Monster theory [electronic resource]: reading culture

U of Minnesota Press
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The contributors to Monster Theory consider beasts, demons, freaks and fiends as symbolic expressions of cultural unease that pervade a society and shape its collective behavior. Through a historical sampling of monsters, these essays argue that our fascination for the monstrous testifies to our continued desire to explore difference and prohibition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
U of Minnesota Press
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Published on
Dec 31, 1996
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Pages
315
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ISBN
9781452900551
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Literary
Literary Criticism / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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"Animal, Mineral, Vegetable: 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? TABLE OF CONTENTS: Jeffrey J. Cohen: "Introduction: All Things" - Karl Steel: "With the World, or Bound to Face the Sky: The Postures of the Wolf-Child of Hesse" - Sharon Kinoshita: "Animals and the Medieval Culture of Empire" - Kellie Robertson: "Exemplary Rocks" - Valerie Allen: "Mineral Virtue" - Peggy McCracken (University of Michigan): "The Human and the Floral" - Eileen Joy: "You Are Here: A Manifesto" - Julian Yates: "Sheep Tracks: A Multi-Species Impression" - Julia Reinhard Lupton: "The Renaissance Res Publica of Things" - Jane Bennett: "Powers of the Hoard: 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"
Stone maps the force, vivacity, and stories within our most mundane matter, stone. For too long stone has served as an unexamined metaphor for the “really real”: blunt factuality, nature’s curt rebuke. Yet, medieval writers knew that stones drop with fire from the sky, emerge through the subterranean lovemaking of the elements, tumble along riverbeds from Eden, partner with the masons who build worlds with them. Such motion suggests an ecological enmeshment and an almost creaturely mineral life.

Although geological time can leave us reeling, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen argues that stone’s endurance is also an invitation to apprehend the world in other than human terms. Never truly inert, stone poses a profound challenge to modernity’s disenchantments. Its agency undermines the human desire to be separate from the environment, a bifurcation that renders nature “out there,” a mere resource for recreation, consumption, and exploitation.

Written with great verve and elegance, this pioneering work is notable not only for interweaving the medieval and the modern but also as a major contribution to ecotheory. Comprising chapters organized by concept —“Geophilia,” “Time,” “Force,” and “Soul”—Cohen seamlessly brings together a wide range of topics including stone’s potential to transport humans into nonanthropocentric scales of place and time, the “petrification” of certain cultures, the messages fossils bear, the architecture of Bordeaux and Montparnasse, Yucca Mountain and nuclear waste disposal, the ability of stone to communicate across millennia in structures like Stonehenge, and debates over whether stones reproduce and have souls.

Showing that what is often assumed to be the most lifeless of substances is, in its own time, restless and forever in motion, Stone fittingly concludes by taking us to Iceland⎯a land that, writes the author, “reminds us that stone like water is alive, that stone like water is transient.”


Emphasizing sustainability, balance, and the natural, green dominates our thinking about ecology like no other color. What about the catastrophic, the disruptive, the inaccessible, and the excessive? What of the ocean’s turbulence, the fecundity of excrement, the solitude of an iceberg, multihued contaminations? Prismatic Ecology moves beyond the accustomed green readings of ecotheory and maps a colorful world of ecological possibility.

In a series of linked essays that span place, time, and discipline, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen brings together writers who illustrate the vibrant worlds formed by colors. Organized by the structure of a prism, each chapter explores the coming into existence of nonanthropocentric ecologies. “Red” engages sites of animal violence, apocalyptic emergence, and activism; “Maroon” follows the aurora borealis to the far North and beholds in its shimmering alternative modes of world composition; “Chartreuse” is a meditation on postsustainability and possibility within sublime excess; “Grey” is the color of the undead; “Ultraviolet” is a potentially lethal force that opens vistas beyond humanly known nature.

Featuring established and emerging scholars from varying disciplines, this volume presents a collaborative imagining of what a more-than-green ecology offers. While highlighting critical approaches not yet common within ecotheory, the contributions remain diverse and cover a range of topics including materiality, the inhuman, and the agency of objects. By way of color, Cohen guides readers through a reflection of an essentially complex and disordered universe and demonstrates the spectrum as an unfinishable totality, always in excess of what a human perceives.

Contributors: Stacy Alaimo, U of Texas at Arlington; Levi R. Bryant, Collin College; Lowell Duckert, West Virginia U; Graham Harman, American U in Cairo; Bernd Herzogenrath, Goethe U of Frankfurt; Serenella Iovino, U of Turin, Italy; Eileen A. Joy; Robert McRuer, George Washington U; Tobias Menely, Miami U; Steve Mentz, St. John’s U, New York City; Timothy Morton, Rice U; Vin Nardizzi, U of British Columbia; Serpil Oppermann, Hacettepe U, Ankara; Margaret Ronda, Rutgers U; Will Stockton, Clemson U; Allan Stoekl, Penn State U; Ben Woodard; Julian Yates, U of Delaware.

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