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"Seven Propositions on Slow Time," Dr. Jonathan Sachs, Concordia University

Soane Bank of England as a ruin
The Doug Hale Lecture Hall, Park 265

Jonathan Sachs is Professor of English at Concordia University in Montreal and Principal Investigator of the Montreal-based Interacting with Print Research Group. His work focuses on British literature from 1750-1850, where his research explores the role of literature in constructing historical and temporal experience, including the uses of antiquity, the anticipation of the future, and practices of reading. His research has been supported by multiple awards from the SSHRC (Canada) and by residential fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and the National Humanities Center (US). He is the author of The Poetics of Decline in British Romanticism (Cambridge, 2018), Romantic Antiquity: Rome in the British Imagination, 1789-1832 (Oxford, 2010), and co-author, with the Multigraph Collective, of Interacting with Print: Elements of Reading in an Era of Print Saturation (Chicago, 2018). Sachs is currently at work, with Andrew Stauffer, on a new one-volume edition of Byron’s Major Works (under contract with Oxford University Press) and on a new monograph, Slow Time. 


In Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (2011), Rob Nixon proposes a recasting of the glacial as “a rousing, iconic image of unacceptably fast loss.” This is a striking formulation, but, while ecologically sensitive critics can sympathize both with the urgency and the aims of Nixon’s intervention, it overlooks how an earlier eighteenth-century and Romantic awareness of the increased speed and acceleration of contemporary life is already suffused with the recognition of an attendant slowness. Slow time does create formal problems, as Nixon insists, but these formal problems are not new. They might better be understood as eighteenth-century problems whose terms and contours, whose representational experiments we can recognize especially in the later years of the century. Working off of Nixon and contemporary historians and social theorists like Reinhart Koselleck, Hartmut Rosa, Paul Virilio and Jonathan Crary, all of whom posit experiences of acceleration as central to what we often call modernity, the talk proposes a fraught and productive relationship between speed and slowness as characteristic of temporal experience in the eighteenth century and beyond. I do not propose to offer an explicit elaboration of slow time per say, nor a direct statement of what it does for us as a literary critical concept; instead, I seek to approach a sense of what slow time might be and what it might do as a critical concept through a series of seven intentionally contradictory propositions. 

A reception in the Robert West Library, Park Hall 261 will follow Dr. Sachs's talk. The talk and reception are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by the English Department's Rodney Baine Lecture Fund, the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, and UGA's History Department.

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