“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hearts and Stones, Melbourne

This looks like it will be a great event. Featuring Jeffrey Cohen, who already has evocatively terse descriptions of OOO, ANT and vibrant matter lined up.

July 28-30 2011, University College, The University of Melbourne

How do the emotions shape and structure human interactions with stone? Do these emotions change over time and in different cultural topographies? How can stone help us write the history of emotions?

This interdisciplinary collaboratory interrogates the history of European and Indigenous Australian relationships with stone. It will feature wide-ranging discussion about continuities and discontinuities in emotional expression and feeling, from medieval Europe to contemporary Australia, in a range of artistic, geographic, architectural and other cultural contexts. Stone is a powerful marker of time and memory, a still point through changing temporalities. It has the capacity to help us think — and feel — about time.

Stone in Australia carries a complex set of emotional associations with English and European cultural heritage, especially around religious, civic and educational institutions. How does a settler culture translate those associations into a new, local landscape? How do ideas about landscape, nation and home change, in new and radically different topographies? Can we compare European and Indigenous Australian relationships with stone?

The conference will begin with a free public lecture by Jeffrey J. Cohen, 'Feeling Stone', in the Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre, 6:00, Thursday July 28:

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.


Jeffrey Cohen said...

Thanks for linking to this!

Christopher Dempsey said...

How very interesting!! I'll have to wait for the conference proceedings.