.
Your proposal should be a single document.
Each of your optional additions should be individual documents.
We look forward to seeing what you come up with.
If you have any questions about the proposal process, please do not hesitate to drop us a line.
- 1Definition of Critical (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- 2Definition of Emendation (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- 3Definition of Criticism (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- 4Definition of Ecological (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- 5Definition of Ecology (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- 6Definition of Human Ecology (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)