Boredom: From Aristotle to David Foster Wallace

Explore author David Foster Wallace’s insights into the human condition in a consumeristic society.

A Raffael painting of bored-looking angels
Nov 04

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.

Who's Speaking

Katia Miltova

Katia Mitova

Basic Program Instructor

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