Theaters of Boredom
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Phillips, Elizabeth McKinney
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CitationPhillips, Elizabeth McKinney. 2019. Theaters of Boredom. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
Abstract“Theaters of Boredom” is an interdisciplinary study of drama which allows positive affective states to flourish under the duress of dullness. I argue that plays which history has read as revolutionary despite their soporific nature have actually had influence because of the demands they place on the body and mind of the viewer. In violating the “contract of attention” drawn up by Aristotle and enforced by commercial entertainment, they counterintuitively create new forms of satiety and free play. The current literary discourse on boredom focuses primarily on the novel, and therefore neglects one of its most excruciating, communal expressions: that of being trapped in the theater, by walls, by social codes, and by artistic expectation. Philosophy and affect theory have long asked how moods may transfer between persons. In focusing on theater specifically, I show the phenomenology of boredom operates using mimesis and catharsis. Representations of boredom, especially when combined with minimalist aesthetics, compound and illuminate individual emotions, which, in turn, motivate action and fellow feeling. Key chapters on Maurice Maeterlinck, Anton Chekhov, and Samuel Beckett show how boredom can attune audiences to their drives and to each other, can incite dramatic action outside of the theater, and—in its being a rehearsal for death—can help us habituate to pain and terror. I remind my reader that though boring theater has a repeatedly demonstrated capacity to attune self to other and to provoke social change, boredom is also a true psychological threat, epitomized by solitary confinement practices and related deaths. Together, these studies ultimately demonstrate that boredom is a personal problem with trans-historical implications, which, in its isolating silence, loudly demands collective action.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029780
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