Slow Scholarship Manifesto

A Modest Proposal for Preventing Poor Scholars from Being a Burden to Their Relatives or Countries, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Academia: 

1. Be slow, go to your favourite library on foot
2. Always read the entire chapter of a book in which a reference you are looking for occurs, then read at least the first and last chapters
3. Always skim the entire volume of a journal in which you are seeking a particular article, then read the tables of contents for the entire run of the journal
4. After locating a particular volume on the shelves, always skim five volumes to the left and to the right of it
5. Always trace citations in a footnote back to their original sources
6. Do not discuss authors unless you have read the total corpus of their work as available to you
7. Strive to re-read only what you would copy down by hand if its survival should depend on you
8. Decrease the number of insignificant papers, do not speak nor write if not necessary
9. Exercise memory, refine your language, cultivate discernment
10. Grasp things, words will follow
11. Do not describe, but re-describe
12. Strive for thick descriptions and perspicuous representations
13. Respect the glorious art of footnotes
14. Be loyal to the maxim, “What is general? The individual case. What is specific? Millions of cases”
15. Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days

Note. Rule 1 relies upon Werner Herzog’s famous sentence, “Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue” (“Minnesota Declaration: Truth and Fact in Documentary Cinema,” Walker Art Center: Minneapolis, Minnesota – April 30, 1999). Rules 2–6 are drawn from J.Z. Smith, “When the Chips Are Down,” in Relating Religion: Essays in the Study of Religions (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007, 1–60), 37, n. 27. Rule 10 translates the Latin motto Rem tene, verba sequentur, commonly attributed to Cato the Elder. Rule 12 alludes to C. Geertz (The Interpretation of Cultures, New York: Basic Books, 1973, 3-30) and L. Wittgenstein (Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough, ed. R. Rhees, Doncaster: Brynmill, 1979, 8e–9c). Rule 14 derives from J.W. Goethe, Maximen und Reflexionen, Hrsg. M. Hecker, § 558. Rule 15 is a quotation from the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes (11:1).