On this site you will find excerpts of primary sources and secondary sources in a variety of media (text, drawing, film, etc.). They are annotated – and available to be annotated by you, the visitor – with a view to drawing links between concepts of boredom, spirituality, and information overload. These annotations also connect different works to each other, helping patterns emerge from the content of the sources and the content of the analysis of them (ie. the annotations). In order to be included, a work has to meet 2 out of 3 criteria: boredom is thematized; spirituality is thematized; information overload and meaning-making are problematized by the structure of the work. (For suggestions about new works to be included, drop us a line). Each of these types of sources – primary or secondary, scholarly or creative, textual or visual, or any blend thereof – is treated as worthy of annotation in its own right.
For Boredom is the project of Dr. Sharday Mosurinjohn (Assistant Professor, School of Religion, Queen’s University) and Nelly Matorina (MSc Candidate, Department of Psychology, Queen’s University). This project is “for boredom” in the sense that Martin Jay (1993) was “for theory” (in the lineage of Alvin W. Gouldner who was “for sociology,” via Louis Althusser who was “for Marx”): we are advocates for the critical potential of boredom as a concept and as an affect that forces reflectiveness about both the concept and about how boredom feels.
Given that other scholars have built an historical case about boredom as a modern phenomenon construed by 19th century artists and thinkers in terms of a “spiritual crisis,” what we are doing is arguing that it’s productive to understand late modern boredom – what I (Sharday) have called “overload boredom” – as a spiritual crisis. Overload boredom is what comes, perhaps unexpectedly, from not too little stimulation, but by too much – too much information to parse for meaning, too much connectivity to engage with any one connection, too many options, from consumer goods to ideologies, to do anything other than stand before them, paralyzed. Its key feature is that it makes us withdraw from engaging the very problems that cause it, making it even harder to recognize an already elusive affect. This is the type of contemporary boredom – a specifically twenty first century boredom – that is the focus of this site.
Having provisionally defined what we’re talking about when we talk about “boredom,” if we do the same for “spirituality,” then “overload boredom-as-spiritual-crisis” becomes a heuristic for making sense of contemporary boredom that doesn’t just begin and end with a deterministic critique of info-techno-culture. We take “spirituality,” then, as an analytic category whose possible meanings encompass its whole history of use in both lay and scholarly contexts. Today, spirituality is associated with matters of fundamental selfhood, meaning in life, and connection with others (eg. Bender & McRoberts 2012; Krok 2015), and of course with the concept of religion, on which it depends as a “semantically parasitic” category (Fitzgerald 2007, 54). So in this project, we note all instances where the stem “spirit” appears across different lexical forms (eg. “spiritual,” “spirituality,” “spiritualize,” etc.).
Overload boredom-as-spiritual-crisis is not therefore a normative claim that all instances of boredom are spiritually inflected, or that spirituality denotes some sui generis reality whose true nature we are trying to uncover. Instead, it offers a particular, sociohistorically grounded prompt for exploring affective structures of contemporary existential anxieties and orientations.
This website is a companion to a larger project, involving a book manuscript (The Spiritual Significance of Boredom in the Overload Age, under contract with McGill-Queen’s University Press), using a somewhat more traditional scholarly format to advance analytical arguments (sometimes using cultural production as touchstones). But with this online platform, we are diving deeper into an aesthetic-affective mode of engagement with the “overload boredom-as-spiritual-crisis” heuristic by enabling a certain kind of close reading. It is a “reading” concerned not just with “how we know, but how knowledge feels” (Schaefer 2018, 70); a process involving the materiality of the text that, together with the embodiment of the reader, creates “registers of meaning that compel passions, compel power, compel bodies to move” (69). Specifically, For Boredom is fragmentary (given the format of the annotations), but therefore also infinitely and collaboratively expandable (well, maybe to the point of certain technological limitations!) and, in its own way, increasingly dense and synthetic (owing to the functions of searching and hyperlinking).
We hope you will enjoy and add!