The Radiant Abyss: Boredom and the Modern Stage, is a history 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. My chapters center on the work of Maurice Maeterlinck, Anton Chekhov, and Samuel Beckett, as well as philosophical and psychological literatures contemporaneous to each case study. I draw together the etymologies and cultural histories of ennui, skuchno, langeweile, and boredom to create a full portrait of how Western theater has understood nation-specific affects to have common artistic and political utility. The past century of uncomfortable plays ultimately shows that boredom is a personal problem with trans-historical implications, which, in its isolating silence, loudly demands collective action.
"Chekhov, Boredom, and Pathology as Dramatic Technique." Forthcoming in Modern Drama (63.1, Mar 2020). "'The mood is of no importance': Beckett's Phenomenology of Boredom." Forthcoming in Philosophy and Literature (2020). "Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again." Performance review, Theatre Journal (2017).