ENGL 396 Happiness

Last offered Spring 2014

Happiness is one big puzzle. The Greek philosophers were largely agreed that nothing was more important, but they couldn't agree on how to get it. The Declaration of Independence makes a big deal about it, and yet modern politicians talk about happiness almost not at all. They offer to make us freer or safer or richer, but they almost never say they'll make us happier. Academic psychologists, meanwhile, have shown that we're really bad at identifying what will make us happy; we think we know, and we're usually wrong. Some living philosophers have concluded that we don't even know what the word means. In this seminar, we'll have to ask all the hard questions: What is happiness? What makes people happy? How do you decide what kind of life is worth living? Does happiness change from society to society or culture to culture? Is there a politics to happiness? What, if anything, does happiness have to do with justice? Why does the song tell you to clap your hands "if you're happy and you know it"? Is it possible to be happy and not know it? Are some of us happy behind our own backs? The course will be held inside the Berkshire county jail; enrollment will be divided equally between Williams students and residents of the jail. Final enrollment will be settled on the basis of face-to-face interviews with the instructor. The jail setting is a way of opening up the classroom to the one group that college students almost never get to hear from around the seminar table: people who have not thought of themselves as college-bound. One class meeting per week. Attendance is required, except in cases of emergency. Transportation will be provided by the college. Part of the Gaudino Danger initiative.
Class Format: seminar/discussion
Requirements/Evaluation: short weekly writing assignment; final essay, 12-15 pages
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Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preference: open to all Williams students, men and women; NO preference given to English majors
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Divisional Attributes: Division I
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Enrollment Limit: 9
Expected Enrollment: 9
Class Number: 3948
CLASSES ATTR INSTRUCTORS TIMES CLASS NUMBER ENRL CONSENT
ENGL 396 SEM Happiness Division 1: Languages and the Arts Christian Thorne
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