Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The B Tour continues

by J J Cohen

Two weeks ago, Berlin. I leave Thursday morning for Buffalo, where I'm giving a talk sponsored by the Medieval / Early Modern Student Association and the Center for Psychoanalysis. (From Buffalo I am flying straight to St. Louis for the program committee meeting of the NCS, but since there is no B here I will not mention that diversion). Next week we have a brief family trip to Bethany Beach ... and the week after I am giving a public lecture, with live Spanish translation, at MACBA in Barcelona.

This is what happens when you are a B-list speaker.

Below, my handout for Buffalo. Just to give you a taste.


Jeffrey J. Cohen
The Sex Life of Stone: Dreaming the Lithic in the Middle Ages

Some key terms
Posthumanism, critical ecology, anthropocentricity, non/human, bios (biopolitics) and zōē (zōēpolitics?), agalmatophilia, lapidaries, adamas, diamaund/adamaunt

“The use of the word ‘non/human’ in this book is both deliberate and precise; deliberate in our employment of ‘non/human’ rather than ‘human/nonhuman’ and precise in our strategic planning of the slash between, as well as, making it part of ‘non’ and ‘human.’ Recognising the trace of the nonhuman in every figuration of the Human also means to be, live, act or occupy the category of the Human … ‘non-’ illustrates all too well how norms operate through, while necessitating, a relation fabricated on negation, denial, resistance, and rejection … [The slash’s] positioning marks out the impossibility of applying a hermetic seal to the distinction between – however temporary and shifting – what gets to count as
Human and nonhuman.” -- Noreen Giffney and Myra J. Hird, “Introduction,” Queering the Non/Human 5 -6.

“Ethics is not simply about the subsequent consequences of our ways of interacting with the world, as if effect followed cause in a linear chain of events, but rather ethics is about mattering, about the entangled materialisations we help enact and are a part of bringing about, including new configurations, new subjectivities, new possibilities – even the smallest cut matters.” -- Karen Barad, “Queer Causation and the Ethics of Mattering,” Queering the Non/Human 336

“The animal is not classified according to scientific taxonomies, nor is it interpreted metaphorically. It is rather taken in its radical immanence as a body that can do a great deal, as a field of forces, a quantity of speed and intensity, and a cluster of capabilities. This is posthuman bodily materialism laying the ground for bioegalitarian ethics.” – Rosi Braidotti, “Animals, Anomalies, and Inorganic Others,” PMLA 124.2 (2009) 528.

“To undermine the false dichotomy of Nature and history … scholarship must research the ways in which queerness, in its variegated forms, is installed in biological substance as such and is not simply a blip in cultural history … If anything, life is catastrophic, monstrous, nonholistic, and dislocated, not organic, coherent, or authoritative. Queering ecological criticism will involve engaging with these qualities.” – Timothy Morton, “Queer Ecology,” PMLA 124.2 (2009) 273-74, 275.

“The quarantines of matter and life encourage us to ignore the vitality of matter and the lively powers of material formations” (vii) … [Ethics is relational in ways that exceed the merely human, constituting a] “complex set of relays between moral contents, aesthetic-affective styles, and public moods” lived out within a “landscape of affect” [affect here denotes an impersonal, nonsubjective yet vivacious materialism] (xii-xiii) … [Life becomes a] “restless activeness, a destructive-creative force-presence that does not fully coincide with any specific body” (54) -- Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things

“According to the most ancient histories of the Irish, Cesura, the grand-daughter of Noah, hearing that the Flood was about to take place, decided to flee in a boat with her companions to the farthest islands of the West, where no man had yet lived. She hoped the vengeance of the Flood would not reach to a place where no sin had been committed. All the ships of her company were wrecked. Her ship alone, carrying three men and fifty women, survived. It put in at the Irish coast, by chance, one year before the Flood. All the same, in spite of her cleverness, and, for a woman, commendable astuteness in seeking to avoid evil, she did not succeed in putting off the general, not to say universal, disaster” – Gerald of Wales, The History and Topography of Ireland

“Given that women can have only so many children in their lifetimes and that they must invest much more in each child, the reproductive consequences faced by a woman for failing to discriminate between dads and cads are very large … A good way to screen for men who are simultaneously able and willing to invest is to demand an expensive gift … known as courtship gifts or nuptial gifts in evolutionary biology (Yes, females of other species demand to have these gifts before they have sex with males) … Diamonds make excellent courtship gifts … because they are simultaneously very expensive and lack intrinsic value. No man (or woman) can be inherently interested in diamonds; you cannot drive them, you cannot live in them, you cannot do anything with them. Any man who would buy diamonds for a woman must be interested in making an investment in her … Their beauty lies in their inherent uselessness … Such extravagant gifts have the added merit for men of deterring “gold diggers.” -- Satoshi Kanazawa, “Why are Diamonds a Girl’s Best Friend?” Psychology Today May 29 2008

There is much ‘art’ in the natural world, from the moment there is sexual selection … all in excess of mere survival … affirm[ing] the excessiveness of the body and the natural order, their capacity to bring out in each other what surprises, what is of no use but nevertheless attracts and appeals … They attest to the artistic impact of sexual attraction, the becoming-other that seduction entails … a fundamentally dynamic, awkward, mal-adaption that enables the production of the frivolous, the unnecessary, the pleasing, the sensory for its own sake. – Elizabeth Grosz, Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth 7

Vertu: “power, force, energy, vigor, vitality, life, efficacy, magic, grace, divinity, endurance, might, chivalric valor, dominion.” (Middle English Dictionary)

Alecterius is a gem also called 'cockstone,' and it is shining white, like a dull rock crystal. It is extracted from the crop of a cock after more than four years; and some say more than nine, and that one extracted from a feeble cock is even better. The largest one of these ever found was about the size of a bean. The stone has the power to arouse sexual desire, to make one pleasing and constant, victorious and distinguished; it confers the gift of oratory, and makes friends agree. And held under the tongue it quenches or mitigates thirst. This last is a matter of experience.” -- Albertus Magnus, Book of Minerals 2.2.1

The genuineness of the stone (gerachidem) may be tested in this way: while wearing the stone [a man] smears his whole body with honey and exposes [himself] to flies and wasps, and if they do not touch him, the stone is genuine; and if he lays aside the stone, at once flies and wasps fall upon the honey and suck it up. And they say that if the stone is held in the mouth it confers [the ability] to judge opinions and thoughts. And it is reported that the wearer is made agreeable and pleasing.” -- Albertus Magnus, Book of Minerals 2.2.7

“They groweth togodres, the maule and the femaule. And they beth noryshed with the dew of hevene, and they engendreth comunely and bryngeth forth other smale dyamaundes, that multeplieth and groweth all yeres.” – Mandeville’s Travels (Egerton version)

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