Object-Oriented Narratology


Object-Oriented Narratology

Marie-Laure Ryan and Tang Weisheng

Frontiers of Narrative Series

266 pages
6 photographs, 1 illustration, index


June 2024


$60.00 Pre-order

About the Book

The quick spread of posthumanism and of critiques of anthropomorphism in the past few decades has resulted in greater attention to concrete objects in critical theories and in philosophy. This new materialism or new object philosophy marks a renewal of interest in the  existence of objects. Yet while their mode of existence is independent of human cognition, it cannot erase the relation of subject to object and the foundational role of our experience of things in our mental activity.

These developments have important implications for narratology. Traditional conceptions of narrative define its core components as setting, characters, and plot, but nonhuman entities play a crucial role in characterizing the setting, in enabling or impeding the actions of characters, and thus in determining plot.

Marie-Laure Ryan and Tang Weisheng combine a theoretical approach that defines the basic narrative functions of objects with interpretive studies of narrative texts that rely more closely on ideas advanced by proponents of new object philosophy. Object-Oriented Narratology opens new theoretical horizons for narratology and offers individual case studies that demonstrate the richness and diversity of the ways in which narrative, both Western and non-Western, deals with humans’ relationships to their material environment and with the otherness of objects.

Author Bio

Marie-Laure Ryan is an independent scholar. She is the author or editor of many books, including Narrative across Media: The Language of Storytelling (Nebraska, 2004) and Narrative as Virtual Reality 2: Revisiting Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media. Tang Weisheng is chair professor in the College of Foreign Studies at Jiangxi Normal University, in Jiangxi, China. He is the author of two books in Mandarin on narratology, A Study on Narrative of Thingness and Text, Context, and Reader: Study on Contemporary American Narratology.


Object-Oriented Narratology takes on a little-addressed yet crucial component of narratives: objects or things, not as part of some other function, but on their own merits. As such it helps us dig deeper into our reading of and immersion in storyworlds, and it creates a richer understanding of the objects that make up those worlds. It is clearly written and thought-provoking.”—Annjeanette Wiese, author of Narrative Truthiness: The Logic of Complex Truth in Hybrid (Non)Fiction

“The authors raise stimulating philosophical questions, situating narrative theory within a broader, interdisciplinary debate on the status of the object.”—Marco Caracciolo, author of Slow Narrative and Nonhuman Materialities

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Representing Objects: The Mimetic Function
2. Designing Stories with Objects: The Thematic, Strategic and Structural Functions
3. Experiencing Otherness: Rick Bass’s Deep Ecology Narratives
4. The Horror of Sentient Things: Edgar Allan Poe
5. Ordinary Objects, Accumulation, and Design: Karl Ove Knausgaard and Nicholson Baker
6. Overhumanized versus Radically Alien Objects: Orhan Pamuk and Jean-Paul Sartre
7. Consumerism, Hoarding, and Liberation from Possession: Georges Perec and Ruth Ozeki
8. Enchantment of Things: Objects in Classic Chinese Literature
9. Telling Stories with Objects: Multimodal Manifestations
Source Acknowledgments

Also of Interest