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Modern Boredom: Subjective Distortions of Time in D.H. Lawrence’s Work.

Elise Brault-Dreux

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1When reading about boredom, one is immediately struck by the protean nature of the concept and the various approaches to the notion. For decades, philosophers and psychoanalysts have analyzed it from many different perspectives. Michèle Huguet, a French psychologist, argues for instance that boredom originates in the paralyzing conjunction of interest with disinterest (Huguet 183). For Elizabeth Goodstein, boredom is the co-presence of spontaneous desires with repressive social constraints (Goodstein 85). Or for Vladimir Jankélévitch, it alternates between feelings of a suspension of being and feelings of an excess of being. The list of approaches is very long and varied. But all agree that boredom deserves specific attention, when apprehended in a modern context.

2I will leave to philosophers and to experts the debates around the complex existential implications of boredom, as well as about the (sometimes subtle) nuances between boredom and ennui, choosing to focus on boredom as a highly subjective experience of time. In Basic Concepts, Heidegger insists that “the more profound it becomes, the more completely boredom is rooted in time” (Slaby 14). For boredom is indeed a “response to the immediate,” which, as such, Patricia Spacks contrasts with “ennui” which, she writes, “implies a judgment of the universe” (Spacks 12) and is linked to deeper existential issues. The bored subject, then, experiences an elongation of meaningless time, a painful stagnation of the moment during which the sense of time is substantially distorted (Kuhn 13) or perceived as a waste.

  • 1 “Sa raison profonde est un ralentissement appréciable de notre mouvement vital” (Tardieu 3).

3For Emile Tardieu, a French doctor who published a substantial essay on boredom in 1903, such distorted perception of a slowed-down temporality significantly alters the subject’s vitality.1 The bored subject distorts his own sense of being and enters a state close to that of “de-personalization.”

4Introducing Lawrence here is by no means a self-evident move. For boredom, a subjective experience of time stagnation, “antithetical to energy and desire” (Spacks 24), immediately contrasts with our common idea of Lawrence’s vital representation of time-flow. But it is actually the problematic idea of “being in time” inherent to boredom that makes the connection with Lawrence relevant. What is the relation between objective time and one’s positioning in it? Throughout, I will rely on Jankélévitch’s argument that boredom is a “disease of time,” rooted in the notion of becoming and deriving alternately from a sense of “being” and of “not being” (Jankélévitch 71).

5Drawing on examples in Lawrence’s oeuvre, I will therefore look at how this highly subjective perception of time wavers between the modern subject’s feeling of a suspension of being and its affliction by an irritating feeling of a surfeit of being. How is it all about not adjusting the moment of being to the moment of time?

Modern boredom.

  • 2 “Voilà pourquoi l’ennui affecte plus spécialement la conscience moderne, en dépit ou peut-être à ca (...)

6In the 18th century, ennui was perceived as deriving from a diseased soul, “a sign of inadequate self-discipline” (Goodstein 22). In the 19th century boredom became a mental disease, partly consequential to the heightened pace of mechanized modes of existence. Only then, by the mid-19th century, did the word “boredom” enter the English language. The malaise then started to be conceptualized, psychologized and understood as time without the lived experience of a sort of Bergsonian duration. The evolution of the perception of boredom from the early 20th century on is of course intimately connected with the gradual transformation of “the psychic landscape of human experience” (Goodstein 101). Elizabeth Goodstein argues that the emergence of psychological reflections on boredom in the beginning of the 20th century relegated “ennui” to a status of “cliché for hopeless romantic strivings for meaning” (Goodstein 101). But if the 19th-century Baudelairian “mal du siècle,” which is a form of existential boredom, unquestionably still exists – albeit clichéd or outdated – in the 20th century, there emerged a new and growing awareness of a much simpler form of boredom, a sort of tasteless reaction to external stimuli clearly prompted by the modern context. The post-Darwinian weakening of Christian faith is often mentioned as an immediate cause for modern boredom. As human temporality was displaced from a divine order to an empirical, materialist one, the reassuring Christian faith that kept one’s being occupied and expectantly focused on a potential beyond, was dismissed. What Max Weber famously called “disenchantment” opened an empty space propitious to feelings of boredom. This secular interpretation of human temporality was naturally also encouraged by the rise of capitalism. The modern self then becomes the target of an unprecedented multitude of stimuli which trigger desires “always renewed and never fulfilled” (Pezze 13). The modern subject cannot take in or react to all the stimuli and gradually loses touch with its immediate environment. The significant rise of individualism also meant an increasing interest in inner experience: the self-reflexive individual, hyperconscious of the new unfulfilled and too numerous desires, ends up languishing in boredom, too acutely aware of existence. According to Jankélévitch, the modern overinvestment of consciousness has somehow cut off the individual from a form of harmony with the external world. The complex sophisticated modern consciousness turns out to be excessively self-centered, too full of various experience and knowledge and, almost paradoxically, is consequently confronted to boredom.2

7This modern generalized experience of boredom actually surfaces in some of Lawrence’s references to modern cities, especially to Paris. While Gudrun thinks that “Paris was dry, and essentially boring” (WL 211), Constance Chatterley expresses extreme weariness in the French capital city:

Oh! Paris was sad. One of the saddest towns: weary of its now-mechanical sensuality, weary of the tension of money, money, money, weary even of resentment and conceit, just weary to death, and still not sufficiently Americanized or Londonized to hide the weariness under a mechanical jig-jig-jig! Ah, these manly he-men, these flaneurs, the oglers, these eaters of good dinners! How weary they were! weary, worn-out for lack of a little tenderness, given and taken. The efficient, sometimes charming women knew a thing or two about the sensual realities: they had that pull over their jigging English sisters. But they knew even less of tenderness. Dry, with the endless dry tension of will, they too were wearing out. The human world was just getting worn out. (LCL 254)

8The weariness, metatextually rendered by repetitions, suggests that Charles Baudelaire’s city of spleen becomes the city of boredom in the 20th century. Goodstein actually argues that the effects of rapid urbanization and capitalism, which boosted the consumer society, were mainly “monotony, fatigue, melancholy and boredom” (Goodstein 161). Constance finds no excitement in the repetitive race for “money, money, money.” Paris is weary. It breeds and spreads weariness. Boredom is then no longer the privileged experience of an exceptional Baudelairian soul: in the modern city, boredom is becoming a quite common un-poetic “democratized experience” (Goodstein 161) of the masses.

9In “Hymns in a Man’s Life” (written in 1928), Lawrence also broaches the issue of a disenchanted modern boredom, resulting from a hyperconsciousness of an immediate reality which should remain unconscious:

Now, the great and fatal fruit of our civilization, which is a civilization based on knowledge, and hostile to experience, is boredom. All our wonderful education and learning is producing a grand sum-total of boredom. Modern people are inwardly” thoroughly bored. Do as they may, they are bored.

They are bored because they experience nothing […]. Science in its true condition of wonder is as religious as any religion. But didactic science is as dead and boring as dogmatic religion. Both are wonderless and productive of boredom, endless boredom. (“Hymns in a Man’s Life” 131-2)

  • 3 “l’ennui que nous disons moderne a ses causes générales et profondes dans le progrès de l’esprit cr (...)

10Boredom here appears as a lethal civilization problem. Rationality has stifled the experience of being, in the active sense of the verb. The countless stimuli of modernity awaken the mind but annihilate vitality.3 He again raises this civilization problem in a letter to Frieda’s mother, when on their way to Ceylon he writes: “civilization is a beautiful and fine thing, if only it remains alive, and doesn’t become ennuyée” (L IV 206). Civilization, replete with inert knowledge, runs the risk of falling into the vacuous, banal experience of boredom.

11In his fiction, Lawrence had already had Lady Chatterley comment on the relation between modernity and boredom. She tells her husband:

“It's amazing,” said Connie, “how different one feels when there's a really fresh fine day. Usually one feels the very air is half dead. People are killing the very air.”

“Do you think people are doing it?” he asked.

“I do. The steam of so much boredom, and discontent and anger out of all the people, just kills the vitality in the air. I'm sure of it.” (LCL 93, my emphasis)

12Connie’s industrial metaphor suggests suffocation with excessive productivity. Both materialized and untouchable, boredom becomes a noxious steamy nuisance, close to an epidemic. For this Lawrencian character, boredom is the cause of a generalized annihilation of being. For Lawrence (quoted above) boredom is the result of an excessive ratiocination and suspension of vital being. Modern men then, as their condition is sketched out in both Lawrencian approaches, are collectively caught up in a vicious circle where in fact boredom begets more boredom.

13 In Lawrence’s work, the references to a collective type of boredom, concomitant of the modern environment, are coupled with focuses on microcosmic individual experiences of boredom involving its perception as the consequence of a defective harmony between the subjective sense of being and the objective passing of time.

Boredom and lack of being.

14 Individually experienced boredom can take the form of an atrophied, emptied out experience. The present moment is (and cannot not be), but the individual’s being is not in the moment. In The Virgin and the Gipsy, Yvette, whose existence is contained in a stifling home, “is bored almost to agony” (V&G 97). The burden of time physically weighs on her. Her being withdraws and her existence is reduced to the sole experience of time.

15 Such physical painful experience of boredom is evoked in Lawrence’s Pansies poem, “Boredom, Ennui, Depression”:

And boredom, ennui, depression
are long slow vibrations of pain
that possess the whole body
and cannot be localized. (
CP 627)

16Once again, boredom is untouchable but pervades the whole body. Though the epithets “long slow” elongate the feeling, the “vibrations of pain” make it more physical, heavy and crushing. Time definitely weighs on and atrophies the being.

17At the beginning of Women in Love, in “The Sisters,” Gudrun asks Ursula: “Don’t you find yourself getting bored? […] Don’t you find, that things fail to materialize? Nothing materializes! Everything withers in the bud” (WL 8). Here boredom is the consequence of an impossibility to become and to expect. Boredom thus appears as a listless intransitivity of being. Things are suspended – they are not. Yet, time does go by and its effects are visible in the “withered” things. Being, becoming and time passing have not adjusted.

18In The Rainbow, both Anna and Ursula are bored with language, a linear process whose delineation is necessarily inscribed in time – the time of speaking, writing, reading on which the subject has only limited control. Seen from this angle, language may well become a constraint, and this is what Anna feels:

She became an assiduous church-goer. But the language meant nothing to her: it seemed false. She hated to hear things expressed, put into words. Whilst the religious feelings were inside her they were passionately moving. In the mouth of the clergyman, they were false, indecent. She tried to read. But again the tedium and the sense of the falsity of the spoken word put her off. (R 106, my emphases)

19Her tediousness derives from the disconnection between language and experience. The passive form of “spoken word” suggests a dead-end. Words are spoken. And nothing is in the process of being or becoming; she experiences nothing in the temporality of recited language.

20Later, Ursula goes through a similar stage when boredom is prompted by syntax:

Once she knew how to read French and Latin, the syntax bored her. Most tedious was the close study of English literature. Why should one remember the things one read? Something in mathematics, their cold absoluteness, fascinated her, but the actual practice was tedious. […] Only in odd streaks did she get a poignant sense of acquisition and enrichment […]; once when, with her blood, she heard a passage of Latin, and she knew how the blood beat in a Roman's body […]. She enjoyed the vagaries of English Grammar, because it gave her pleasure to detect the live movements of words and sentences; and mathematics, the very sight of the letters in Algebra, had a real lure for her. (R 334, my emphases)

21The mechanicity of the syntax stimulates only the mind and is inscribed in objective time – the time of saying, writing, reading. Ursula therefore experiences nothing in syntax. Moreover, she is bored by being forced to remember the things she has read: by being pinned down in one’s mind, and then forcing the reader to return to past reading, words block the becoming and prevent the reader’s being in the present. Ursula feels the same about maths: the “practice,” that is the return to the same, bores her. There is no being: only a sort of artificially set time that is controlled by rules and with which the subject does not engage. However, when language and maths are phenomenologically apprehended, Ursula partakes in the experience. She hears (and does not listen) and sees (and does not merely look) and she does so with no intention, no purpose that would submit to any type of pre-established rules. The temporality of experience is then just as fleeting as objective passing time. Nothing is fixated. Everything becomes. No boredom is felt if the moment of being is thus in keeping with the moment in / of time.

22Constance Chatterley, whose life before meeting Mellors is boring, is also bored with words, as is imparted when she has to put up with the pseudo-intellectual speeches of Clifford’s acquaintances:

[…] she was exasperatedly bored by it all, by Clifford, by Aunt Eva, by Olive and Jack, and Winterslow, and even by Dukes. Talk, talk, talk! What hell it was, the continual rattle of it! (LCL 76)

23Lady Chatterley’s boredom is prompted by successions of unrelated signifiers that fill time with mere nothingness. Superficial fleshless words let objective time go by without drawing the individual into a subjective experience of this temporality. Time is wasted. Likewise, she explains to Clifford that she is “bored” by Proust’s writing, “streams of words without feelings” (LCL 194). According to Constance, the successions of words are dictated by a form of automatism, quite distinct from the time of experience and vitality which does not submit to any rule of linearity.

24These three female characters thus express boredom with the spoken or written word, because it alters the process of becoming while it meaninglessly fills the passing of time. Boredom then once again is the impossibility of “being here,” it is a lack of being in an immensity of time or a too regulated time – which leads to a hyperconsciousness of time.

25Before the death of his father, Gerald, we are told, “had never known what boredom was” (WL 266); he was then leading a mechanical life, regulated by a mechanical clock. Though potentially boring for any reader, Gerald’s life was not, for mechanical being and mechanical time were then perfectly adjusted. But recent unsettling events in his life severed his mechanical experience from its mechanical time, and the new consciousness of time passing by made him aware of the vacuity of his own life, prompting unprecedented feelings of boredom, as he confesses to Birkin in “Gladiatorial.” He thus reveals his incapacity to be in time. Unlike the three aforementioned female characters, he is bored when he is disconnected from machine time, forced to confront a more natural temporality completely foreign to his usual sense (or mode) of being.

  • 4 Boredom is a “breakdown of ‘being-in-the-world’” (Slaby 15).

26These examples of individual boredom apprehend boredom as an ontological crisis of being: experience withdraws for a lapse of time thus leaving room for a consciousness of this very time-lapse (perceived as either too long or too mechanical). In boredom, Heidegger’s Dasein is in fact breaking down.4 The individual’s being is failing to be in the objective here and now or in the time of reading, writing and telling.

27But as I will try to show, Lawrence also stages another form of boredom, likewise derived from the non-adjustment of being with time: it emerges when certain characters manifest an excess of being, a surfeit of their will to being, which translates into manifestations of impatience with temporality and immediacy.

Boredom and irritating surfeit of being

28Boredom may actually be prompted by an excessive appetite for being, an aspiration for more vitality than what objective temporality may offer – or what may possibly be offered in objective temporality.

29Modernity favours the individual’s acute consciousness of its self, and this self-concentration logically gives way to a disinvestment in the surrounding world, translated into a form of boredom. The subject is too self-centered to appreciate outer experience as potentially exciting. What takes place in external / objective temporality is therefore perceived as boring.

30In the poem “Last Lesson of the Afternoon,” the I-voice expresses boredom with the slowness of the school-day: “When will the bell ring, and end this weariness” (l.1, CP 74). The teacher yearns for more vital life while the class-room stifles all vitality and the time spent in it offers no excitement.

31In “Snowed Up” Gudrun expresses this type of boredom in an interior monologue. Gerald is her main target:

He bores me, you know. His maleness bores me. Nothing is so boring so inherently stupid and stupidly conceited. Really, the fathomless conceit of these men, it is ridiculous […] These men, with their eternal jobs—and their eternal mills of God that keep on grinding at nothing! It is too boring, just boring. (WL 463-4, my emphases)

  • 5 For this reason, Patricia Spacks’s argument that there is a “willed quality” in Gudrun’s boredom so (...)

32Boredom derives from the mutual lack of engagement between Gudrun and Gerald. They cannot be together. With “you know,” she assumes that such a type of boredom belongs to shared experience, and she thus appears to sum up Gerald as a banal bore (or, worse, a boring bore). The repetition of “bore” and its derivatives exhausts the signifier and, coupled with other repetitions, translates Gudrun’s surfeit of thinking. Her intense cogitation deconstructs Gerald, from “he” to “his maleness,” with the result that boredom, more than Gerald, becomes the focus of the reader’s attention. But her frenzied thinking also mistreats boredom: she moves from the extensive “too boring” to the reductive “just boring”: the apprehension of boredom shifts from the sense of its being an annoying feeling when in excess to the sense of a feeling that is unworthy of consideration. She stands above boredom, not submitting to it but seeming to want to control it, to shake it and utilize it. And in thus mentally ill-treating the boring Gerald, Gudrun seems to take a form of sadistic pleasure that makes her be.5 Gudrun here exists. Her frenzied reflection then goes on, saving Loerke from the mass of boring men:

At least in Dresden […] there will be amusing things to do. It will be amusing to go to these eurythmic displays, and the German opera, the German theatre. It will be amusing to take part in German Bohemian life. And Loerke is an artist, he is a free individual. One will escape from so much, that is the chief thing, escape so much hideous boring repetition of vulgar actions, vulgar phrases, vulgar postures. […] Oh God, the wheels within wheels of people, it makes one's head tick like a clock, with a very madness of dead mechanical monotony and meaninglessness. (WL 464, my emphases)

33With self-persuasive repetitions, she convokes “amusement” which, by contrast, reveals that she experiences boredom as a vulgar lack of excitement. Boredom here arises when no immediate response to desire is found in external reality. The “ticking of the clock” rigidly regulates time, and the desiring subject wants to live beyond this “mechanical monotony.” When the appetite for being must submit to such time regulation, boredom then becomes palpably irritating.

34A few pages later, Gudrun’s interior monologue is somehow boringly exhausting itself. Gerald is still the main target:

Poor Gerald, such a lot of little wheels to his make-up! He was more intricate than a chronometer-watch. But oh heavens, what weariness! What weariness, God above! A chronometer-watch – a beetle – her soul fainted with utter ennui, from the thought. So many wheels to count and consider and calculate! Enough, enough. (WL 466)

35Her chaotic mental speech, mixing irony with truthful confession, discloses both her ennui with Gerald and a surfeit of self-reflection – partly revealed in the pleading repetition of “enough, enough.” Thinking about the regulated temporality which Gerald embodies (“a chronometer-watch”), she is plunged into a state of exhausted boredom. In Gerald’s vulgar time, she cannot be, for she wants to be more.

36Birkin is likewise bored by Gerald’s personality. In “Man to Man,”

This strange sense of fatality in Gerald, as if he were limited to one form of existence, one knowledge, one activity, a sort of fatal halfness, which to himself seemed wholeness, always overcame Birkin after their moments of passionate approach, and filled him with a sort of contempt, or boredom. It was the insistence on the limitation which so bored Birkin in Gerald. (WL 207)

37Birkin’s boredom derives from the gap between Gerald’s inhibited monomaniac being, governed by a fragmented idea of time, and Birkin’s chameleonic desirous being that is tuned to vital temporality. And a constraint of experience is, for Birkin, the vitalist, a boring imposition implying the cutting of one’s self from an external time flow in which the individual may expect to find fulfillment.

38Birkin is bored by more than just Gerald. This is also the case in “Excurse,” after the quarrel with Ursula:

Everything has become simple again, quite simple, the complexity gone into nowhere. But he badly wanted to cry: except that he was weary and bored by emotion. (WL 310)

39The surfeit of intense emotions during the fight has thrown him into a state of boredom. And the unexpected phrase “bored by emotion,” which suggests dissatisfaction with one’s state of being (note the singular form of “emotion” which turns it into a notion), hints at Birkin’s potential contempt for immediate reality. The experience of being he aspires to is worthier than the emotion provided by immediacy. Both qualitatively and quantitatively, his sense (or idea) of being transcends the limited suffocating immediacy. This intimacy between boredom and contempt actually already surfaces in the passage quoted above, when in proximity to Gerald, Birkin, we are told, is “filled with a sort of contempt, or boredom” (WL 207). The hesitation between both states tends to equate them, and boredom then appears as the expression of a feeling of difference (not to say, superiority).

40The self-centered Birkin expresses boredom when he has no interest for and in the other. When he goes and meets Ursula’s father for instance, in “Moony,” “There was a complete silence, because of the utter failure in mutual understanding. Birkin felt bored. Her father was not a coherent human being, he was a roomful of old echoes” (WL 257). The immediate distance prompted by Birkin’s contemptuous perception of the other man’s incoherent and somewhat hollow “being” is the cause of Birkin’s boredom. This deliberate failure to connect appears earlier when, in “Shortlands,” he tells Gerald he is boring when he becomes aphoristic (WL 32). And in “Breadalby,” in reaction to Gerald’s meditation about the “right thing to do […] with the Pussum,” Birkin says, “it bores me. I’m not interested in your peccadilloes” (WL 97). These remarks suggest that for Birkin boredom stems from a distance with the other, and may be a source of satisfaction, a deliberate superior position through which he expresses a sort of incompatibility of his sense of being in relation to the temporality and being of the other. Patricia Spacks proposes that “boredom belongs to Birkin’s program for himself” (Spacks 241). In mercilessly condemning the others as boring, he turns to boredom in order to stand out.

41Both Gudrun and Birkin then seem to suggest that the external stimuli are not worthy of their own sense of being. They consequently have recourse to boredom, this inadequacy between “being” and “here and now,” to build up their own selves as exceptional selves.

42To conclude, Lawrence’s characters, taken individually or as a mass of modern beings, react differently to boredom, to being in time, and are bored for different reasons. While some characters feel bored because their sense of being is stifled by the mechanicity or elongation of time, others are bored because their surfeit of being does not fit with such temporality. But while some are suppressed by boredom, others somehow control boredom by way of the deliberate refusal to adjust to the other or to external immediacy. In all these cases however, boredom derives from a sense of not adjusting to time.

43In a conversation between Gerald and Birkin an inventory of the possible remedies to boredom is discussed:

“Some old Johnny says there are three cures for ennui: sleep, drink and travel,” said Birkin.

“All cold eggs,” said Gerald. “In sleep, you dream, in drink you curse, and in travel you yell at a porter. – No, work and love are the two. When you’re not at work you should be in love.” […]

  • 6 In “Red Trousers,” Lawrence likewise writes: “In the ancient recipe, the three antidotes for dullne (...)

“There’s a third one even to your two,” said Birkin. “Work, love and fighting. You forget the fight.” (WL 267)6

  • 7 Jankélévitch 179.

44According to them, “work, love and fighting” would be an easy cure to boredom. Jankélévitch too concludes his chapter on boredom on this idea, arguing that boredom is a direct consequence of egoism.7 Being in love (or actually fighting and working) reconnects one with a shared, linear, temporality. It forces the lover (or the fighter or worker) to be in a less purely subjective conception of time.

45However, the real remedy implicit in Lawrence’s work seems to be a more extensive reconnection with a natural, shared, temporality, unspoiled by the perverse fragmenting effects of the modern ticking clock. In that sense, Lawrence attests his very modern awareness: his characters’s boredom is prompted by their reactions (of various natures) to immediate here and now. He therefore outlines a very 20th-century conception of boredom, quite distinct from the more existential and poetic Baudelairian ennui. For Lawrence, boredom is definitely rooted in modernity.

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Goodstein, Elisabeth. Experience without qualities – Boredom and modernity. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2005.

Huguet, Michèle. L’Ennui ou la douleur du temps. Masson, 1987.

Jankélétich, Vladimir. L’Aventure, l’ennui, le sérieux. Paris, Editions Montaigne, 1963.

Kuhn, Reinhardt. The Demon of noontide. Ennui in western literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976.

Lawrence, D.H. Complete Poems [CP], Coll., ed., with an Intro. by Vivian de Sola Pinto and Warren Roberts, London, Penguin, 1993.

--- Assorted Articles [AA]. London: Martin Secker, 1930.

--- “Hymns in a Man’s Life” in Late Essays and Articles. Cambridge: CUP, 2004.

--- Lady Chatterley's Lover [LCL]. Harmondsworth, Mddx: Penguin Books, 1994.

--- Letters of D.H. Lawrence, Vol. IV 1921-1924 [L IV]. Ed. by Warren Roberts, James Boulton and Elizabeth Mansfield. Cambridge: CUP, 1987.

--- The Rainbow [R]. Harmondsworth, Mddx: Penguin Books, 2000.

--- The Virgin and the Gipsy [V&G]. Harmondsworth, Mddx: Penguin Books, 2007.

--- Women in Love [WL]. Harmondsworth, Mddx: Penguin Books, 2000.

Pezze, Barbara Dalle, Salzan Carlo, eds. Essays on Boredom and Modernity. Critical Studies, vol. 31. Amsterdam, NY: Rodopi, 2009.

Slaby, Jan. “The other side of existence: Heidegger on boredom,” in “Habitus in Habitat II – Other sides of cognition,” ed. by Sabine Flach, Daniel Margulies and Jan Söffner. Freie Universität Berlin, July 2010.

Spacks, Patricia Meyer. Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Tardieu, Emile. L’Ennui: étude psychologique (deuxième édition revue et corrigée). Paris : Librairie Felix Alcan, 1913.

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1 “Sa raison profonde est un ralentissement appréciable de notre mouvement vital” (Tardieu 3).

2 “Voilà pourquoi l’ennui affecte plus spécialement la conscience moderne, en dépit ou peut-être à cause et au travers de la durée garnie. Car il y a une conscience opulente, trop vaste, trop gâtée, qui ne sait plus à quoi employer ses talents et qui, réfléchissant sur elle-même, languit en se sentant exister. Plus la conscience est civilisée et compliquée, plus elle se montre exigeante ; et plus il devient difficile de trouver hors de soi ces rythmes sympathiques et synchroniques, ces résonances fraternelles où l’on entend la nature vibrer à l’unisson du moi” (Jankélévitch 122).

3 “l’ennui que nous disons moderne a ses causes générales et profondes dans le progrès de l’esprit critique : il est le produit de l’analyse qui dissout les illusions bienfaisantes : du scepticisme qui réduit tout en poussière” (Tardieu 241).

4 Boredom is a “breakdown of ‘being-in-the-world’” (Slaby 15).

5 For this reason, Patricia Spacks’s argument that there is a “willed quality” in Gudrun’s boredom sounds pertinent here (Spacks 242).

6 In “Red Trousers,” Lawrence likewise writes: “In the ancient recipe, the three antidotes for dullness or boredom are sleep, drink and travel. It is rather feeble. From sleep you wake up, from drink you become sober, and from travel you come home again. And then where are you? No, the two sovereign remedies for dullness are love and a crusade” (AA 90).

7 Jankélévitch 179.

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Elise Brault-Dreux, « Modern Boredom: Subjective Distortions of Time in D.H. Lawrence’s Work.  », Études Lawrenciennes [En ligne], 48 | 2017, mis en ligne le 20 décembre 2017, consulté le 10 décembre 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/lawrence.282

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Elise Brault-Dreux

Université de Valenciennes

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