Nature's narrative agencies as compound individuals

Oppermann S. G.

NEOHELICON, vol.44, no.2, pp.283-295, 2017 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 44 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s11059-017-0394-9
  • Journal Name: NEOHELICON
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.283-295
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


The changing meanings of nature and its constituents (organic and inorganic matter, and organisms) have largely emerged from the new materialist interpretations of the naturalcultural reality as one of complex entanglements of the human and the nonhuman realms made visible in the porosity of bodily natures, trans-corporeality, and the interdependence of material and discursive practices. The new materialist accounts of physicochemical processes in terms of their agentic capacities and generative powers have also fundamentally changed our understanding of the concept of agency. Taking the new ideas in the framework of material ecocriticism, this essay will focus on the expressive dimension of material agencies as "narrative agencies," which are comprised of compound individuals, a concept developed by the process philosopher Charles Hartshorne much before the emergence of the new materialist paradigm, to explain the creativity, imagination, and experience found in nature's individuals such as atoms, molecules, cells, and nonhuman species. Some are "low-grade" individuals, others, like animals, are "high-grade" individuals; but all have internal experience and are involved in a meaningful process of interpreting their environment and making an effect on surrounding entities, processes and flows of materialities. The argument presented here is that in the "storied world" of living nature, which material ecocriticism interprets as a site of narrativity, there is not only a capacity of agency but also an expressive function, nature's narrative ability.