A History of Boredom in the United States (Session 2)

Programs for Teachers
Newberry Teachers' Consortium
Thursday, May 24, 2012

9:30 am - 12:30 pm

Wait List Only

Room 101

Led by Chris Stacey, DePaul University

Today, American boredom appears to be a plague of epidemic proportions—one held responsible for almost every type of undesirable behavior running counter to what are considered acceptable social norms. The way boredom is conceptualized, how groups of people determine what types of “problems” are caused by its effects, and the solutions they propose to eradicate it are all historically contingent. In this seminar, participants will explore the origins of why the “problem” of boredom emerged during the late nineteenth century and how it became understood by the late twentieth century as an immutable psychological response to “modern” life. Along the way participants will consider why ideas about boredom are central to the rise of background music and contemporary medical therapies associated with depression. Seminar participants will examine and discuss a mixture of primary sources from 1885 until the present including articles on why boredom causes “deviant” behavior, the conflict between Henry Ford and union leaders over monotony in mass assembly, and advice columns about tedium and domestic life.

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