Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History
A timely story of a forgotten emotion
Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History tells a new story about the cultural imagination of the West wherein cheerfulness -- a momentary uptick in emotional energy, a temporary lightening of spirit -- functions as a crucial theme in literary, philosophical, and artistic creations from early modern to contemporary times. In dazzling interpretations of Shakespeare and Montaigne, Hume, Austen and Emerson, Dickens, Nietzsche, and Louis Armstrong, Hampton explores the philosophical construal of cheerfulness -- as a theme in Protestant theology, a focus of medical writing, a topic in Enlightenment psychology, and a category of modern aesthetics. In a conclusion on cheerfulness in pandemic days, Hampton stresses the importance of lightness of mind under the pressure of catastrophe. A history of the emotional life of European and American cultures, a breathtaking exploration of the intersections of culture, literature, and psychology, Cheerfulness challenges the dominant narrative of Western aesthetics as a story of melancholy, mourning, tragedy, and trauma. Hampton captures the many appearances of this fleeting and powerfully transformative emotion whose historical and literary trajectory has never before been systematically traced.
About the Author
Timothy Hampton is the Aldo Scaglione and Marie M. Burns Distinguished Professor of French and Comparative Literature and director of the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work and Fictions of Embassy: Literature and Diplomacy in Early Modern Europe.