Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (review)


In this landmark book, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen combines and culminates the two strands of his substantial scholarly work: ecology and Medieval and Early Modern studies. Stone is ambitiously synthetic and syncretic, framed not as critical exegesis but “a thought experiment, attempting to discern in the most mundane of substances a liveliness” (6). Rather than developing an ecological theory and applying it to particular texts, or practicing an ecocriticism that reads nature “in” texts, Cohen attempts to stage something like a symbiotic textual petric performance: “To tell a story with stone is intensely to inhabit that preposition with, to move from solitary individuations to ecosystems, environments, shared agencies, and companionate properties” (11-12). This conjoining of human and stone produces a “monstrous child of the meeting of incompatible scales, queer progeny of impossible taxonomic breach” that Cohen calls “geophilia,” defined as “the lithic in the creaturely and the lively in the stone” (20).

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