Disciplines of Attention in a Secular Age
Thursday March 1, 2018
Jackman Humanities Building, room JHB318
Co-sponsoredwith the Department of English
“The degree of attention we pay,” one ministerpreached in 1850, “depends upon our own disposition to attend. This showsus that the matter, after all, is very largely one of /discipline/.”Distraction, the wandering of the mind, is an ancient problem, but ittook
a new form in the nineteenth century, with therise of industrial capitalism, mass media, and secularization. Distraction cameto be understood as a symptom of history—of modernity itself. In response,writers around the Atlantic world sought to repair the
psychic damage by designing new disciplines ofsustained attentiveness. This talk examines attention as one of the spiritualexercises of a secular age, from Thoreau’s /Walden/ to somecontemporary defenses of the humanities.