Everyday life between boredom and fatigue

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A friend is talking to me. I am trying hard to listen, but something keeps driving me away from her words. Finally, I feel a strange pressure in my belly, rapidly moving up towards my mouth and here it comes: I yawn. My friend stops talking and looks at me a little dismayed. I immediately apologise: ‘go on, it’s very interesting, I’m just a bit tired’. Did I lie? Was I really tired or simply bored? It’s hard to say, but one thing is sure: I was definitely not completely present. Something was driving me elsewhere and the yawn was an expression of this strange pull. Numerous hypotheses have been raised to explain the purpose of yawning, from augmenting the level of oxygen in the blood to cooling down the brain. But what is important for my purposes here is not so much the exact function of yawning, but rather what it stands as a witness to: a certain strain or difficulty to be fully ‘there’; a secret wish to escape the present situation in favour of a different activity, be it of a higher or lower energetic nature, that is, either towards more adventure or rest. In what follows I analyse boredom and fatigue as resulting respectively from a lack or an overflow of stimuli. I locate these in the context of the everyday, conceived as a repetitive mechanism that allows the integration and processing of new events. Boredom would thus result from an everyday that is perceived as lacking in events, whereas fatigue would stem from a too eventful everyday. However, whereas boredom could be seen as a distinct phenomenon until the mid-nineteenth century, I will use the examples of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Zola’s The Kill to claim that the new possibilities opened up by late modernity have transformed boredom into what I call boredom-fatigue, that is, a constant movement between the ‘too little’ and the ‘too much’. I will further elaborate on this transformation through Heidegger’s analysis of boredom, concluding with some reflections on how to halt the movement of boredom-fatigue and access different forms of an everyday repetition.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBoredom studies reader
Subtitle of host publicationFrameworks and perspectives
Editors Michael E. Gardiner, Julian Jason Haladyn
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781138927469 , 1138927465
StatePublished - 2017


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