Sunday, April 24, 2016

Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman reviewed in Choice

by J J Cohen

A nice, quick review of Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman appears in the latest issue of Choice magazine (under "Philosophy" -- that is a first for me!)

Cohen (English and Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, George Washington Univ.) explores the unrelenting vitality of the inert, i.e., stone, and challenges the human desire to view it as external to and separate from humans. He postulates that stones are never completely inert; they have interior and exterior lives, like humans, which is an assertion that challenges the human tendency to view stone as “other” and “natural,” two categories of existence that engender exploitation, commodification, and consumption. Cohen hypothesizes that rocks, stones, minerals, and gems possess inner lives and agency, as revealed by their use in medieval texts, that are useful in solving human problems and understanding human interconnectedness with nature. Punctuated by and organized with clichés, metaphors, and concepts used commonly to reference stones in human experience, the text consists of an explanatory, reflective introduction; seven chapters that explore sociocultural, political, literary, geological, and personal history in an effort to uncover the puissance of stone and consider human experience in non-human terms; and immensely useful notes, bibliography, and index. Rendered eloquently, Cohen’s text is a useful attempt at crafting a unique theoretical framework for challenging assumptions about the differences between humans and nature. 
--H. Doss, Wilbur Wright College, City Colleges of Chicago 
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty; general readers. 

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