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Mourning Happiness: Narrative and the Politics of Modernity Hardcover – September 27, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"Soni's approach to the concept of happiness is highly original and could even be seen as a landmark study in its insistence on the form of the idea of happiness as an alternative to other examinations of its contents." - The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms

"Soni begins his erudite, wide-ranging account of happiness with the Greek philosopher Solon's dictum, 'Call no man happy until he is dead,' and derives from it a 'tragic' conception of happiness, one grounded in human mortality. He then traces the happiness 'trial narrative' through the long history of philosophy and literature from Aristotle to the eighteenth century, especially Samuel Richardson, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Oliver Goldsmith, Adam Smith, Henry Mackenzie, Laurence Sterne, and William Wordsworth. Along the way he challenges conventional wisdom: where many have argued that happiness came into its own in the late eighteenth century, . . . Soni makes the case that serious thought about happiness had already runs its course by the 1770s. . . . This is a critical resource for scholars. Summing up: Essential."—Choice, June 2011

"Mourning Happiness powerfully transcends the usual field limitations of academic scholarship, making a compelling case for how an ancient Greek construal of happiness could reawaken the radical force of that denuded concept in our own present. . . . This provocative study affirms the importance of narrative form to one of our most upheld and yet least examined ideals."—Citation for the 2010 Modern Language Association Prize for a First Book

"Mourning Happiness is meticulous and wide-ranging. Vivasvan Soni has made a stunning argument for happiness as a foundational problem in politics."—Wai Chee Dimock, Yale University

"Mourning Happiness, a work of rare scope and power, grapples with the big questions: Is happiness the proper end of life, as the Greeks conceived it to be, or is life, as it appears since the early English novel, an endless trial? Soni supports his overarching thesis about the ancient and future value of the happy life with careful and engaging close readings of an unusually wide variety of literary and philosophical texts. The result is a major contribution to both narratology and ethics—indeed, Soni shows that the two cannot properly be separated."—Adam Potkay, William R. Kenan Professor of Humanities, The College of William and Mary

About the Author

Vivasvan Soni is Associate Professor of English at Northwestern University.

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