Academic journal article English Studies in Canada

A Brief History of Speed/evil Speed

Academic journal article English Studies in Canada

A Brief History of Speed/evil Speed

Article excerpt

A brief history of speed would emphasize that the core existential problem is the limit of corporeal time: the need for speed would evaporate without memento mori and time's winged chariot hovering near. But think of how the amount of work would expand proportionately if mortality could be indefinitely postponed.

The ecological dystopian history of speed is the screaming ninny nanny on the Faustian roller coaster of modernity: you asked the engines of industry to accelerate the Steampunk Armada of glistening fetish objects from the colonies for near instant consumption: dark Satanic Mills, "The City of the End of Things" Ridley Walker, Modern Times, Paul (oh) Virilio.

The Faustian promise of speed now shackles us not with the escape from drudgery or more leisure time but with disordered rest.

We are sleep deprived by the demands of the speedy economy of the plugged in screen world. Speed is not the mechanical bride but the expectation that you will be on call 24/7, twittering, texting, or working on your game speed.

Speed as the Faustian promise was supposed to be the solution to the problem of human limits and the physical challenges of mastering the boundaries of space.

To vault over that space with the ICBM (Gravity's Rainbow) rather than the English longbow. To accelerate communication, to secure territories, mobilize consensus, to feed the world with the speed of growth, and accelerated farm production.

The holder of the profits of speed is advanced capitalism, the captains of industrial production, the speed profiteers who buy time with accumulated wealth.

The ecological dystopian history of speed would point out that the non-renewable energy resources, petro-based, are rapidly ruining the planet: that the economic engines of speed, continuing growth, are already out of control.

The language of speed as a value in the arena of narrative consumption is fraught with huckster snake oil promises: speed-reading can be taught, but what will you remember? (What will you remember? What will you remember?)

Brain neuroscientists at MIT have recently found that the brain can process visual information within thirteen milliseconds. …

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