Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects now in print

GW MEMSI is very happy to announce the publication of the first book in its Oliphaunt series. Originating in a conference we sponsored in Washington in 2011, this volume brings together the plenaries and keynote expanded into essays as well as three response pieces.

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects examines what happens when we cease to assume that only humans exert agency. Through a careful examination of medieval, early modern and contemporary lifeworlds, these essays collectively argue against ecological anthropocentricity. Sheep, wolves, camels, flowers, chairs, magnets, landscapes, refuse and gems are more than mere objects. They act; they withdraw; they make demands; they connect within lively networks that might foster a new humanism, or that might proceed with indifference towards human affairs. Through what ethics do we respond to these activities and forces? To what futures do these creatures and objects invite us, especially when they appear within the texts and cultures of the “distant” past?
Contents: Jeffrey J. Cohen (George Washington University): “Introduction: All Things” – Karl Steel (Brooklyn College): “With the World, or Bound to Face the Sky: The Postures of the Wolf-Child of Hesse” – Sharon Kinoshita (University of California, Santa Cruz): “Animals and the Medieval Culture of Empire” – Peggy McCracken (University of Michigan): “The Floral and the Human” – Kellie Robertson (University of Wisconsin-Madison): “Exemplary Rocks” – Valerie Allen (John Jay College of Criminal Justice): “Mineral Virtue”  – Eileen Joy (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville): “You Are Here: A Manifesto” – Julian Yates (University of Delaware): “Sheep Tracks: Multi-Species Impressions” – Julia Reinhard Lupton (University of California, Irvine): “The Renaissance Res Publica of Things” – Jane Bennett (Johns Hopkins University): “Powers of the Hoard: Further Notes on Material Agency”
Response essays: Lowell Duckert, “Speaking Stones, John Muir, and a Slower (Non)humanities” –  Nedda Mehdizadeh, “‘Ruinous Monument’: Transporting Objects in Herbert’s Persepolis” – Jonathan Gil Harris,“Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Twenty Questions” 
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen is Professor of English and Director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (MEMSI) at the George Washington University. His research explores what monsters promise; how postcolonial studies, queer theory, postmodernism and 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; and ecotheory. He is the author of three books: Of Giants: Sex, Monsters and the Middle AgesMedieval Identity Machines; and Hybridity, Identity and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain: On Difficult Middles and the editor of four more. He blogs at In the Middle.
Published: 2012-05-07

The book is available as a free, open access download. Even if you read the volume electronically, please consider purchasing a copy of the paperback ($17) to support future Oliphaunt / punctum projects.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Ecologies: A Roundtable (Kalamazoo 2012)

GW MEMSI is proud to be sponsoring a roundtable on "Ecologies" at the impending International Congress on Medieval Studies (Session 215, Friday May 11 at 10 am in Schneider 1280). 

By exploring how environment and the nonhuman (with an emphasis on that which seems utterly nonhuman) matter in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period, we hope to map out new ways of thinking about bodies, elements, agency, and place. The forum consists of short, provocative papers followed by lively discussion.

You don't have to wait for Kalamazoo for a preview, though. Anne Harris has posted some thoughts about her project, and Alan Montroso has offered a draft of his talk. The full list is below. We hope to see you at the roundtable!


Presider:  Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, George Washington Univ.

Fluid (James Smith, Univ. of Western Australia)

Trees (Alfred Siewers, Bucknell Univ.)

Human (Alan Montroso, Independent Scholar)

Post/apocalyptic (Eileen A. Joy, Southern Illinois Univ.–Edwardsville)

Hewn (Anne F. Harris, DePauw Univ.)

Recreation (Lowell Duckert, George Washington Univ.)

Green (Carolyn Dinshaw, New York Univ.)

Matter (Valerie Allen, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY)