Friday, May 11, 2012

NOW PUBLISHED: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral


Diamonds are forever, the saying goes. The geological time that compresses carbon into adamant and eventually a diamond crystal is almost inconceivably long; the millions of years that it takes to produce a diamond make our conception of period, or even Fernand Braudel’s longue duree, seem impossibly short. As Manuel De Landa notes in his discussion of non-organic life in A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, periods are simply local strata in larger “glacial” temporalities that include the flows of lava, biomass, genes, memes, norms. And yet our restratifications of those flows do possess a historicity according to specific logics of production. Diamonds are forever, but the social life of the blood diamond that comes from modern Sierra Leone differs from that of the bloody diamond that comes from Sir John Mandeville’s medieval India, retrieved by a swooping eagle from the bottom of a canyon on a slab of animal meat thrown by the eagle’s handler. Each presumes different modes of supply, labor, exchange, and even imaginative possibility. How, then, do nonhuman lives ask us both to dispense with human history and to recognize the impossibility of doing so?
~Jonathan Gil Harris, "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Twenty Questions"

It is not normal today to think of “inanimate objects” as possessing a lively capacity to do things to us and with us, although it is quite normal to experience them as such. Every day we encounter the power of possessions, tools, clutter, toys, commodities, keepsakes, trash. Why this tendency to forget thing-power, to overlook the creative contributions of nonhumans and underhear their calls?
~Jane Bennett, "Powers of the Hoard: Further Notes on the Material Agency of Things"

Oliphaunt Books, an imprint of punctum books, is THRILLED to announce the publication of Jeffrey Cohen et alia's Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects, the essay collection that grew out of the symposium by the same name hosted by GWU's Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute last March, and featuring essays by Valerie Allen, Jane Bennett, Eileen Joy, Sharon Kinoshita, Julia Reinhard Lupton, Peggy McCracken, Kellie Robertson, Karl Steel, and Julian Yates, with Response Essays by Lowell Duckert, Nedda Mehdizadeh, and Jonathan Gil Harris. You can download the book for FREE or purchase the print edition [for a mere $17.00] HERE.

Speaking of purchasing the book, may I make a gentle plea? Although you may, of course, download the book for free [punctum books is an open-access press and we're behind the open-access movement all the way], will you please consider buying one [or two! then give that one away! send books into the world!] copies of the book? If you do, you will be making an important contribution to punctum books which will go a long way toward helping us with our publishing venture: by which I mean, you will be helping us to publish more authors, to foster more work, and to further promote, as we say at punctum, radically creative modes of inquiry and writing across a whimsical para-humanities assemblage. While open-access publishing does herald a brave new world of seemingly wide open, free access to what I hope will be a larger, more capacious, more generously imagined, and more vibrant field of intellectual and cultural work within the humanities, it is not really "free" in the sense of the immense amount of labor and time that goes into each individual book. 

Many many many many hours and drops of sweat and care [and the hands of many unpaid assistants, some former students of mine, some current students of mine, some simply the most generous people imaginable -- grad. students at other institutions, post-graduates without jobs in the academy, other professors, and independent artists -- who have volunteered to assist the work of punctum books] go into each one of our books, and it has to be said that we also still believe in the book. In the future, when the power goes out and the last drop of gasoline has been squeezed into the last gasoline can, we'll start writing letters again, and we'll have our books. Celluloid film, reel to reel tape, cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, thumb drives, I could go on: friends, these are the media of the days gone by, but do you know what remains? The book. We still want it. We still have to have it. Information wants to be free, and by golly, I'll give it to you for free. But if you also want a book, we'll continue to make those as well. And to make them beautiful. You look gorgeous to me, and so does this book. The medievalists are the humanists of the future! Please do your part to help me make that a reality.

And now: carry on.


Viator said...

Grand! I've been looking forward to this since Jeffrey's presentation on "the secret anguish of rocks" at K'zoo last year. I'll be purchasing one for me, and possibly one for a geologist friend of mine. Rare interdisciplinary opportunity for English and one of the harder of the hard sciences.

Eileen Joy said...

Cheers to you, Viator!