|Talking the walk: Professor discusses his upcoming book
(Rising sophomore Rachel Tapley recently sat down with Centre professor Ken Keffer to discuss a book he's working on with the help of Centre student Kim Bauser.)
RELEASED: Aug. 5, 2004
DANVILLE, KY"We're driving Kant without a license," says Ken Keffer, NEH Professor of Modern Languages at Centre, about his work-in-progress, a book called The Art of Walking with Kant. "I hope we don't get arrested."
The book, which Keffer is working on with the help of rising senior Kim Bauser, will explore the connection between Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher of the Enlightenment, the art of walking and nature.
Keffer says in the opening of the book, "Kant's writings on beauty and art have finally given me a way to understand a pleasure apparently foreign to aesthetics but very much at home in human nature: the pleasure of walking."
"I have two great friends in writing this book," Keffer says. "The first is Kant and the second is nature. When I say 'nature,' what I mean is the nature in central Kentuckythere are mountains, pastures and streams everywhere. This is where I walk with my Art of Walking class: the Bluegrass region."
We're sitting on the porch of the Centre Bookstore, listening to the Main Street traffic rattle by. When I ask for whom the book is intended, Keffer says, "It's for generations to come, and for your generationfor you and Kim. That's why this collaborative research is good, because she's part of the generation I'd like to convince to walk. I've given up on my generation."
He amends his answer a moment later, saying, "Well, of course, the book is for humans. But we expect a more precise answer than that. This book is for people who can walk, but don't."
The art of walking is in decline, according to Keffer. We no longer walk to do everyday tasks such as going to the grocery store to pick up a carton of milk. Our cities aren't designed for it. Danville's biggest grocery story is almost four miles from where we're sitting, and there is no sidewalk for much of the way, only a shoulder on the side of a four-lane road.
"So what can you do by walking?" Keffer asks. "Very, very little, it seems."
But he hopes the book will encourage people to walk again. "When you drive to Lexington, everythingthe whole worldis filtered through the car. Walking is a more direct, less filtered aesthetic experience," Keffer says. "That experience, and all the sensations involved it, is lost when we drive everywhere, when we always choose the shortest possible path."
"It's certainly a worthy question. Have we lost this art of walking? What does that mean for us?" says Bauser, a double major in religion and French from Kettering, Ohio. She is spending her summer reading and discussing Kant's Critique of Judgment with Keffer as well as editing drafts of the book.
"At a larger institution, I might not have been able to work with a professor this closely, especially as an undergraduate. I'm able to criticize what he's saying, and I feel my opinions are really valued," she says. "It's a good experience."
Keffer has taught a class called "Art of Walking" for three years at Centre during CentreTerm, the College's three-week winter term. He also taught the course at the Governor's Scholars Program at Centre. The class has been featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Psychology Today and other publications.
For more on interesting CentreTerm courses, go to http://www.centre.edu/web/admission/publications/centreterm.html.
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