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In the Light of Speed: The Thought of Paul Virilio

Lecturer: Jon Roffe

Originally Taught: Summer School 2013

This course aims to introduce the thought of Paul Virilio, an important thinker of contemporary reality and human experience within it.

Virilio’s work is oriented by two fundamental contentions. The first is that speed is the central social and technical category, and that the speeding up that has characterised recent decades has had a decisive, little-noticed and catastrophic set of effects on human existence. The second is that the native relationship between human beings and the world is increasingly subject to the movement of virtualisation, whereby the world is being colonised by images, and, correlatively, that televisual technologies do not merely represent the world but, increasingly, constitute it.

This course will treat this claim in relation to range of Virilio’s key concerns: phenomenological experience, social life, technology, war, politics and art.

Course Schedule:

Monday: Introducing Virilio/From phenomenology to dromology

Tuesday: Speed-space and light-time

Wednesday: Technology and the virtualisation of human existence

Thursday: Pure war, insecurity and televisual combat

Friday: Art, pity, accident

Recommended reading:
  • Paul Virilio, 'The Last Vehicle,' in Polar Inertia (Sage, 2000).
  • Ian James, Paul Virilio (Routledge, 2007)


Level of Difficulty
: Introductory. No knowledge will be assumed.