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Feeling Stone


Feeling Stone

Hosted by the School of Culture and Communication, the School of Historical Studies and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

This lecture is the opening address for the first symposium, or collaboratory, for the Shaping the Modern program of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

Feeling Stone 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 a nonanthropocentric 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.

Thursday, 28 July 2011 | 6-7.15pm

Theatre A, Elisabeth Murdoch Building.

Location map

Contact Stephanie Trigg in the School of Culture and Communication at or 8344 5504.

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Date created: 27 July 2010
Last modified: 22 September 2011
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