Chapter 1 Boredom and the Disciplinary Imaginary

In: The Culture of Boredom
Elizabeth S. Goodstein
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The current flowering of interest, scholarly and otherwise, in boredom is an index of its pervasiveness in contemporary life. The problem is not new, but it has gained new psychic and cultural urgency in a world where attention is a key commodity. In this context, the ascendance of Boredom Studies as a field is, at best, an ambiguous development. Such (quasi-)disciplinary consolidation, itself a mode of reification, does not necessarily foster productive engagement across intellectual and institutional boundaries. While popular writing on boredom continues to recycle very tired clichés, social scientists pay little attention to the history of reflection on boredom or its genealogy in literary, philosophical, and religious traditions, and philosophers obscure boredom’s modernity by occluding its connections to the industrial-technological transformation of everyday life. Genuinely interdisciplinary Boredom Studies has the potential to facilitate confrontation with some very significant methodological and theoretical lacunae in the ways human experience is understood and explored in the contemporary academy. But if the field is to become more than a symptom of the problem it studies, it will be necessary to counteract its tendency to reify its object by addressing the imaginative limits of disciplinarity in thinking boredom.

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