“Inside Noah's Ark”
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen
Professor of English and Director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, George Washington University
This essay explores how the interior of Noah's ark has been imagined over the centuries as a place that might actually transport living creatures with all their bodily needs and byproducts towards a promised future, one in which the Earth has been devastated and renewed. This project focuses on the complications inherent to imaging the bosom of the ark as a functioning, multi-species community -- as well as a space for stowaways and imaginative rethinking of Noah's project, especially through the resistance of Noah's wife.
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen is Professor of English and Director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. His research examines strange and beautiful things that challenge the imagination, phenomena that seem alien and intimate at once. He is especially interested in what monsters, foreigners, queers, inhuman forces, objects and matter that won't stay put reveal about the cultures that dream, fear and desire them.
Cohen recently co-wrote a book called Earth with planetary scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton, published in the Bloomsbury Object Lessons series. His book Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman won the 2017 René Wellek Prize for the best book in comparative literature. The project was generously funded by fellowships from the ACLS and the Guggenheim Foundation, and investigates the active and abiding companionship of our most seemingly inert substance. With Lowell Duckert, Cohen edited a special issue of the journal postmedieval on ecomaterialism and collaborated on an edited collection on this same topic, Elemental Ecocriticism (University of Minnesota Press, 2015), which brings together ecotheorists with medieval, early modern and contemporary disciplines to rethink the possibilities offered by supposedly outmoded knowledge and stories. The book extends the collaborative investigation of more-than-green ecologies and active materialities instigated by Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory Beyond Green that will be continued in a third volume at the same press, Veer Ecology, a volume with thirty-one contributors ranging across disciplines and periods (forthcoming in early 2018). Currently in collaboration with Julian Yates, Cohen is at work on a project called "Noah's Arkive: Groundless Reading from the Beginning Until the End of Time."