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Boredom : the literary history of a state of mind

Author: Patricia Meyer Spacks
Publisher: Chicago : University of Chicago Press, ©1995.
Edition/Format:   Print book : EnglishView all editions and formats
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
As malady or inspiration, boredom looms large in our culture. Forever egging the writer on to new feats of interest, new forms of poetry, new, more engrossing ideas and creations, boredom both haunts and motivates the literary imagination. This book offers a witty literary explanation of why this should be. Investigating boredom's imaginative functions during the last two and a half centuries, Patricia Meyer Spacks
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Genre/Form: Criticism, interpretation, etc
History
Material Type: Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Patricia Meyer Spacks
ISBN: 0226768538 9780226768533 0226768546 9780226768540
OCLC Number: 30518045
Description: xiii, 290 pages ; 24 cm
Contents: 1. Reading, Writing, and Boredom --
2. Vacuity, Satiety, and the Active Life: Eighteenth-Century Men --
3. The Consciousness of the Dull: Eighteenth-Century Women, Boredom, and Narrative --
4. "Self is a Tiresome Subject": Personal Records of Eighteenth-Century Women --
Interlude: The Problem of the Interesting --
5. "A Dull Book is Easily Renounced": How the Interesting Turns Boring --
6. The Normalization of Boredom: Nineteenth-Century Women and Their Fictions --
7. Society and Its Discontents: Cultural Contexts of Nineteenth-Century Boredom --
8. The Ethics of Boredom: Modernism and Questions of Value --
9. Cultural Miasma: Postmodern Enlargements of Boredom.
Responsibility: Patricia Meyer Spacks.
More information:

Abstract:

As malady or inspiration, boredom looms large in our culture. Forever egging the writer on to new feats of interest, new forms of poetry, new, more engrossing ideas and creations, boredom both haunts and motivates the literary imagination. This book offers a witty literary explanation of why this should be. Investigating boredom's imaginative functions during the last two and a half centuries, Patricia Meyer Spacks reveals the shifting cultural purposes served by this often lamented state. The figure of the "bore" entered the language in the eighteenth century, marking, Spacks suggests, a significant cultural shift. Until then boredom, though not explicitly classified as a sin, was to be strenuously resisted by spiritual endeavor. With the coming of the "bore," however, the responsibility for boredom shifted from the bored observer to whatever failed to hold his or her interest. Progress should banish boredom by making life more stimulating.

What such a move meant, in society as well as literature, becomes clear in the astonishing range of fiction, poetry, conduct books, letters, and historical and sociological documents Spacks surveys. Here we see how the idea of boredom - as a point of reference or focus of opposition, as a means of characterization, repudiation, or definition, as social indictment or personal grievance - condenses a wide range of crucial meanings and attitudes. From the gendering of boredom (how women's lives came to embody both the threat of boredom and its overthrow) to canon issues (how "boring" becomes "interesting" with a sympathetic reader), the implications of the subject steadily enlarge.

Moving from Samuel Johnson to Donald Barthelme, from Jane Austen to Anita Brookner, Spacks shows us at last how we arrived in a post-modern world where boredom is the all-encompassing name we give to our discontent. Her book, anything but boring, gives us new insight into the cultural usefulness - and deep interestof boredom as a state of mind.

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