‘Feeling Stone’

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (George Washington University)

Our vocabulary for stone is impoverished. We describe rock as dumb, mute, unfeeling, unyielding, recalcitrant. Stone can sometimes be invoked as a witness, but most often its testimony is silent, an unfeeling trigger to affect, a passive reminder of tragic human histories. This talk excavates a lithic counter-tradition: stone not simply as a spur to human emotion, but as a lively substance possessed of agency, motility, artistry and possibly even a soul. Surveying work by medieval and contemporary thinkers, from Albertus Magnus and Geoffrey of Monmouth to Gilles Deleuze, Elizabeth Grosz and Roger Caillois, I argue that stone invites us to anonanthropocentric approach of ecologies, landscapes, texts and art.

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen is Professor of English and Director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (MEMSI) at the George Washington University. He received his BA from the University of Rochester studying English, Classics and Creative Writing (1987) and his PhD from Harvard University (1992). His work explores the interrelated topics of what monsters promise; how the loosely allied schools of thought known as posthumanism might help us to better understand the literatures and cultures of the Middle Ages (and might be transformed by that encounter); the limits and the creativity of our taxonomic impulses; the complexities of time when thought outside of progress narratives; ecologies; hybridity, race, and complicated identities. He is author of Of Giants: Sex, Monsters and the Middle Ages(1997), Medieval Identity Machines(2003), and Hybridity, Identity and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain(2006), and editor or co-editor of five essay collections, including Cultural Diversity in the British Middle Ages (2008), Thinking the Limits of the Body (2002) and Becoming Male in the Middle Ages (1997). He has recently been awarded a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Venue: Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A,  The University of Melbourne (Parkville Campus)

Date: Thursday 28th July, 6pm.

Registration is recommended.

For further information and registration http://alumni.online.unimelb.edu.au/jeffreycohen

Contact: Professor Stephanie Trigg sjtrigg@unimelb.edu.au OR (03) 8344 550

The lecture is part of  ‘Hearts and Stones – A Collaboratory on Emotion, Stone and Temporality’ at The University of Melbourne, for further details see the website: http://hearts-and-stones.arts.unimelb.edu.au/programme/

For any enquiries please contact the organisers http://hearts-and-stones.arts.unimelb.edu.au/registration/