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Discussing Stone and Emotion

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Students, faculty, and members of the public gathered on February 17 for a Humanities Colloquium talk on "Feeling Stone" by Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, director of the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies and professor of English at The George Washington University.

Dr. Cohen points out that humans have long forged emotional connections to stone for aesthetic and spiritual, as well as practical, purposes. From cave paintings on rock to the mysterious monoliths of Stonehenge, from monuments to memorials, we write our history in stone, and stone writes its history in us. The agency of stone is visible in plate tectonics, which reshape whole continents.

The histories of humans and stones are intertwined. Emphasizing this connection, Dr. Cohen asks what it would mean for us to acknowledge a soul in stone. While stone may seem like a dead substance, his work suggests that it is in fact very much alive. Dr. Cohen is currently working on a book entitled Stories of Stone: Dreaming the Prehistoric in the Middle Ages.