Animal, Mineral, Vegetable: Ethics and Objects (Oliphaunt / punctum press, 2012). Editor.
Animal, Vegetable, Mineral examines what happens when we cease to assume that only humans exert agency. Through a careful examination of medieval, early modern and contemporary lifeworlds, these essays collectively argue against ecological anthropocentricity. Sheep, wolves, camels, flowers, chairs, magnets, landscapes, refuse and gems are more than mere objects. They act; they withdraw; they make demands; they connect within lively networks that might foster a new humanism, or that might proceed with indifference towards human affairs. Through what ethics do we respond to these activities and forces? To what futures do these creatures and objects invite us, especially when they appear within the texts and cultures of the “distant” past?
In Medieval Identity Machines, Jeffrey J. Cohen examines the messiness, permeability, and perversity of medieval bodies, arguing that human identity always exceeds the limits of the flesh. Combining critical theory with a rigorous reading of medieval texts, Cohen asks if the category “human” isn’t too small to contain the multiplicity of identities. As such, this book is the first to argue for a “posthuman” Middle Ages and to make extensive use of the philosophical writings of Gilles Deleuze to rethink the medieval.
Among the topics that Cohen covers are the passionate bond between men and horses in chivalric training; the interrelation of demons, celibacy, and colonialism in an Anglo-Saxon saint’s life; Lancelot’s masochism as envisioned by Chrétien de Troyes; the voice of thunder echoing from Margery Kempe; and the fantasies that sustained some dominant conceptions of race.
This tour of identity—in all its fragility and diffusion—illustrates the centrality of the Middle Ages to theory as it enhances our understanding of self, embodiment, and temporality in the medieval world.
Thinking the Limits of the Body. State University of New York Press, Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art series, 2002. Editor, with Gail Weiss.
The Postcolonial Middle Ages. Palgrave, New Middle Ages series, 2000. Editor.
A monster lurks at the heart of medieval identity, and this book seeks him out. Reading a set of medieval texts in which giants and dismemberment figure prominently, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen brings a critical psychoanalytic perspective to bear on the question of identity formation-particularly masculine identity-in narrative representation. The giant emerges here as an intimate stranger, a monster who stands at the limits of selfhood.
Arguing that in the romance tradition of late fourteenth-century England, identity is inscribed on sexed bodies only through the agency of a monster, Cohen looks at the giant as the masculine body writ large. In the giant he sees an uncanny figure, absolutely other and curiously familiar, that serves to define the boundaries of masculine embodiment. Philosophically compelling, the book is also a philologically rigorous inquiry into the phenomenon of giants and giant-slaying in various texts from the Anglo-Saxon period to late Middle English, including Beowulf, Chrétien de Troyes’s The Knight and the Lion, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, several works by Chaucer, Sir Gowther, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and more.
A significant contribution to our understanding of medieval culture, Of Giants also provides surprising insights into questions about the psychosocial work of representation in its key location for the individual: the construction of gender and the social formation of the boundaries of gender identification. It will engage students of the Middle Ages as well as those interested in discourses of the body, social identity, and the grotesque.
In viewing the monstrous body as a metaphor for the cultural body, the contributors to Monster Theory consider beasts, demons, freaks, and fiends as symbolic expressions of cultural unease that pervade a society and shape its collective behavior. Through a historical sampling of monsters, these essays argue that our fascination for the monstrous testifies to our continued desire to explore difference and prohibition. Contributors: Mary Baine Campbell, Brandeis U; David L. Clark, McMaster U; Frank Grady, U of Missouri, St. Louis; David A. Hedrich Hirsch, U of Illinois; Lawrence D. Kritzman, Dartmouth College; Kathleen Perry Long, Cornell U; Stephen Pender; Allison Pingree, Harvard U; Anne Lake Prescott, Barnard College; John O'Neill, York U; William Sayers, George Washington U; Michael Uebel, U of Virginia; Ruth Waterhouse.
BOOK CHAPTERS AND JOURNAL ARTICLES
“All Things.” Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects, ed. Jeffrey J. Cohen (New York: Oliphaunt / punctum books, 2012) 1-8.
“The Promise of Monsters.” The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous, ed. Asa Simon Mittman and Peter Dendle (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2012) 447-62. Published in an earlier form as “La promesa de los monstruos,” De Animales y Monstruos (Barcelona: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2012) 91-101.
“Preface: Losing Your Head.” Heads Will Roll: Decapitation in the Medieval and Early Modern Imagination, ed. Larissa Tracy and Jeff Massey (Leiden: Brill, 2012) vii-ix.
“Novelty.” postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies 2 (2011): 239-41. Co-written with Cary Howie.
“Stories of Stone.” postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies 1 (2010): 56-63.
“Pilgrimages, Travel Writing, and the Medieval Exotic.” The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Literature in English, ed. Elaine Treharne and Greg Walker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) 611-28.
“Time out of Memory.” The Post-Historical Middle Ages, ed. Sylvia Federico and Elizabeth Scala (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) 37-61.
“Introduction: Infinite Realms.” Cultural Diversity in the British Middle Ages: Archipelago, Island, England, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) 1-16.
“Green Children from Another World, or The Archipelago in England.” Cultural Diversity in the British Middle Ages: Archipelago, Island, England, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) 75-94.
“An Unfinished Conversation about Glowing Green Bunnies.” Afterword to Queering the Non/Human, ed. Noreen Giffney and Myra J. Hird (Ashgate, 2008) 363-75.
"Inventing with Animals in the Middle Ages." Engaging with Nature: Essays on the Natural World in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Barbara A. Hanawalt and Lisa J. Kiser (University of Notre Dame Press, 2008) 39-62.
"Afterword: Intertemporality." Cultural Studies of the Modern Middle Ages, ed. Eileen A. Joy, Myra J. Seaman, Kimberly K. Bell, and Mary K. Ramsey (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) 295-300.
"The Ruins of Identity." Chapter from Of Giants reprinted in The Postmodern Beowulf: A Critical Casebook, ed. Eileen A. Joy, Mary K. Ramsey and Bruce M. Gilchrist (West Virginia University Press, European Middle Ages series, 2007) 345-81.
"Pink Vectors of Deleuze: Queer Theory and Inhumanism." In "The Becoming-Deleuzoguattarian of Queer Studies," a special issue of the journal Rhizomes ed. Michael O'Rourke (Rhizomes 11/12 ). Co-written with Todd Ramlow.
"Postcolonialism." Chaucer: An Oxford Guide, ed. Steven Ellis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) 448-62.
"Kyte oute yugilment: An Introduction to Medieval Noise," Exemplaria 16.2 (2004): 267-76. "Medieval Noise" is a cluster of four essays on nonlinguistic sound that I guest edited for the journal.
"The Flow of Blood in Medieval Norwich." Speculum 78 (2004): 26-65.
"Introduction: Bodies at the Limit," Thinking the Limits of the Body, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Gail Weiss (SUNY Press, 2002), 1-10.
"The Inhuman Circuit," Thinking the Limits of the Body, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Gail Weiss (SUNY Press, 2002), 167-186.
"The Postcolonial Jew: Trauma, Race and Nation c.1144." Incontrare i Mostri: Variazoni sul tema nella letteratura e cultura inglese e angloamericana, ed. Maria Teresa Chialant (Naples: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 2002), 31-43.
"On Saracen Enjoyment: Some Fantasies of Race in Late Medieval France and England," Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 31.1 (2001):111-44.
"Introduction: Midcolonial," The Postcolonial Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (St. Martin's Press, 2000), 1-17.
"Hybrids, Monsters, Borderlands: The Bodies of Gerald of Wales," The Postcolonial Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (St. Martin's Press, 2000), 85-104.
"Dwindling Masculinity in Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas," Masculinities in Chaucer, ed. Peter Beidler (Boydell & Brewer, 1998), 143-155.
"Masoch/Lancelotism," New Literary History 28.2 (1997): 231-60.
"Introduction: Becoming and Unbecoming," Becoming Male in the Middle Ages , ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Bonnie Wheeler (Garland Publishing, 1997), vii-xx.
"Gowther among the Dogs: Becoming Inhuman c.1400," Becoming Male in the Middle Ages , ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Bonnie Wheeler (Garland Publishing, 1997), 219-44.
"The Armour of an Alienating Identity," Arthuriana 6.4 (1996): 1-24. Published previously in hypertext as "Medieval Masculinities: Heroism, Sanctity, and Gender," Interscripta (November-December 1993, revised October 1995)
"Preface: In a Time of Monsters," Monster Theory: Reading Culture, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (University of Minnesota Press, 1996), vii-xiii.
"Monster Culture (Seven Theses)," Monster Theory: Reading Culture, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 3-25.
"The Limits of Knowing: Monsters and the Regulation of Medieval Popular Culture," Medieval Folklore III (1994): 1-37. Published in revised form as "The Order of Monsters: Monster Lore and Medieval Narrative Traditions," Telling Tales: Medieval Narratives and the Folk Tradition, ed. Francesca Canadé Sautman, Diana Conchado, and Giuseppe Carlo Di Scipio (St Martin's Press, 1998), 37-58.
"Decapitation and Coming of Age: Constructing Masculinity and the Monstrous," The Arthurian Yearbook III (1993): 171-190.
"Old English Literature and the Work of Giants," Comitatus 24 (1993): 1-32.
"The Use of Monsters and the Middle Ages," SELIM (Revista de la Sociedad Española de Lengua y Literatura Inglesa Medieval / Journal of Old and Middle English Studies of Spain), no. 2 (1992): 47-69.
BOOK REVIEWS, ENCYCLOPEDIA ENTRIES, AND LETTERS
Review of Anthony Bale, The Jew in the Medieval Book: English Antisemitisms, 1350-1500 in Studies in the Age of Chaucer (2008) 340-43
"Animals, sexual symbolism of." Entry for the Gale Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender, ed. Fedwa Malti-Douglas (Macmillan Reference, 2008)
"Postcolonial Theory." Entry for Women and Gender in Medieval Europe: An Encyclopedia, ed. Margaret Schaus (New York: Routledge, 2007) 660-661.
Review of Peter Haidu, The Subject Medieval/Modern: Text and Governance in the Middle Ages in L'Esprit Créatur 46.3 (2006) 114.
"Monstrous Beauty" (review of Debra Higgs Strickland, Saracens, Demons, and Jews: Making Monsters in Medieval Art), Patterns of Prejudice 39.3 (2005) 343-45.
Review of Kathryn L. Lynch, ed. Chaucer's Cultural Geography, Studies in the Age of Chaucer 26 (2004) 409-11.
Review of Mark Thornton Burnett, Constructing 'Monsters' in Shakespearean Drama and Early Modern Culture, Shakespeare Quarterly 55.1 (2004): 98-100.
"Race." Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Vol. 14: First Supplement, ed. William Chester Jordan (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2004) 515-18.
Review of Peggy McCracken, The Curse of Eve, the Wound of the Hero: Blood, Gender, and Medieval Literature, H-France Book Reviews, December 2003 (www3.uakron.edu/hfrance/reviews/cohen2.html)
Review of Charles Ross, The Custom of the Castle: from Malory to Macbeth, Shakespeare Quarterly 50.3 (1999): 392-93.
Review of Claire Sponsler, Drama and Resistance: Bodies, Goods, and Theatricality in Late Medieval England, Arthuriana 8.3 (1998): 100-101.
"Monstrosity, Geographical." Trade, Travel, and Exploration in the Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia, ed. John Block Friedman and Kristen Mossler Figg (Garland Publishing, 2000): 415-16.
Review of Michael J. Curley, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Speculum 73 (1998): 162-63.
Review of Feminist Approaches to the Body in Medieval Literature (ed. Linda Lomperis and Sarah Stanbury), Bryn Mawr Medieval Review 94.4.6.
Letter to the editor on “post-disciplinarity," PMLA 111.2 (1996): 83.