Impartiality and attachment: ethics and ecopoeisis in children's narrative texts

John Stephens*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Social movements taken up in children's literature since the 1960s have foregrounded the ethical concerns of changing societies in a range of areas that includes environmental and ecological issues. While philosophers align ethical responsibility with a need to be impartial, fiction will routinely violate impartiality because of social and emotional attachments deemed desirable for personal and general well-being. Such attachments are rendered strongly in children's fiction because of the textual dominance of heavy character focalisation in both first person and third person narratives, and thence a basis for reader response analogous to an interpersonal relationship. Questions of ethics, attachment and representation come together in a recent strand, or sub-genre, in environmental literature in which issues in environmental ethics are explored by constructing a parallel between ecoconsciousness and interpersonal human relationships of various types according to the age of the participant characters. A common narrative strategy in such texts is to construct parallel narratives underpinned by a metonymic interrelationship, whereby threatened or damaged nature is matched by threatened or damaged lives. The thematic outcome blends an interweaving of nature and culture with a more pragmatic environmentalism than usually pertains in children's texts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-216
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Research in Children's Literature
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • Ethics
  • ecopoiesis
  • environmental literature
  • young adult fiction

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