Guilt’s Plasticity

  • Tim JensenEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Media and Environmental Communication book series (PSMEC)


This chapter examines three cases of environmental communication to illuminate key rhetorical challenges for assigning, experiencing, and representing guilt for ongoing environmental devastation. I argue that analysis of a particular species of guilt—collective guilt—is essential for understanding the communication of complex environmental issues like plastics pollution. Collective guilt exhibits protean characteristics, which poses challenges for advocacy rhetorics aiming to mobilize collective action. I highlight the critical dividing line between guilt (culpability for an offense) and shame (evaluation of intrinsic inadequacy), as the affective dynamics of each are apt to motivate decidedly different behaviors.


Guilt Collective guilt Plastics pollution Shame Blue Planet Responsibility Visual enthymeme 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Writing, Literature, and FilmOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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