Reading beyond the Human: Laying out principles for a course on Revolutionary Narrative: The Poetics of Power.*****
In a narrative, things, social units, locations, ideas & beliefs, (both explicit and implied), can all be actants. Let’s call them Object-Actants (O-A). A “character” in a narrative is both an O-A, and a receptacle and carrier of multiple O-A’s. An O-A may be in itself, autonomous, but still a part in a larger whole, as the cells and organs of an organism exist both as parts, and objects in themselves. Dependency in the relationship, then, indicates limits of freedom, but does NOT determine independence of identity.
The centrality of human Object-Actants (or their representations) in a literary work is as limiting to the range of possible interpretations or readings as it is in thinking about the natural world. That is—a human-centric understanding is in no way necessary to the ways we might understand a story.
Object-Actants are dynamic, reacting to and eliciting reactions on other O-As. They both endure and change in text-time, maintaining their identity as they change. Relationships may be dominant-subordinate, or co-equal, in which case they may form an alliance that may in itself constitute an O-A.