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Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History


Hampton, Timothy, Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History, Zone Books, 2022, 272 p.


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.

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Timothy Hampton
Timothy Hampton