Sustainability and Narrative. Is Equilibrium Tellable?

Sebastian Domsch


This essay wants to look at the strategies through which sustainability has been and can be narrativized. When thinking about the future today, sustainability is certainly one of the most prominent new concepts and one that is becoming more ubiquitous every day. But from a narratological perspective, there seems to be an interesting paradox: While narrative is essentially and fundamentally about change (events as building blocks of narrative are, after all, usually defined as state changes), about a disturbance of balance and ‘things falling apart,’ sustain­ability is equally fundamentally about persistent equilibrium, the absence of line­ar change (such as growth at the cost of depletion or degeneration). Where the ideal of narrative is progression, the ideal of sustainability is a higher form of stasis. An abstract look at the concept of sustainability on the one side, and the properties and affordances of narrative and narrativity on the other, will investi­gate whether the two agree or create some kind of friction, and if so, in how far emerging narrative genres adhere to such theoretical limitations.


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