Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects

Cohen_AVMEO_Cover_VerZ_Front_WEBAnimal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects

Edited by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen

Oliphaunt Books (an imprint of punctum books)

Washington, DC: Oliphaunt Books, 2012. 295 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0615625355. E-Book + Print: paperbound/5 X 8 in.

Released: 5/7/2012


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*E-books will be available for free 6 months after release. Learn more about punctum's new graduated open access.

Animal, Mineral, Vegetable 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”

*Animal, Mineral, Vegetable: Ethics and Objects is an Oliphaunt book

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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 Ages; Medieval 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.


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  1. […] Age” chapter in Rethinking Chaucerian Beasts, in my Hessian Wolf Child chapter in Animal Vegetable Mineral, and, most recently, in my worms essay in the postmedieval ecomaterialism issue. Here’s […]

  2. […] that is withdrawal because of its surface-ness. McCracken’s reading of the flower-women, which can be downloaded here, leaves off (or adds, thus leaving off) something important in its translation of the Middle […]

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  4. […] of the post-humanities with the distant past, his most recent work includes the edited collections Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects (punctum 2012) and Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory Beyond Green (University of Minnesota Press 2013), […]