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Jeffrey Cohen
Works at George Washington University
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Jeffrey Cohen

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Last class of the spring semester taught. We lingered over the epilogue to The Tempest, especially all that hinges upon a two syllable word: "And my ending is despair / Unless ..." The course navigated some rough literary waters, texts of catastrophe and apocalypse. The three GW suicides and the accidental death that followed haunted the course, as did a variety of physical and mental health challenges among my students. I closed by telling them that I have been teaching at GW for a long time now, and in thinking back to my first version of this medieval literature course at least I knew then that seniors were graduating to a world more welcoming and full of possibility than the one we possess now, which is unkind and revels in spite. Young people are being made to pay a high price by corporations (including universities) obsessed with swift, cheap resource extraction and the harvesting of maximum profit with a minimum of ethical regard. I told them that they deserve much better, and that I was sorry. I asked them not to lose sight of the fact that one day they should be in charge, and that I am looking forward to that day, because I have a faith in them that I lack in my contemporaries, who've fucked things up unforgivably.
I asked them to hold on to that two syllable hinge word, that ward against endings and despair, "Unless..."
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Jeffrey Cohen

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Last chance to RSVP.
Please join us Tuesday, April 29th for a one-day symposium: From History to Science in the Early Modern Atlantic. The symposium will explore the role of indigenous people, ethnographers, and naturalists in the Spanish Atlanti...
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More #shakeass14
by J J Cohen Steve Mentz blogs . Rob Wakeman Storifies .
by J J Cohen Steve Mentz blogs. Rob Wakeman Storifies.
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SAA 2014
awkward group perambulation by J J Cohen [ support BABEL and read Karl  on Gerald before glancing at this] Just back from the Shakespeare Association of America annual meeting in St Louis -- or, as the enviable hashtag declares, #shakeass14 (and follow that...
awkward group perambulation by J J Cohen [support BABEL and read Karl on Gerald before glancing at this] Just back from the Shakespeare Association of America annual meeting in St Louis -- or, as the enviable hashtag declares...
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Jeffrey Cohen

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KZOO.
by EILEEN A. JOY It's hard to believe that the Norman Kingdom of Sicily inspired Dolce and Gabbana's Fall/Winter 2014 collection, but it did [with no mention of Game of Thrones, no less, but ... come on!]. And it's hard to be...
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ABANDON HOPE. In the New York Times today, Simon Critchley writes of how hope ruins us: our vain expectation that things will get better, because something good might happen that we haven't foreseen, is our surest path to self-extinction. He writes that "by clinging to hope, we make the suffering worse." In the magazine section of the same newspaper, meanwhile, eco-activist Paul Kingsnorth notes his despair at what this world has become, and his turn from activism to opening spaces where people can mourn for what has been irremediably lost. He insists that he has only given up false hope. A quote from the article: "“Whenever I hear the word ‘hope’ these days, I reach for my whiskey bottle,” [Kingsnorth] told an interviewer in 2012. “It seems to me to be such a futile thing. What does it mean? What are we hoping for? And why are we reduced to something so desperate? Surely we only hope when we are powerless?”"

Despair springs eternal. Or, no matter what we do, we are ruined already. 
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Killer day. Dropped the family at the bus to NYC and then did nothing but work on Elemental Ecocriticism, due to University of Minnesota Press in two weeks. The essays are in great shape (though they do need to be fine tooth combed one more time just to make sure we caught everything that needs catching). The volume's introduction turned out to be far more substantial than anticipated and is therefore not quite complete. Lowell Duckert and I drafted the main part together, came up with "Eleven Principles of the Elements," brainstormed what to include under each, and then split them. Today I have near-final drafts of my five; they need a little more tinkering but are nearly there. The eleventh principle of the elements, in case you are curious, has no text following it, just a picture. Here it is.
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I am attempting to stop reading, an endeavor at which I keep failing. I did buy only one book at SAA ... but it was a great one, a volume I've been hungering to read in its entirety for quite some time. Drew Daniel's The Melancholy Assemblage accompanied me back on my flight to DC from St Louis. I'd read the epilogue already, and now I'm on page 66, and all I can say is, WOW. If you'd like to know how the new materialism intersects with theories of embodiment and deleuzian assemblages, read it now. BONUS: the prose style is drop-your-jaw fine. I found myself underlining many sentences just because I wish I could write like that.
http://fordhampress.com/index.php/the-meanchoy-assembage-paperback.html
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From the writing desk, Principle 3 of the "Eleven Principles of the Elements." High school chemistry and physics teacher Mr Passeretti, who resembled Christopher Lloyd and one day just walked away from our class and never came back because he was done, might or might not be proud (it all comes down to Heisenberg).

3. The periodic table has no period.
Diagram as you will. Compose the chart of four divisions, but ether and phlogiston will deprive your earth, air, fire, water of neat quadricameral sovereignty. Suppose the elements are all that rages outdoors, but the house is drafty and the roof leaks and your home is made of wood and stone anyway. Table your chemicals into eighteen columns and seven rows, but you will require a double tier below and supplementary denotation for isotopes. A taxonomy of atomic weights and shared properties is one possible arrangement among many, imposing some separations where overlaps and entanglements flourish. The table hung upon the school wall is a work of aesthetics and formatting practicalities as much as chemical affinities. Some of its elements are natural, some primordial, some synthetic. Some will possess a lifespan of eons, while others are so ephemeral as to remain unconfirmed.

The elements resist enduring partition, spatial or historical. Preferring monsters over purebreds, they rise from any table upon which they have been pinioned. Elements are finite: bounded and, in their own way, quite mortal. But finitude does not convey compliance, does not mean that they do not yearn for extension (the force of love) or the breaking of confines in the hope of ardent fragments (strife). Like fire leaping or drenching water, air that rises or earth that clings, the elements press insistently against boundary, separations that spark insistent couplings, trajectories of push-pull that trigger slow or rapid spin. The table of the elements is an alphabet without end, a liquid lexicon, a plane that apprehended in its vibrancy spirals into more complicated connections and possibilities. Elemental words are therefore stormy vortices of cultural and material intermixing, an open-ended archive of ecological enmeshment: tornado (Latin thunder plus Spanish twisting), monsoon (Portuguese by way of Arabic, for the season’s change), hurricane (from the language of the Taino, designating the Arawak storm god), derecho (Spanish for destruction’s straight line), tsunami (Japanese, a harbor-wave), typhoon (Portugese, Arabic and dialectical Chinese swirled into whirlwind). These words of wind, whorl and water yearn to be metaphors, linguistic conveyance devices. Metaphor thereby becomes matterphor, a linguistic-material coil, word and substance transported, of language but not reducible to mere terms, agentic and thick with elementality. The elemental table offers a helical interfacing of world and words, repeated and vibrant opening of love-strife and motor of perceptual gyre. Unsatisfied with stabilities like spheres or solitudes like withdrawn shards, the elements whirl, unremitting itineracy, etceteracy, invitation to conjoinings without end.

[Tis all part of this massive project: http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2014/03/elemental-ecocriticism-draft.html ]
by J J Cohen Greetings from a snowy DC, where March was in like a lion and also out like a lion. I don't mean "out" in a queer sense because that would dignify the snow of the moment with an interestingness that it does not...
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Professor of English and Director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, George Washington University, Washington DC
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Jeffrey Cohen's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
Get Out Your Dolce & Gabbana: Rogues, Faking It, Worlding, Impossibl...
www.inthemedievalmiddle.com

by EILEEN A. JOY It's hard to believe that the Norman Kingdom of Sicily inspired Dolce and Gabbana's Fall/Winter 2014 collection, but it did

Blaise of Parma (c. 1347-1416), the Doctor Diabolicus, a posthuman, mate...
www.inthemedievalmiddle.com

by KARL STEEL Doctor Devil. From Prize Comics #22. First, have a look at BABEL'S Spring Fundraiser if you haven't yet. And look again if you

Works Cited: Humanities scholarship is incredibly relevant, and that mak...
nataliacecire.blogspot.com

Man, two of them today, one in 3am Magazine (h/t Robin James) and one in the relentlessly regressive WSJ (remember this guy, whose cranky pa

This is Not My (or, Our) Time, so Please Take Ecstasy With Me: The Neces...
www.inthemedievalmiddle.com

by EILEEN JOY for Jeffrey Cohen, Michael O'Rourke, and Karl Steel, scholars-in-arms and also for Carolyn Dinshaw As we navigate the ruins of

I Regret to Inform You That My Wedding to Captain Von Trapp Has Been Can...
www.mcsweeneys.net

Dear friends, family, and Austrian nobility, Captain Von Trapp and I are very sorry to inform you that we no longer plan to wed. We offer ou

Being There
medievalmeetsworld.blogspot.com

Actually, Sts. Cosmo & Damian I wonder if this is how we might have appeared to her, two still strange creatures - high up, transfixed, simi

Parchment, Echo, Nature?, Epochs?, Bristles: Contact Ecologies, 2013
medievalmeetsworld.blogspot.com

Yes, again.I return to Brueghel's Tower of Babel after a conference, this time, in the echo-chamber of the upper reaches of the Tower, whenc

A nervous moment in a Chaucer class, solved.
www.inthemedievalmiddle.com

by KARL STEEL We've all faced and perhaps all been the nervous presenter. Today I hit upon what might be the perfect solution. I suggested t

The Canon Anew
www.gwmemsi.com

The Canon Anew Friday, October 25 Rome Hall 771 801 22nd St NW 3pm Free and open to the public "The Canon Anew" is an event featuring GW Eng

Up Next: The Future We Want / Burn After Reading
www.oliphauntbooks.com

The Future We Want/Burn After Reading Edited by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Eileen A. Joy, and Myra Seaman a tête-bêche double-volume co-published

ECOLOGY WITHOUT NATURE: Julian Yates on ANT at Rice
ecologywithoutnature.blogspot.com

“Outstanding.” —Slavoj Zizek, In Defense of Lost Causes “Dark ecology has the potential to be the punk rock or experimental pop of ecologica

ITM Moderation Policy
www.inthemedievalmiddle.com

by J J Cohen It has been a while since we have spoken about the blog's comment moderation policy, so I thought it would be useful to remind

Really Real
medievalmeetsworld.blogspot.com

Courbet, River Landscape (private collection!) I'd forgotten my camera and kind of cursed doing so and kind of tried to love the freedom you

Lithographia
danieljdavies.blogspot.com

Around a couple of months ago I went to see the Vikings! exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland and was struck dumb by a standing sto

Destabilizing the Jenny McCarthy Public Health Industrial Complex
www.theatlantic.com

Giving the anti-vaccine advocate a platform is dangerous.

Some Medieval Dogs to Haunt David Brooks and His Modern "Mutts"
www.inthemedievalmiddle.com

by KARL STEEL Because Julia Carrie Wong has already destroyed David Brooks' "A Nation of Barrel Fish Mutts," my dog post can be nothing but

Middle Ages in the Modern World: Canadian Heraldry
www.inthemedievalmiddle.com

by JONATHAN HSY Greetings from the UK! I've arrived in London after an excellent conference in St Andrews on The Middle Ages in the Modern W

Briefly Noted: A Multilingual Doorframe in Istanbul
www.inthemedievalmiddle.com

by KARL STEEL On Facebook, my coblogger JONATHAN HSY (whose recent post on Canadian Heraldry you should read) links to fine post by linguist

ECOLOGY WITHOUT NATURE: Some New Essays
ecologywithoutnature.blogspot.com

The sleeve notes to Blood Wedding's A Survey of Locked Modes will soon be out, with of course the album, which is just terrific. I'm writing

On refusing unpaid work
progressivegeographies.com

I was recently asked to write an entry on a topic I'm very interested in, for another multi-volume Encyclopedia. I've written about my doubt

Reasonable price, good view from the ocean front rooms, Acadia close by, excellent breakfast as part of price. The nature cruise that leaves from the hotel dock is also very good.
Public - 8 months ago
reviewed 8 months ago
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