Exhaustion by Anna K. Schaffner
A History

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Synopsis

Today our fatigue feels chronic; our anxieties, amplified. Proliferating technologies command our attention. Many people complain of burnout, and economic instability and the threat of ecological catastrophe fill us with dread. We look to the past, imagining life to have once been simpler and slower, but extreme mental and physical stress is not a modern syndrome. Beginning in classical antiquity, this book demonstrates how exhaustion has always been with us and helps us evaluate more critically the narratives we tell ourselves about the phenomenon.

Medical, cultural, literary, and biographical sources have cast exhaustion as a biochemical imbalance, a somatic ailment, a viral disease, and a spiritual failing. It has been linked to loss, the alignment of the planets, a perverse desire for death, and social and economic disruption. Pathologized, demonized, sexualized, and even weaponized, exhaustion unites the mind with the body and society in such a way that we attach larger questions of agency, willpower, and well-being to its symptoms. Mapping these political, ideological, and creative currents across centuries of human development, Exhaustion finds in our struggle to overcome weariness a more significant effort to master ourselves.

 

About Anna K. Schaffner

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Anna Katharina Schaffner is reader in comparative literature at the University of Kent. She has previously published on the histories of sexuality and psychoanalysis, modernist literature, and the avant-garde. Her most recent book is Modernism and Perversion: Sexual Deviance in Sexology and Literature, 1850–1930. Her first novel, The Truth about Julia, will be published in spring 2016.
 
Published May 31, 2016 by Columbia University Press. 304 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Exhaustion

This book on exhaustion is somewhat exhausting to read as Schaffner (comparative literature & medical humanities, Univ. of Kent, UK; Modernism and Perversion) presents well-researched information about how definitions of being worn down have evolved. However, those facts can only be obtained in t...

Jul 01 2016 | Read Full Review of Exhaustion: A History
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