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200 × 120 × 13 mm
176 pages
01 Nov 2004
  • £17.95

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A Philosophy of Boredom Lars Svendsen

Although boredom is something that we have all suffered from at some point in our lives, and has become one of the central preoccupations of our age, very few of us can explain precisely what it is. In this book Lars Svendsen examines the nature of boredom, how it originated, its history, how and why it afflicts us, and why we cannot seem to overcome it by any act of will.

A diverse and vague phenomenon, described as anything from 'tame longing without any particular object’ (Schopenhauer), ‘a bestial and indefinable affliction’ (Dostoevsky), to ‘time’s invasion of your world system’ (Joseph Brodsky), boredom allows many interpretations. In exploring these, Lars Svendsen brings together observations from philosophy, literature, psychology, theology and popular culture, examining boredom’s pre-Romantic manifestations in medieval torpor, philosophies of the subject from Pascal to Nietzsche, and modern related concepts of alienation and transgression, taking in texts by Samuel Beckett, J. G. Ballard, Andy Warhol and many others.

A witty and entertaining account that considers a serious issue, it will appeal to anyone who has ever felt bored, and wanted to know why.

‘When an investigation into boredom is done well, as it is in A Philosophy of Boredom . . . it is positively gripping.’ — Times Literary Supplement

‘. . . amusing, learned, and articulate . . . You would be hard pressed to find a better book to make do with this year than this wonderful little one which is, somehow, despite the desolation at its core, oddly uplifting.’ — Glasgow Herald

‘. . . a fascinatingly modern essay on ennui and emptiness . . . Svendsens thesis is so cool that boredom, linked with desire rather than need, suddenly seems like a desirable state of being in an agitated age.’ — The Times

‘. . . a good, solid practical work of philosophy, in the tradition of Aristotle's Ethics and Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy . . . a light touch and a playful attitude . . . draws on a wide range of texts, from Martin Heidegger and Samuel Beckett to Iggy Pop and the Pet Shop Boys . . . delightful and important.'’ — New Statesman

‘. . . excellent . . . anything but boring.’ — Daily Telegraph

‘One definition of boredom is a kind of confinement. As Lars Svendsen writes in his slim but essential volume A Philosophy of Boredom: Boredom always contains an awareness of being trapped, either in a particular situation or in the world as a whole. Reading those words instantly transports me to a boxed-in chair at an insufferable dinner party or the middle of the stalls at an excruciating play. The ObserverFor a serious work of philosophy, A Philosophy of Boredom exhibits a light touch and impressive pop-cultural range. A typical page synergizes Kierkegaard (the only thing I see is: emptiness) and Iggy Pop (I'm bored/I'm bored/I'm the chairman of the bored) not since Wayne's World confused him with Dick Van Patten has dour Søren been so deftly interposed with a modern cultural icon. This also inoculates the book from its most obvious pitfall. Its not boring.’ — Village Voice

‘Far from boring, this is a highly accessible and entertaining study.’ — The Age

‘A shocking, interesting, but also brilliantly entertaining analysis of one of our times greatest problems. A Philosophy of Boredom offers an abundance of knowledge and an inspiring analysis.' - Dagbladet 'An exciting and learned book about the absolute zero of existence.’ — Politiken

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Lars Svendsen is Professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Bergen, Norway. He is the author of many books including A Philosophy of Boredom (2004), Fashion: A Philosophy (2006), A Philosophy of Fear (2008), A Philosophy of Freedom (2014) and A Philosophy of Loneliness (2017), all published by Reaktion Books.

One: The Problem of Boredom
—Boredom as a Philosophical Problem
—Boredom and Modernity
—Boredom and Meaning
—Boredom, Work and Leisure
—Boredom and Death
—Typologies of Boredom
—Boredom and Novelty
Two: Stories of Boredom
Acedia: Pre-modern Boredom
—From Pascal to Nietzsche
—Romantic Boredom, form William Lovell to American Psycho
—On Boredom, Body, Technology and Transgression: Crash
—Samuel Beckett and the Impossibility of Personal Meaning
—Andy Warhol: Renouncing Personal Meaning
Three: The Phenomenology of Boredom
—On Attunement
—Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Boredom
Four: The Ethics of Boredom
—What is an I?
—Boredom and Human History
—The Experience of Boredom
—Boredom and Maturity