The History and Politics of Boredom

Boredom isn't personal: it's the mark of modernity

When you’re bored—really bored—it feels like forever. A lived eternity. And so for some people, boredom turns into negative revelation: of the meaninglessness of it all, the senselessness of life itself. But this nihilistic dynamic should not be taken at face value; rather, it requires an investigation of how we got to this feeling. 

We often differentiate such extreme boredom from the everyday sort by translating it into French. But the distinction between ‘ennui’ and ‘boredom’ is hardly compelling. In French, ennuis are by no means always existential, and the contrast is tricky since it’s so often been used to tell apart whose boredom really matters. (Children and housewives are bored; ennui is for philosophers and poets.) Moreover, for those who are prone to boredom, it’s often hard to draw the line between such “deep” boredom and the garden variety malaise. Under the right cond

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