Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Exhaustion: A History

Schaffner, Anna Katharina (2016) Exhaustion: A History. Columbia University Press, New York, 304 pp. ISBN 978-0-231-17230-1. E-ISBN 978-0-231-53885-5. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:51820)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.
Official URL:


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.

Item Type: Book
Uncontrolled keywords: Exhaustion, Burnout, Depression, Melancholia, Neurasthenia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fatigue, Nervous Weakness, Medical Humanities, Literature, Cultural History
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
D History General and Old World
P Language and Literature
P Language and Literature > PB Modern Languages
P Language and Literature > PC Romance philology and languages
P Language and Literature > PD Germanic philology and languages
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
R Medicine
R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Anna Schaffner
Date Deposited: 13 Nov 2015 12:48 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 12:20 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Schaffner, Anna Katharina.

Creator's ORCID:
CReDIT Contributor Roles:
  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.