Read an extract from Boredom: A Lively History on Yale's blog" /> Read an extract from Boredom: A Lively History on Yale's blog" />

Boredom A Lively History Peter Toohey

Publication date:
15 Mar 2012
Yale University Press
224 pages: 216 x 140mm
26 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

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In the first book to argue for the benefits of boredom, Peter Toohey dispels the myth that it's simply a childish emotion or an existential malaise like Jean-Paul Sartre's nausea. He shows how boredom is, in fact, one of our most common and constructive emotions and is an essential part of the human experience.

This informative and entertaining investigation of boredom - what it is and what it isn't, its uses and its dangers - spans more than 3,000 years of history and takes readers through fascinating neurological and psychological theories of emotion, as well as recent scientific investigations, to illustrate its role in our lives. There are Australian aboriginals and bored Romans, Jeffrey Archer and caged cockatoos, Camus and the early Christians, Durer and Degas. Toohey also explores the important role that boredom plays in popular and highbrow culture and how over the centuries it has proven to be a stimulus for art and literature.

Toohey shows that boredom is a universal emotion experienced by humans throughout history and he explains its place, and value, in today's world. Boredom is for anyone interested in what goes on when supposedly nothing happens.


Read an extract from Boredom: A Lively History on Yale's blog

Peter Toohey is a professor in the Department of Greek and Roman Studies at the University of Calgary. His previous books include Melancholy, Love and Time: Boundaries of the Self in Ancient Literature. He lives in Calgary, Canada.

"There are plenty of fine things here to keep a receptive mind alert."—Alain de Botton, The Times

"It's a brave author who chooses boredom as the subject for a book. How to describe this least glamorous of emotions, or delve into its essential qualities, without concocting a truly dull tract? Peter Toohey’s method is to whip through the history, meaning and artistic representations of boredom at such a jaunty pace that there’s no time to be bored at all."—Helen Zaltzman, The Observer

"Few writers on boredom can match Peter Toohey when it comes to finding pleasure, excitement, and even a perverse kind of glee in his subject."—Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, The Daily Telegraph

"A fun and illuminating argument for the benefits of boredom."—Angus Clarke, The Times

"Toohey has lots of exciting things to say about boredom."—Craig Brown, The Mail on Sunday

"Quirky and contentious."—Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

"Toohey's book is a veritable boredom bible, plus it’s got some funny bits and lots of nice pictures."—Chris Moss, Time Out

"A playful but scholarly study."—Sunday Herald

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