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News and Events

The cultural importance of laziness

"In Praise of Laziness" is the recently published article by UH Department of History and Honors College professor Robert Zaretsky, who specializes in French culture and history, in Foreign Policy magazine.

The article traces the success of Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's classic book, Montaillou, marking its 35th anniversary year, as an entry into a larger discussion on what Americans commonly see as a negative character trait among the French.

"Montaillou quietly placed itself in the French literary tradition that treats laziness with the gravity and intelligence it deserves," Zaretsky wrote in the article, which also discusses modern labor movement strikes in France.

After the article was published, Zaretsky was interviewed on American Public Media's Marketplace show in an Oct. 8 piece titled "The French do get off their derrieres," which is broadcast locally on KUHF 88.7 FM, Houston's National Public Radio station.

On the air, Zaretsky said the inspiration for the Foreign Policy article came to him while he was teaching Montaillou to a class at UH.

"I was outside the classroom with a couple of colleagues, and their attitude was remarkable," Zaretsky told Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal. "It was ill-tempered, it was impatient. My colleagues simply couldn't understand why the French were taking to the streets. And it was only after I went into the classroom, and I began to discuss Montaillou with my students that I saw this bridge."

Read the full text of Zaretsky's Marketplace interview.

Read the article Zaretsky wrote for Foreign Policy.