In Praise of Slowness

Henry Martyn Lloyd in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

TheslowprofessorIn an attempt to view its treasures in less than nine minutes and 43 seconds, three youths run recklessly through the Louvre, laughing breathlessly. The scene, from Jean-Luc Godard’s 1964 Bande à part, is one of French cinema’s most famous. Invoked in the conclusion to Michelle Boulous Walker’s Slow Philosophy: Reading Against the Institution, it is made to capture the malaise that grips contemporary philosophy in its institutional context, where the demands of speed and efficiency dominate at the expense of considered contemplation, and where the rapid production and consumption of knowledge have almost completely displaced the pleasures of the text. As Boulous Walker bluntly asserts, “this is not how we look at art.”

Godard’s image is striking for its visual poetry. By contrast, the dominant if somewhat covert image of Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber’s The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy is striking for its banality. Teenagers working casualized jobs on a minimum wage serve homogenized products devoid of nutritional or aesthetical value to obese, diabetic, and utterly docile consumers. Fluorescent lights accentuate garish plastic furniture and everybody smiles, although nobody knows why. Welcome to McUniversity.

Much has already been written about the corporatization of higher education, the state of the contemporary academy, and particularly the state of the humanities. There has been enough diagnosis. What is needed now is a response that seeks to identify and cultivate a space for resistance within the modern corporate university, for keeping “alive the craft.” It is against the consumptive “student experience” model of education, the productive “publish or perish” culture and their corollaries, that Boulous Walker and Berg and Seeber set themselves. And they do so with a much-needed sense of optimism that such resistance is still possible.

More here.