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Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind 1st Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226768540
ISBN-10: 0226768546
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this fascinating study of the trope of boredom in fiction and the reality of boredom in life, Spakes, a scholar of 18th-century literature, shows how writers use boredom as a metonym for an ethical stance. Thus, Samuel Johnson regards boredom as a personal flaw to be resisted by the individual sufferer. Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads equates the reader's interest with the moral imagination. Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte depict the boring female life of the 19th century to argue against the restrictions society placed on women. Thackeray's Vanity Fair finds boredom preferable to Becky Sharp's evil. Baudelaire maintains that the sensitive soul is bored by society's corruption, and Anita Brookner extends the modernist view to depict life as inherently boring. Spacks offers fine close readings and trenchant social commentary. She presents material that will interest social historians as well as students of literature from the 18th to the 20th century.
Joseph Rosenblum, Guilford Technical Community Coll., Jamestown, N.C.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

The author of Gossip (1986) tackles the subject of boredom in this lively and unusual treatise. Spacks analyzes the evolution of boredom as both a cultural and literary phenomenon during the course of the last three centuries. Fascinating examinations of boredom as a moral proposition, an ethical dilemma, a catalyst for the imagination, and a precursor to literary innovation are provided. According to the author, the psychic, social, and literary merits and implications of boredom are manifest in daily life and have helped determine the shape and the direction of modern society. Anything but dull, this engaging narrative offers an original and enlightening perspective on a much maligned and misunderstood state of mind. Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (June 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226768546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226768540
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,012,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
After researching the topic of chronic boredom myself for the past four years it was gratifying to finally come accross a text that dealt with the problem from the perspective of women writers, thinkers and culture critics from the Enlightenment on. The great literary text on the topic by Reinhard Kuhn 'The Demon of Noontide: Ennui in Western Literature' did not deal with much of the material here covered by Spacks - though it dealt with just about everything else associated with the topic. Spacks' treatment of the topic mixes analysis of high literary texts with analysis of other cultural discourses often ignored by the traditional modernist culture critic. The consequence is that the voices of hundreds of women - and not merely middle and upperclass women - who have suffered from the malady since the 18th century are heard for the first time. But Spacks' work offers much more to the reader than a female perspective on an old malaise. Her particular emphasis is delivered within the broad tradition of writings on the topic and as such she never loses the overview. Her work provides a scholarly reinterpretation of this much underestimated phenomenon. Chronic boredom, as Healy, Kuhn, Klapp, George Steiner and now Spack's tells us, is one of the great maladies of the twentieth century. At its worst it is one of the most crippling 'maladies of the subject' and clearly, as Spacks seems to suggest, it is often generated by oppressive (subtly or otherwise) social structures. To read Spacks' work alongside Kuhn's is to gain a full overview of a malaise that has been with us since Lucretius and Seneca, but which threatens, more than ever before, to sap personal and social existence of all meaning, and spirit (elan vitale). Spacks' work does not bore, however. Why?Read more ›
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By A Customer on October 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is anything but boring; it's one of the most fascinating I've read in a long time. Spacks examines the idea of boredom, its genesis and implications, and forces readers to acknowledge that it is a culturally constructed concept, not a naturally occurring one. She historicises the word and the assumptions about the world that it reflects. The fact that most of us can't conceive of the world or our response to it without this category of experience only reinforces her point of how much it has become naturalised. But it reinforces a deadening passivity in our experience of life. The statement "I'm bored!" says much more about the person who is bored than it says about the ostensible cause of the boredom. Read Spacks and learn to pay active attention again.
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Format: Paperback
Sounds exciting, but actually, well, boring, mostly because the author fails to distinguish between two very different claims: first, that boredom, the state of mind, didn't exist until recently, and second, that it wasn't talked about much until recently. The first claim would be exciting and bizarre, but the argument at most supports the second.
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By HK on July 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book was a little more shabby than I expected for "good", but for this prize it was OK and the package/postage reliable and fast.
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