Boredom: From Aristotle to David Foster Wallace
Explore author David Foster Wallace’s insights into the human condition in a consumeristic society.
About the Event
Presented by Basic Program instructors and open to all, these lectures also complement the texts and ideas from our curriculum and always include a Q&A session.
Boredom has many other names: tedium, apathy, ennui, melancholy, disquiet, nostalgia, solitude. It is an experience in time, and of time. Its cause may appear to be simple – for whatever reason, we do not appreciate an activity in which we are trying to engage by choice or by duty. Existential boredom, in turn, might seem to be an altogether different thing – an insight into the human condition, an intimation of our mortality. What simple and existential boredom have in common is the awareness – vague or acute – of some undefinable lack or monotonous abundance in our life. To alleviate the discomfort of this awareness, we may simply keep busy with study, work, diversion, or good deeds. We may also try to actively change something in our environment or in ourselves. Or we may embrace boredom as a radical experience of the Now.
Western philosophers, psychologists, and fiction writers have explored various facets of boredom, but only David Foster Wallace (1962-2008), the author of Infinite Jest and The Pale King, has paid profound attention to both sides of the coin – boredom and entertainment. This lecture will point to some of Wallace’s major insights into the human condition in consumeristic society.
Basic Program Instructor
Katia Mitova, who has been teaching in the Basic Program since 1998, holds an MA in Comparative Slavic Studies from the University of Sofia, Bulgaria, and an MA and PhD from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. In her native city of Sofia, she worked as an assistant professor of Slavic literatures; editor of Panorama, the national quarterly magazine for literature and political philosophy; and daily correspondent for Radio Free Europe. She has published two books of poetry, The Human Shell, in Bulgarian, and Dream Diary (2013), in English. She has translated (into Bulgarian) and edited about a dozen books of fiction, poetry, and philosophy. She taught philosophy and literature in the College at the University of Chicago. Her research and teaching interests include storytelling as well as the relationship between ethics and aesthetics. Katia Mitova is the 2008 recipient of the Graham School’s Excellence in Teaching Award for the Basic Program.