Walter Richard Sickert, Ennui

On Boredom: Philosophy, Literature, and Politics

Instructor: Samantha Hill
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

Has the world become more boring? What are we doing, or not doing, when we’re bored? Is boredom something we do at all? Walter Benjamin said that “boredom is the threshold to great deeds.” Søren Kierkegaard argued that boredom is “the root of all evil.” Henry David Thoreau described boredom as exhausting all happiness. Nietzsche asserted that God was bored on the seventh day, and Kant claimed that Adam and Eve would have been bored if they had stayed in Paradise. Today, some people associate boredom with laziness, drug abuse, and depression, while others take a more poetic approach and treat boredom as a form of acedia (spiritual sloth), melancholia, and apathy. But what is boredom, precisely?

In this course we are going to explore the construction, experience, and possibilities of boredom through philosophy, literature, and politics. Beginning with the philosophical underpinnings of boredom, we will discuss whether boredom is an existential condition of humanity or a distinct phenomenon that appears only in modernity. Approaching boredom through a social and political lens we’ll ask: What are the moral value judgments society attaches to boredom? And why do we live in a world today where everyone feels the need to be continuously busy—where the refusal to be active, like taking a nap during the “work day,” is seen as subversive? Is boredom something to be cured of, or is it a privilege? Our readings will be drawn from works by Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Samuel Beckett, Maurice Blanchot, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Marcel Proust, Fernando Pessoa, and Benjamin, among others.

Course Schedule

Thursday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
February 03 — February 24, 2022
4 weeks

$315.00

Registration Open

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