This class is about happiness in its many fortunate forms, potential promises, and dizzying (dis)illusions. We will take a comparative approach, focusing especially on texts across the English, Irish, American, and Italian literary and filmic traditions. The course will cover a wide historical range, with texts from antiquity, the medieval and early modern periods, and today. We will read course materials in the context of the course’s three thematic units: humor and happiness as means of strategy, deceit, and medicine; journeys of the self—physical, psychological, and emotional—in search of fulfillment; and the influence of modern technology on users’ happiness. Our texts will ask us to think primarily about what the nature, path, and end goal of happiness is. The reading questions we may ask include: Is happiness singular or plural? Do “happy” experiences generate, reject, or ignore cohesion among the players involved? What role do time and space play in determining or denying happiness for our characters? What is the place of happiness in a utopia? In a dystopia? Do women and men experience and/or seek happiness differently? How does modern technology make its users happy, or help them appear so? On mediums such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, does happiness become a performance? Is it a mask? Perhaps an illusion?
This is a writing-intensive course that builds upon the skills you have gained in the first course of the R&C sequence, including close reading, critical thinking, and clear, articulate writing. In this class, you will use your critical reflections on the texts as starting points for writing a diagnostic essay and developing two longer papers, the latter of which will be a research paper, incorporating research on literary criticism. Essential to the writing process will be workshopping one another’s work through rough drafts and peer review. In addition, you will also complete shorter weekly reading responses and assignments devoted to specific elements of essay writing. This course is designed to fulfill the second half of the Reading and Composition requirement.
Literary texts will include:
Edward Albee, The American Dream [ISBN: 0822223910]
Samuel Beckett, Happy Days [ISBN: 0802144403]
Italo Calvino, Marcovaldo [ISBN: 0156572044]
Elena Ferrante, I giorni dell’abbandono [“The Days of Abandonment”] [ISBN: 1933372001]
Dacia Maraini, Donne in guerra [“Woman at War”] [ISBN: 0934977127]
Virginia Woolfe, A Room of One’s Own [ISBN: 1614279934]
Voltaire, Candide [ISBN: 0393960587]
Television shows and films include:
Thomas Balmès, Happiness (2014)
Roberto Benigni, La vita è bella [“Life is Beautiful”] (1998)
Damien Chazelle, La La Land (2016)
Spike Jonze, Her (2013)
Mike Nichols, The Graduate (1967)
Joe Wright, Black Mirror, season 3, episode 1, “Nosedive” (2016)
Course Reader will include texts by: Margaret Atwood, Saul Bellow, Giovanni Boccaccio, Raymond Carver, Joan Didion, William Faulkner, James Joyce, Guy de Maupassant, Petrarch, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Plato, David Sedaris, Sappho, I.B. Singer, Jonathan Swift, plus New Yorker essays and other relevant newspaper articles.
*Additionally, music, paintings, and visual materials will be introduced in class.
All Reading and Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.
Prerequisites: Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading & Composition requirement or its equivalent. Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.